Okay, maybe not love. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about the All-Star Game. Or, that’s what I would tell you in conversation. Can I tell you a secret? I still watch it. Usually. It’s meaningless, it’s absurd, but it’s still baseball. And even though I don’t care much for it, I still care about my guys getting in. As a kid, I never truly appreciated just how special it was to have Tony Gwynn voted a starter in 11 of the 15 All-Star Games in which he appeared. Speaking of Tony Gwynn, he was added to the All-Star Game roster as an honorary member in 2001. He was injured most of the year (including during the ASG), probably didn’t deserve to be there, but he was added to the roster. It was a good move by Major League Baseball, one which they should repeat annually.
Yasiel Puig is the first player in the history of the MLB Player of the Month award (since 1958) to win said award in the first month of his career. Considering the .443 BA, 1.218 OPS, 2.0 fWAR start to his career, I’d say it’s worth baseball fans getting excited about. And while he’s the reason this conversation is going on now, I’m not here to write about Puig (though, really Padres fans…your butts could be a whole lot less hurt over the guy. Just saying.). The conversation happened with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper last year, and I’m sure I recall it going on with Stephen Strasburg as well. Yes, these young men deserve to go to the All-Star Game. All of them, regardless of what Jonathan Papelbon (who pitches one inning at a time and made the All-Star Game in his rookie season) thinks.
My solution? Designated slots for both rising and aging stars. It’s an exhibition game, so an additional 2-5 (depending) spots for both types of players shouldn’t be an issue. MLB needs to get much, much better at promoting their young players. No matter how much you are sick of hearing about Puig, or were sick of hearing about Harper or Trout last year, MLB in and of itself isn’t great at promoting young players. The NFL would have these guys on the cover of a video game, cereal, fast food bag….SOMETHING already. And let’s not even get started on the NBA.
The Futures Game is nice, but it focuses on prospects. Since it’s unlikely we’ll see an equivalent to the NBA’s “Rising Stars” game, make some room on the roster for these young men. The idea that ballplayers have to “pay their dues” for recognition is silly. Good is good. Despite what Bud Selig says, the All-Star Game is an exhibition. Buzz-worthy youngsters should be there, hopefully including some San Diego Padres in the future. If we’re talking about the sanctity of the All-Star Game, let’s knock out things like Derek Jeter getting voted in long after he deserved the honor, or guys like Bryan LaHair or Rondell White making the team simply because someone from their club had to. That’s a much bigger joke than adding a guy who’s pitching or hitting out of his mind to the roster.
And it’s not just young players who deserve a showcase spot, there should be designated spots for players like Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken*, and Chipper Jones, who announced their retirement prior to the All-Star Game. One last chance for the fans to say goodbye, without taking up a roster spot for a “more deserving” player. Chipper Jones was put on the “final vote” ballot last year, and would have taken the place of a more deserving player if he hadn’t been named as an injury replacement prior to the vote’s conclusion. The fans want to see these guys. They should know who these guys are. And if they don’t (in either case), they should.
* – just an example. I know he was voted as a starter in 2001.
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