This game should not count

Every year, I find myself getting worked up about the All-Star snubs, wondering how the fans, major league players, and the manager of the team could overlook certain selections.  Then, I tell myself that it doesn’t matter because it’s just the All-Star Game.  It’s just an exhibition.  But after that, I have to remind myself: THIS TIME IT COUNTS!!!  Ultimately, it’s very frustrating, and even though arguing about who made it and shouldn’t have (or vice versa) doesn’t really accomplish anything, I find myself doing it anyway.  As long as the game decides home field in the World Series (a completely preposterous idea, by the way), it matters at least a little bit, and I will be rooting for the National League to win it.

So, let me indulge myself in a little analysis of a few of the talking points you’ve probably already seen on Baseball Tonight, Sportscenter, and every imaginable sports blog/website:

  1. NL Shortstop – There were five legitimate candidates at this position, and there was no way all of them were going to make it.  The most objective measures suggest that Jose Reyes actually has been the best shortstop in the National League, though it is extremely close.  Take a look at the chart below this section.  Stats are through the day before the selection show.
    Rank Player Team PA OPS GPA RC RC/G VORP
    1 Jose Reyes** NYM 373 0.851 0.299 63 7.6 35.3
    2 Hanley Ramirez FLA 364 0.876 0.310 59 7.1 35.1
    3 Edgar Renteria ATL 338 0.879 0.299 58 7.5 31.4
    4 Jimmy Rollins PHI 387 0.841 0.270 58 6.1 25.9
    5 J.J. Hardy* MIL 332 0.858 0.282 50 6.2 21.2

    If I had to rank them, that’s how I’d do it, but it’s extremely hard, and there are good arguments for including each of them.  Reyes looks like a good selection by the fans, but Ramirez and Renteria also deserved a look.  Probably the best argument for including one of them actually involves another player, which I’ll tackle next.

  2. Freddy Sanchez – Sanchez is easily the worst player on the NL team.  His batting average is decent, but that empty number represents almost the entirety of his contributions.  His .708 OPS is embarrassing for an All-Star, especially with so many other deserving NL middle infielders.  I suppose they couldn’t let Chase Utley play the whole game, but in that case, Kelly Johnson, Dan Uggla, and Orlando Hudson should have been considered.  Also, there were more qualified Pirates than Sanchez, so this shouldn’t have been an issue of needing one player from each team.  Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny were far more deserving candidates from the Bucs.
  3. NL Outfield – This is where the selection gets interesting, because there are a number of players who, on paper, have had better seasons than some of the All-Stars.  Guys like Eric Byrnes and Chris Duncan could have made a case for the team, but it’s hard to argue with the selections of Beltran, Griffey, and Soriano, who are arguably better players despite the first-half numbers.  Bonds is still the best hitter in the game, believe it or not, so it’s good he was voted in by the fans, regardless of what you think of him personally.  It looks like the NL has a pretty good selection of outfielders overall, which I guess is what you want, since THIS TIME IT COUNTS.
  4. The NL’s chances to win – I’m actually higher on the NL than in years’ past, so hopefully this will be the year they break this embarrassing drought.  The starters match up quite well, with the NL having the edge in left field and a fairly even matchup at the other OF slots.  Both leagues had some guys voted in by the fans who weren’t having the best years at their positions, and the selection of Pudge as AL catcher seems to be the most favorable of those errors to the National League.  Also, as good as David Wright may be, Miguel Cabrera has probably been better, and neither can really compare to A-Rod this year, so you have to give the AL the edge at third base.  As for pitching, the AL still has Johan Santana, which is always an edge, but Dan Haren will start, and several of the other pitchers are probably not as talented as their NL counterparts (Lackey and Meche vs. Oswalt/Webb/Young?).  Peavy is as good as anyone, so I think the NL matches up pretty well overall.

Tonight should be interesting, or at least worth watching, despite the many flaws in the league’s execution of this event.  Tune in and root for the NL to break the streak and win home-field advantage.  Then root for Bud Selig and company to come to their senses and just give HFA to the team with the best record from now on.

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3 thoughts on “This game should not count

  1. I would love to see the game winning pitcher or the player with the game-winning RBI be from someone like the Royals, Reds, or Rangers. It’s a sad irony that the “This time it counts” all-star game could always be decided by a player whose team was out of the playoff race after the first week of the season.

  2. And it’s not just an issue of the player selections, either. If THIS TIME IT COUNTS, the managers should be doing whatever they need to do to maximize their side’s chances of winning the game.

    Traditionally, that’s not what happens. The primary concern of the managers is usually to get as many players into the game as possible. If THIS TIME IT COUNTS, then why is Mike Lowell taking at-bats away from A-Rod, or why is Cole Hamels pitching an inning that could’ve been pitched by Jake Peavy?

    As for World Series Home-Field, what about this idea: If the two WS participants met in an interleague series that year, then whoever won that series gets WS HFA. Otherwise, either go with the best record, or else give it to the league that didn’t get it the previous year.

  3. Yeah, I hope either La Russa or Leyland really goes for it tonight and pulls out all the stops to win the game, even if it means Freddy Sanchez doesn’t see any time. If this game is going to count, let’s really go for it.

    Personally, I preferred the more laid-back exhibition style to THIS TIME IT COUNTS, but until a manager really goes for broke and leaves half of his players out of the game, I don’t see any change in the status quo.

    Here’s what I would do if I could control each roster:

    AL – Start Santana and have him go 4-5 innings, even if he has to hit once. Then use Verlander until the next PH appearance, and then bring on the closer barrage of K-Rod, Putz, Papelbon, and maybe Josh Beckett in that kind of role. I wouldn’t make too many lineup adjustments, except that I’d hit Ichiro lower (perhaps even 8th) and A-Rod higher. I would get Victor Martinez, Carlos Guillen, and Grady Sizemore in the game as soon as possible, probably after the starters get their first ABs. Possibly use Manny Ramirez and Justin Morneau as well, the latter especially if Papi’s having trouble in the field.

    NL – Start Peavy with the same guideline as Santana. Then bring out the “closer” barrage, using Sheets, Penny, and perhaps Oswalt as single-inning guys. They’re all kind of similar power-type pitchers who would seem to do well in that role, and you could use one for 2 innings if the lineup worked out that way. Billy Wagner is now a LOOGY, and Saito and Hoffman would be the crucial-out guys. Use Webb if you absolutely need a ground ball, and leave everyone else. Then, I’d get Holliday in for Griffey ASAP, Pujols for Fielder, and Cabrera for Wright. There would still be some big bats off the bench with both Lees and Soriano. OF is just too deep, but I guess you’re loaded with PHs. I’d consider lifting Bonds for a defensive replacement, but Rowand’s really the only plus defender on the bench, and that’s probably not a tradeoff I’d want to make.

    BTW, I didn’t realize Orlando Hudson was on the team, or I wouldn’t have said he should be considered earlier. Obviously he was considered, since he actually made the team.

    Also, assuming La Russa really thinks the Cards can reach the WS (in other words, assuming he actually cares about this game), what’s the over/under on mid-inning pitching changes? Three, four, maybe five?

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