Welcome to the All-Star Break, where over 84 guys are “All-Stars”, Yankees announcers complain they didn’t get enough guys in, and the push to make the All-Star Game “mean something” has utterly failed. Yes, the All-Star Game has become the Pro Bowl. The voting is flawed (Derek Jeter starting), the players do not especially want to play (84 total All-Stars and counting), and the unique problem that the best players are not on the field in the late innings when the pressure (usually) rises. These are real issues that MLB needs to deal with because the All-Star Game, once a ritual awesome enough to be called the Mid-Summer Classic, has become a patsy of a game that only kind of resembles baseball.
The Players Aren’t Interested. Frankly, this one is hard to solve. If you want to pay the players to play, you are not really guaranteeing anything other than their bodies being present at the game. Face it, almost no matter what you pay these guys, the starters are all filthy rich anyway and would rather be on the beach with the fam or an entourage of beautiful women than going and playing 3 innings or so and hit the showers. Either you have to go over the top with some reward that will make the players want to win it (thus ruining the idea of letting everyone play and so on), or you make their attendance mandatory, which isn’t fair to the team of an injured player. There just is no easy solution here.
The best solution I have come up with is getting rid of the homefield advantage thing (not sure if it makes sense and the WS is rarely decided by homefield or a Game 7), throw a little incentive in there for hits, Ks (for pitchers), and good defensive plays, and, this is the important one, accept that you cannot have a good All-Star Game in today’s game. The players’ have so many more things they would rather do that were not available to earlier players, and the game means so much less to a handful of the well-paid players that making the game is nowhere near as big a deal as getting that big contract extension. No more are the days where a player starved for national attention can finally bust out because we have non-stop sports news flooding us. Guys like Hunter Pence have been through the overrated-underrated wringer so many times that there is no chance of a transcendent performance on this stage because we know generally what to expect from all the players in the game. The model just doesn’t work anymore and you can see it in every professional All-Star Game. The NBA All-Star Game is pure entertainment without any semblance of defense or toughness that people associate with championships. No one seems to really want to play in the Pro Bowl, and while I have never watched a NHL All-Star Game I would bet there is much less hitting and almost no team chemistry that is otherwise vital in hockey. All of which leads us to another baseball problem.
It doesn’t always resemble baseball. For the most part it does resemble baseball so I am nitpicking here, but certain parts do not at all. A starting pitcher usually goes a solid number or innings, the hitters see him a couple of times and he hands it to the bullpen. In the ASG, you get the starter going 2 innings or so, the 2nd guy going an inning or two, and by the time you get to the next starter, all the starters have been pulled from the game. Now whether the 8th and 9th innings are really “crunch-time” is certainly up for debate, the fact that the best players in the game have been replaced once by taking themselves out due to injury, and the replaced again mid-game by what is often the 3rd string guy at the position. Now that guy is still pretty good, but calling it “All-Stars” is pretty out of the question. The running or not running is on the coaches, so that is not a fixable issue, but the big issue is the pitchers being in weird roles and the best players being out of the game by the 6th.
Luckily, easy solution here: free substitution. Why not do this? No downside, easy solution. You can put guys back in if you are worried about not using guys up and running out and you can get your best players in at clutch time.
The All-Star Game doesn’t matter. This is not a problem to fix, but rather to embrace it. We all know that the game doesn’t mean anything, lets not act like it does. Accept that either Interleague record or best record is a better indicator. Embrace it and stop faking.
The Home Run Derby sucks. Let’s face it, it hasn’t been fun for a few years (minus Josh Hamilton) and it is as played out as the dunk contest or 3 point shootout. It needs spice.
- As Bob Ryan suggested on PTI today, have a pitcher representative. Fantastic idea. CC Sabathia for the AL, Carlos Zambrano for the NL?
- I am fine with the AL-NL setup, so with the pitcher rep, you now have 3 reps left per team. Give one to the leading HR guy in each league, one to a guy in the top 3 of each league in longest average HR so you have some wiggle room for if a “boring” guy is at the top.
- If you are keeping with the captains idea, the captains fill out the roster, if not have the fans vote in the final guy in each league.
- Add an extra hometown guy if he is not included.
And here are a few joke suggestions, some of which are only part-joke, part hope:
- Hold the Derby on the moon.
- Out of shape 40 year olds (in baseball pants) vs. the kids in the outfield. The older men will ideally be registered in a softball league so they go at it.
- Have starting pitcher who has given up the most HRs throw out the first pitch at the Home Run Derby (not ASG
One last thing: Metal bats. I know, nothing about metal bats is acceptable at the professional level, but hey the point is putting on a show isn’t it? Does anyone ACTUALLY consider the winner of the HR Derby to be the actual Lord of the Long Ball? No. Who do you remember from the Yankee Stadium ASG, Josh Hamilton or Justin Morneau? Go with metal bats, and limit it to 5 outs so it doesn’t go on forever.
Alright, that’s enough bitching. Time to hand out some awards.
Jose Bautista, RF/3B TOR
I thought a lot about Adrian Gonzalez here because he is a gold glover as well as a fantastic hitter, but it is all about Bautista as far as most valuable. Bautista is miles more valuable to an otherwise mediocre Jays team than Adrian Gonzalez is to a team filled with other All-Stars. Not to mention, Bautista’s line of .334/.468/.702 is just ludicrous. God I hope he stays clean, someone pays him trillions of dollars and he gets caught juicing. He was beyond mediocre throughout his career and now this happens? To Toronto? There is no justice. Anyway he has slightly better numbers than Adrian Gonzalez so he gets it.
Also, he was pretty convincing against my Tribe.
Runners Up (not in order): Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Konerko, Miguel Cabrera
Prince Fielder, 1B MIL
This is a tricky one. I think Jose Reyes would win if he stayed healthy. I think Matt Kemp would win if his team wasn’t miserably out of it already and the sense of urgency was there. However, I think the Brewers find a way to win the Central despite their pitching issues and it helps Fielder vault from monstrous-statistical-year to MVP.
Honorable Mentions: Jose Reyes, Matt Kemp, Joey Votto
Michael Pineda, SP SEA
I dislike Stuart Scott, but I would like to say “Kid is ridiculous” anyway. It has been a pretty ok crop of rookies but without many standouts so far so Pineda would win by default but he has pretty clearly been the best rook of the year.
Honorable Mentions: Eric Hosmer, Lonnie Chisenhall
Freddie Freeman, 1B ATL
Danny Espinosa is a close second, but Freeman will be on a playoff team (which usually gets you extra points) and despite Espinosa’s reputation as a slugger, Freeman’s Slugging Percentage is pretty much the same and Freeman’s OPS is a touch higher too. I like Espinosa but this award is Freeman’s to lose, especially with how he has been playing lately.
Honorable Mention: Danny Espinosa, Darwin Barney (though guys like him do not win awards ever)
AL Manager of the Year
Manny Acta, Cleveland Indians
Homer pick but it is hard to disagree on this one. He has helped a very young team galvanize and turn into a really solid ballclub without too many pieces. Sometimes managers get credit for having underrated players on their roster, but that’s how it works. Acta is the Manager of the Year.
Honorable Mention: Mike Scioscia
NL Manager of the Year
Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
This is a closer one than people would like to think. Hurdle has done a wonderful job with the Buccos, but as I said earlier, sometimes coaches get too much credit for underrated players and that has been the case somewhat with Hurdle. I think Terry Collins has a good argument given how he pulled the Mets together and kept them afloat before Reyes took over as does Freddy Gonzalez for living in Bobby Cox’s shadow.
Honorable Mention: Freddy Gonzalez and Terry Collins
The Andy Dufresne Award
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS CLE
That was the longest night of Asdrubal’s life. The Andy Dufresne (Doo-frane) award goes to the breakout player and it is without a doubt Asdrubal Cabrera. I will save you the rhapsodizing for now but he has transformed himself into one of the top SS in all of baseball. Very few guys I would take over him IF ANY.
Honorable Mention: Alex Avila, Alex Gordon (about time)
The Andy Marte Award
Adam Dunn, DH CWS
Dunn has been awful. Normally I would demand a player have a bad glove too to be considered for the Andy Marte Award which is given to the worst player in baseball. However, Adam Dunn doesn’t even play defense so that gives him a little boost. Chone Figgins’ lack of range and his subhuman OPS of .476 makes him a strong candidate but Dunn’s contract and how much he is holding his team back really puts him over the top.
Honorable Mention: Chone Figgins
John Lackey, SP BOS
There are plenty of bad pitchers in the majors so this is not an award for the worst pitcher, just the pitcher who gives its fans the worst feeling when he takes the mound. Just for gross number of fans he drives insane, it is John lackey.
Honorable Mention: Fausto Carmona, Mitch Talbot
The Tag-along Award
Casey McGehee, 3B MIL
This one goes to the worst player on a good team who really does not deserve to be on that team. McGehee has never been a good fielder, but this year he added a putrid offensive element to his game. His OPS is… wait for it… .594 which would be good for a slugging percentage but it is a slugging + OBP. He is terrible right now.
The Golden Defibrillator
Lance Berkman, OF/1B STL
The Big Puma had turned into the Big Pudgy. He was left for dead in Houston and even in New York with their little league fence in RF. However, he decided to mix in a salad and now he is in Arizona as a deserving All-Star. A tip of the cap to the Formerly Engorged Puma.
Honorable Mention: Bartolo Colon (speaking of weight issues)
So we all know there is no point in making predictions before the All-Star break so why try? We will be back with predictions at the Trade Deadline. Enjoy the break, especially you, Grady Sizemore. Few hitters need to stop sucking more.
Oh, except this one: NL 4, AL 2.