The All-Star Game Counts, But Do We Act Like It?

It’s the tenth anniversary of the travesty that was the 2002 MLB All-Star Game. You know, the one that ended in a 7-7 tie and led to the decision that from then on, the winning side in the game would receive home-field advantage in the World Series. Prior to 2003, the year the rule was implemented, home-field advantage alternated between the AL and NL from year to year.  It’s one of three separate but inarguably connected rule-based controversies that dog the “Midsummer Classic” year in and year out. The second being that popular fan vote decides the starting hitters for each side. The third is that all 30 teams must have at least one representative in the game.

The rules are linked because what was formerly an exhibition game meant to showcase baseball’s best and brightest (in other words, a money-making scheme) now has actual value. As such, many take issue with the game’s starters being decided based on fans clicking mouses and sticking mini pencils through holes. Equally many argue that requiring a player from each team often leaves superior players off the rosters, which detracts from the notion that the contest spotlights the game’s best.

It’s impossible to gauge the impact of playing the first and last two games of the World Series at home. In the nine years the rule has been in effect, the American League has won the All-Star Game seven times. The AL won the game every year from 2003-2009, but its representatives were only champions in four of those seven years. The rule’s effects were minimal, if it had any, as the World Series never saw a seventh game. But in the past two years, the National League has had home-field. In 2010, the San Francisco Giants quickly won their first two home games, and had the Rangers playing scared en route to a 4-1 series victory. Last year was the first time the Series went seven, and the St. Louis Cardinals won the game, and the series, at home.

Even if it is impossible to truly gauge the effects, if you’re a fan of a contending AL team, does it sit right with you that Billy Butler might be in a position to decide if your team gets home-field advantage with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth? Or if your team’s in the NL, that Huston Street (who has only pitched 21 innings this season) might have to get that final out? Those are just some examples of the possibilities of the “one from each team” rule. Let’s take a look at who the fans chose, and decide whether they deserve to be starting, or in some cases, even playing.

National League

CBuster PoseySFPosey is a great player having a great season, that’s not to be denied. In any other year, his .303 average,10 home runs, and 42 RBI might easily make him the NL’s most deserving catcher. But it’s this year, and both Carlos Ruiz (.356/11/43) and Yadier Molina (.309/13/45) should be playing over Posey. To his credit, Tony La Russa did his best to right the wrong by placing both on his bench.
1BJoey VottoCinThe fans got this one right at least. With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder out of the NL, Votto’s been given his chance to shine and made the most of it with a .350/14/47 line.
2BDan UgglaAtlDan Uggla has received the second-most votes of any NL player this year, and I’m not really sure why. Sure he’s tied for the league-lead in home runs—among second basemen—but he’s also hitting .234. Back-up Jose Altuve (.304/5/23) is far more deserving of the honor, but Arizona’s Aaron Hill (.300/11/38) has a better claim than either of them. And yet, Hill likely won’t even be on the team. He’s in the running for the final fan vote but will likely be outshined by Chipper Jones or Bryce Harper.
3BPablo SandovalSFSomehow, second base actually wasn’t the worst decision made by the fans. Seriously, San Francisco ballot-stuffers, Sandoval? Sure, he’s having a good year (.300/6/25) despite having only played in 45 games due to time on the DL, but he’s not even eligible to be included on leaderboards! Not to mention that if such an award existed, David Wright (.354/9/50) would easily be the NL’s half-season MVP. Boo I say. Boo.
SSRafael FurcalStLFurcal (.276/5/32) wasn’t the best choice, that honor goes to Chicago’s Starlin Castro (.292/6/40). Considering that their numbers aren’t all that different, Castro is still a reserve, and that he likely lost out because the Cubs are well out of contention, this is choice isn’t all that egregious.
OFMatt KempLADKemp (.355/12/28) won’t actually be playing in the game due to injury, and being hurt is the only reason he might not deserve to start, so nothing’s lost here. Plus, before he went down, Kemp was carrying his team in a manner only David Wright understands.
OFCarlos BeltranStLAnother fine choice. Beltran (.308/20/63) has exceeded expectations in his first year with the Cards.
OFMelky CabreraSFMelky (.352/7/39) is just as deserving as his fellow outfielders, and although he wouldn’t win it, he’d certainly be in the running for half-season MVP.

American League

CMike NapoliTexWhile they did fine with outfielders, it seems fans had a tough time with understanding catchers this year. Napoli (.235/12/30) finds himself in a situation very similar to Posey’s. He’s having a good year, but either Joe Mauer (.327/4/37) or A.J. Pierzynski (.285/14/45) would have made a far better choice.
1BPrince FielderDetThe only player who could give the Prince a run for his money is teammate Miguel Cabrera, who switched back to third base to make room for Fielder (God knows he needs a lot of it).
2BRobinson CanoNYYPerhaps the only absolute no-brainer on this list. Cano (.313/20/47) is easily the best second basemen in baseball right now, if not the best player.
3BAdrian BeltreTexWhen you flip the Beltre/Miguel Cabrera coin, you land on heads either way. No problems with this selection.
SSDerek JeterNYY(Certain) people love Derek Jeter, and it’s likely he’ll be starting in All-Star games for the rest of his career. At least this year Jeter (.298/7/25) actually deserves it (something that couldn’t be said last year and likely won’t be said next year), although back-up Asdrubal Cabrera (.295/11/40) is equally qualified.
OFCurtis GrandersonNYYOutfield voting isn’t limited by specific position, so you could make an argument for any number of candidates to take Granderson’s (.244/23/47) spot. Curtis has the fourth most homers in the bigs and plays for the Bronx, so he got the nod.
OFJosh HamiltonTexDid I say Cano was the only no-brainer? Whoops, add Hamilton (.314/25/73) to the list.
OFJose BautistaTorThe same can be said of Bautista (.243/27/64) that was said of Granderson. Arguments could  be made for up-and-comers like Adam Jones (.298/19/42) and Mike Trout (.339/9/33), but apparently AL voters love their home runs.
DHDavid OrtizBosIt was either going to be Papi (.301/21/54) or Edwin Encarnacion (.292/22/55). It’s a toss-up, so the bigger shame is that Encarnacion was left off the team altogether, which he wouldn’t have been if Jose Bautista didn’t play north of the border as well. Now I’m on the one per team rule again, I’d better cut this out before I do another lap around the infuriating All-Star rules arena.

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