Every year slumping superstars and other undeserving players get named to the All-Star team instead of lesser-known people who are better players—at least at the moment. This divides baseball fans into two camps—those who say the All-Star game should be about letting the fans see the biggest superstars in the game, and those who feel an All-Star nod should honor the players having the best seasons.
I fall into the latter camp. If I want to watch the biggest superstars, I'll just watch a Yankees-Red Sox game. When I watch the All-Star game, I'm not watching to see which player has the largest entourage. I'm watching to see the best players in the game play against each other—and again this year that won't happen. As usual, too many deserving players—many of them A's—are snubbed while broken, hobbling stars get by on reputation. And that's why the All-Star selection process must be revamped.
Supporters of the current system defend eye-popping results (like when Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter were leading at AL shortstop after the first results were released despite the fact Nomar had not played in a single game and Jeter was in the worst slump of his career) by saying that fans are honoring players who have had the most successful careers. Really? Because I don't see the names Pedro Martinez, Juan Gonzalez, Roberto Alomar, Greg Maddux or Edgar Martinez listed on either roster.
The current system doesn't honor the players having the best seasons, or even the players with the best careers. Instead, it honors the most famous players, players on teams with the largest fan bases, and players who happen to play for Joe Torre.
Take example number one: the living parasite, Jason Giambi. There's no doubt he's a talented player. Or rather, that at one time in his career he was talented. Now he's the worst player in baseball, per dollar. Giambi, a career .300 htter, is hitting .245 with only 11 homeruns and 32 RBIs. He is clearly having the worst season of his career, rivaled only by his performance last year when he hit .250 for the year after having not hit below .291 since his first year in the league.
Giambi is named to the All-Star team the same week The New York Times suggested he should be traded, saying that "Giambi must fear irrelevance as much as the wormhole in his body," "Giambi is the true Yankee albatross, with his weighty salary and delicate psyche," and he is "a defensive liability."
How in the world is this guy starting on the All-Star team, when players like Scott Hatteberg and Erubiel Durazo aren't even on the team? Hatteberg is hitting .304, with 10 homeruns and 49 RBIs. Durazo is hitting .315 with 10 homeruns and 35 RBIs. Even more impressive, with runners in scoring position Durazo is hitting .309, with a .419 OBP and a 1.008 OPS. With RISP, Hatteberg is hitting .394, with a .478 OBP, a .648 SLG, and 1.126 OPS. In the four appearances Hatteberg has made with the bases loaded this season, he is hitting .750 with 11 RBIs. We're talking Bonds-type numbers here.
Sadly, Giambi isn't the only Yankee named to the All-Star team instead of more deserving A's (and former A's). Gary Sheffield is having a good year, hitting .300 with 14 homeruns and 54 RBIs. But Jermaine Dye, hitting .295 with 16 homeruns and 51 RBIs, and Mark Kotsay, hitting .307, are Sheffield's offensive equals this season. However, both Kotsay and Dye blow Sheffield out of the water with their defense. Dye is having another Gold Glove season, and Kotsay is making a good case that he is the best defensive centerfielder in the league. Both players deserved a spot on the All-Star team. Instead, Torre, doing what he does best, took his superstar.
Yankees reliever Tom Gordon is also having a good year, holding down a 1.66 ERA. But Boston closer Keith Foulke has a 1.28 ERA and has a whip a full .18 below Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Mariners closer Eddie Guardado is even better, with a 1.19 ERA and .80 WHIP. I guess it's no shock that Torre picked his treasured relievers ahead of a player from arch-rival Boston, and I shed no tears for Foulke, but this just highlights what is wrong with the process.
There's something wrong with the process when Jorge Posada (.265 BA, 10 HR, 35 RBI), and Jason Varitek (.272 BA, 9 HR, 30 RBI) finish 2-3 in the voting for AL catcher, while Victor Martinez (.299 BA, 12 HR, 61 RBI) finishes fifth and Damian Miller (.294 BA, 7 HR, 36 RBI) doesn't even finish in the top eight.
There's something wrong with the process when Adrian Beltre (.318 BA, .355 OBP, .932 OPS, 21 HR, 55 RBI), Melvin Mora (.347 BA, .433 OBP, .989 OPS, 12 HR, 43 RBI), Adam Dunn (.265 BA, .411 OBP, .989 OPS, 24 HR, 56 RBI), J.D. Drew (.295 BA, .425 OBP, 1.034 OPS, 19 HR, 52 RBI), Lyle Overbay (.340 BA, .405 OBP, .956 OPS, 9 HR, 61 RBI) and Jose Guillen (.294 BA, 13 HR, 58 RBI) will be sitting at home next week.
Luckily for baseball, the problem is easy to fix. First, continue allowing the fans to pick the starters, but eliminate internet voting. Internet voting, while encouraging millions of votes, just amplifies the advantages that large-market teams already have. The fan bases in New York, Chicago and New England are obviously going to make up a disproportionate number of the online votes. If each team was limited to 100,000 ballots to distribute at their stadium, this advantage would be muted.
Second, don't let the World Series managers pick the players. Torre is famous for picking his players over more-deserving players from other teams, as evidenced by his picks of Sheffield and Gordon, and Jack McKeon has showed similar tendencies, picking his former player Barry Larkin.
Instead, allow the players and all the managers to select all the bench players and pitchers. If poor Joe Torre still needs something to do, he can pick the starting pitcher. Luckily for the fans, he can't pick a Yankee this year.
Chris' Corner: All-Star Sham
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