I have been following the build up to the All-Star Game this year as it is taking place in Kansas City. I’m really happy about it being in KC and I’m quite looking forward to Kauffman Stadium being shown off in a major event (hoping there are more than a few appearances in October over the next few years too) but that is the extent of my joy. The reasons why I have stopped following the All-Star Game over the past few years have been rather forcefully brought back home.
The first is one on which I have touched already: the fan vote. I could accept the fans voting for the reserves, but they are simply not well enough informed to make the choice of starters. Prince Fielder at first base? Derek Jeter at short? David Ortiz at designated hitter? The ignorance on show is breathtaking. ESPN have a lot for which to answer, but in the end the fans should not be voting if they cannot distinguish fame from talent.
But it seems that the managers are little better. I was already unhappy with the Rangers’ manager Ron Washington after picking Aaron Crow as the Royals’ one All-Star last year. Make no mistake, Crow was having a terrific year and was not undeserving. But he was not more deserving than Alex Gordon who has having a career year and would go on to win a gold glove. This year Washington chose Billy Butler, an excellent choice, and no one else. Not one other Royal in the year we are hosting the All-Star Game. I know we are a sub .500 team, but I am not asking for a large number of players. Just some recognition that we do have quite a few good ones and that now would be the time to give our players the benefit! But Washington decided to choose his own shortstop, Elvis Andrus, over Alcides Escobar despite Escobar having a higher batting average (the highest of all AL shortstops at the time of the decision), having hit more home runs and being one of the two best defensive shortstops in the league with Asdrubal Cabrera (who did get picked) being the other one. It is an obvious and appalling show of bias. Washington also picked three more of his own players despite already getting three voted in. As I said, I did not really like him anyway, but after this bit of selfishness I am furious. I very much hope that not only do his Rangers not only blow their lead in the AL West, but that they are hit by a major scandal and that Washington has to resign in disgrace.
My annoyance does not end there, though that is its apex. Major League Baseball has finally moved away from the ‘this time it counts’ slogan for the All-Star Game, presumably deciding that everyone has managed to work that out now almost ten years after it first ‘counted’. Unfortunately they only stopped using the slogan, not the ridiculous practice itself. For those unfamiliar, currently the league that wins the All-Star Game gets home advantage in the World Series. This means that managers are supposed to make a special effort to win the game despite the entire set up making it hard to do so! No sane manager would approach a game he wants to win by having the best starting pitcher in the league go only two innings; he would expect at least seven out of the pitcher and be hoping for nine. I also doubt he would pick the best player at each position (or even make a misguided attempt to do so) for the rest of the lineup. Rather, one would want to pick the group of players who best fit together as a team. The set up the whole game is that of an exhibition for the fans, not one where winning is the primary goal. To make it otherwise decreases the spectacle.
It is a few years since I last followed the All-Star Game. As much as I am enjoying having Kansas City and Kauffman Stadium in the spotlight, (and I am very much enjoying it) I am rather looking forward to ignoring the whole ridiculous affair again next year.