There’s been a lot of discussion over the past 29 hours since we learned we live in a world in which Omar Infante is an All-Star.
“This Time It Counts” has ruined the All-Star Game. Knowing he has to win the game for World Series home-field advantage for (he hopes) his team, Charlie Manuel chose a utility player in Infante and a middle reliever in Pittsburgh’s Evan Meek. He’s not building an all-star team — a team made up of stars. He’s building as close to a true team as he can get with the few spots he has available to him after the fan and player ballots select the starters and many of the reserves.
Generally, I don’t have a problem with the requirement that every team is represented, but if the game is to count for something, then that rule should be abolished. You can’t have it both ways — either it’s an exhibition of true stars, with every team in attendance, or it’s a game that matters for World Series home-field advantage in which it’s a game of all-star starters and then the best collection of reserves — role players — as deemed by the manager. If the game was still an exhibition with no tie to the postseason, I don’t think Manuel picks Infante or Meek. Infante’s spot probably goes to a fourth first baseman in Joey Votto, and Meek’s spot goes to another, truly deserving Pirate, Andrew McCutchen.
This all has me more annoyed than the fact that Manuel admittedly chose Ryan Howard (presumptively over Votto) because Howard plays for him
. I used to get angry every year over the managers’ “homer” selections — thus making Tom Gordon an All-Star — but that’s taken a back seat to the rest of this nonsense. No way should there be three Yankee starters on the AL squad before MLB strikeout leader Jered Weaver — with the game in his home ballpark. Not bringing the strikeout leader is like not bringing the home run leader, and though that man right now is Jose Bautista and the fans didn’t vote him in, the players did. And had they not, Joe Girardi probably would’ve taken him anyway.
I don’t deny that middle relievers are an important part of a baseball team and they play key roles in important games. But the All-Star Game is supposed to be the best of the best. Not the best of each role. Not the best of each positional abbreviation — 3B, SP, MR, CL, etc. Fans want to see Adrian Gonzalez up in the late innings facing Cliff Lee on in relief, not situational lefty Matt Thornton (nevermind his expanded role of late). Those matchups, that intrigue is now lost.