Mike Schmidt wrote a thing about the demise of the All-Star Game, which is fine, because I like Mike Schmidt, and he played in another time, a time in which of course the All-Star Game had more meaning. But I can’t agree with this:
Enter the selection of Bryce Harper as a replacement in this year’s game. First, understand I have a great respect for Harper’s game and his presence as a first-year player, and believe in time he has what it takes to become a perennial All-Star. The greatest compliment I could give him is to say he plays the game the way Pete [Rose] did. I also understand that he has nothing to do with the selection process, that he is just going along with the program and will have to absorb the accompanying negative reaction.
Baseball just doesn’t get it. Jason Kubel has 15 home runs and 60 RBIs, Aaron Hill has 11 and 40, Hunter Pence has 16 and 50, Aramis Ramirez has 10 and 52 and Jason Heyward has 14 and 41, just to name five players who deserve it. These guys, based on their first-half performance, must give way to a player the fans want to see in a game. It’s not consistent with such a heavy reward for winning the game. Each manager really wants to pick a team he can win with, balanced and able to create the right matchups in late innings.
The fundamental point behind Schmidt’s thinking seems to be that this game means something, so each roster should include the very best players and the very best players only. His underlying point, though, is that the All-Star Game is for those players.
That’s just not true today, if it ever was. NL teams play AL teams in interleague action all the time, and fans can watch any game pretty much any time they like, so long as they have the means.
The outcome does determine home-field advantage in the World Series, but the WS has only gone seven games once in the past nine years. There are also 30 teams, you know, and only two of them would be effected even if it were to come to that. “This one counts” is a marketer-driven fallacy.
A little bit of the ASG is for the players, because I’m sure the acclaim and contract bonuses and such are nice. But it’s really for the league, its fans, sponsors and partners, all of whom benefit in bigger ways than the small group of participating players.
Thinking the other way around on that provides a limited view, kind of like basing a player’s all-around performance on RBI.