The MLB All-Star Game has always had its issues, as has any professional sport's showcase.
Those who are primarily featured aren't necessarily the most deserving. A player's popularity can sometimes surpass another player's accomplishments on the playing field.
That's why when National League manager Tony La Russa selected Matt Cain to start the 2012 All-Star Game over R.A. Dickey, it wasn't a big surprise.
La Russa had a few reasons for his choice of the San Francisco Giants' ace.
For one, there is less of a chance of Cain throwing a wild pitch because he's not a knuckleballer and he'll be throwing to NL starting catcher and teammate Buster Posey.
Secondly, La Russa referenced the fact that living in the Bay Area has allowed him to watch Cain "up close and personal," per the San Francisco Chronicle.
Both of the those reasons highlight two main issues with the MLB All-Star Game.
For one, it shouldn't be about a pitcher's familiarity with a catcher; this is the All-Star Game, designed to award the most deserving players. Dickey arguably deserves to start more than Cain. This season, the remarkable 37-year-old has gone 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 120 innings. He's held opponents to a .203 batting average.
By comparison, Cain has posted a 9-3 record with a 2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 118 strikeouts in 120 1/3 innings. Batters have hit .209 against him.
Again, the difference is razor-thin, but Dickey still beats out Cain in most of the major pitching categories.
Secondly, La Russa essentially admits some bias when he talks about getting the opportunity to watch Cain pitch in the Bay Area.
Giants fans, myself included, can't help but be awed by what Cain has done this season (and seasons prior). Simply watching him in person has the potential to sway more than a few votes.
But, despite being a Giants fan, when I look at the numbers, and what Dickey has done in a surprising campaign for the supposedly down-and-out New York Mets, I can't help but think Dickey deserves to start the All-Star Game more.
Lastly, La Russa added that he wanted to "reward Matt Cain for a career of excellence that's getting better and better," per the Chronicle.
Did R.A. Dickey deserve the start over Matt Cain?
This marks another problem with the All-Star Game. The 2012 All-Star Game shouldn't be about a player's career numbers—it should be what a player has done in the first half of the 2012 season. If we aren't going to make our decisions based on that, then each All-Star Game loses its luster, because you are trotting the same guys out there, despite what they've done that season. That's not fair to the more deserving players, and it frankly hurts the game of baseball.
I'm not saying Cain isn't worthy of the start on Tuesday night. What I am saying is that Dickey is more deserving, and most of the nation agrees with this sentiment.
Except, of course, Tony La Russa.
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