In around a week, Major League Baseball will be releasing the rosters for the 2013 All-Star Game.
Then, all hell is going to break loose.
The baseball world is going to go into a full state of panic as to who is and isn’t on the roster. “How in the world did so and so make the team over so and so?” “He wouldn’t even be a starter on any other team in the league and he made the AL/NL roster?!”
The rules are the problem.
In Major League Baseball, the rules state that there needs to be at least one player from every team in the league on each roster—unless that player gets injured and is unable to play in the game. Yes, all 30 teams will be represented at Citi Field in Queens on July 16.
Some may think it’s good that every team gets a player in the All-Star Game, but I don’t. Here are a few reasons why the league needs to abolish the “every team represented” rule at the All-Star Game. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section for the ultimate Midsummer Classic debate.
Fans Have Too Much Power
The All-Star Game used to be all about the fans, but in reality, the fans now have too much power when there’s a lot on the line and not many open spots. As many know, the fans get to vote for the starting lineup for the AL and NL each year. They also get to decide which player gets the last spot on the roster.
The players and managers need to be the ones deciding who makes the team and who doesn’t because in reality, they know the game best. Some fans may claim to, but these are the people who face the best on a daily basis. And they aren’t going to just give in and put someone on a roster because they’re a fan favorite.
While Derek Jeter is one of the best shortstops of all-time, he’s a perfect example of this. No matter what Jeter does during the first half of the season, the Yankees have such a large fan base and so many people love Jeter that he’s bound to be in contention for the starting shortstop job for the AL.
How many times has Jeter taken a spot on the AL’s roster over someone else that deserved it more, but just didn’t get enough votes from the fans?
Jeter won’t be taking anyone’s spot this year, but let’s prove that point. Jeter has yet to play in one game this season and he’s somehow fifth in votes among AL shortstops, according to latest MLB.com update. Even if Jeter were to finish in first, he’d be replaced on the roster, but what about in a year where he was just playing poorly?
The Yankees captain was off to a great start last season, hitting .308/.354/.411 with seven home runs and 25 RBI in the first half. The fans voted him as the starting shortstop. Some of you may not be sabermetrics fans, but there were five other shortstops with a higher WAR in the first half than Jeter, according to FanGraphs.
Of those five shortstops in the AL with a higher first-half WAR than Jeter, just two made the team. Asdrubal Cabrera was the backup shortstop and Elvis Andrus made the team as a backup third baseman even though he’s a primary shortstop. If Jeter wasn’t so popular, Ben Zobrist, Jhonny Peralta or Alcides Escobar could’ve made it.
Popularity gives spots to undeserving players, and when every team needs to be represented, there are bound to be many more snubs.
All Teams Aren’t Created Equal
Sometimes you have to question what goes through the mind of commissioner Bud Selig. Can he really believe that all teams need to be represented?
I understand the economics of the All-Star Game. If Selig nixes the rule, then there’s bound to be at least one team each year that doesn’t get one of its players on the AL or NL roster. That means that there’s the chance that an entire market doesn’t watch the game and for that, the league loses money.
In order to maximize the value of the All-Star Game, there needs to be at least one player on each team. There has to be at least one player from Kansas City and at least one player from Houston. There has to be at least one player from San Diego and at least one player from Boston.
That’s the way it has to be in order to make the most money.
But it can’t be that way any longer. All teams aren’t created equal.
Let’s go back to last season when the rosters for each league were being filled out and there wasn’t a clear-cut player from the Cubs who deserved to be on the team. Somehow, Bryan LaHair made it onto the NL’s roster. He hit .286/.364/.519 with 14 home runs and 30 RBI in the first half, but four players were better than him.
Joey Votto was the only other first baseman on the roster aside from LaHair.
Paul Goldschmidt should’ve made the team, but didn’t. Adam LaRoche should’ve made the team, but didn’t. Todd Frazier should’ve made the team, but didn’t.
What about two years ago? Well, take a look at the Royals’ numbers from the first half and tell me why someone on that team should’ve been on the AL’s roster. Someone must’ve said, “I guess we’ll take Aaron Crow.” That might have been the actual conversation. Did Crow deserve it? I’m sure you know the answer by now.
Through the first half of the 2011 season, Crow wasn’t even in the top 30 of AL relievers in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs. No offense to Crow, who I’m sure is a nice guy, but he must’ve known that he didn’t belong. There were 30 better relievers. Thirty, and he was on the team.
This year, there’ll be a player from the Marlins on the NL’s roster. Who that player is at this point is still unclear, but one would presume it’d be either Jose Fernandez or Giancarlo Stanton. Fernandez is ranked 20th in WAR among NL starters, according to FanGraphs. Stanton hasn’t even had enough plate appearances to qualify.
Why settle for mediocrity when the game is supposed to represent the best?
The Game Counts
Major League Baseball is much more different than other three major U.S. sports for a few reasons, but one of the most distinct reasons is because the All-Star Game actually matters. Or, as Selig likes to say, “It counts!”
For those who don’t know or just haven’t been paying attention, the league that wins the All-Star Game is not only rewarded with a victory, but home-field advantage in the World Series.
Home-field advantage in the World Series!
In the NBA, all they care about is putting up a crazy point total and breaking the dunks record. In the NHL, they hold a fantasy draft to decide who plays on which side. The NFL Pro Bowl is such a joke that it doesn’t even deserve to be called football. The three showcases don’t mean a thing.
And in baseball, the winner gets a major advantage in the series that decides the champion of the entire spot. It’s absolutely unthinkable.
The Midsummer Classic started to count in the 2003 season after the American League and National League played a tie in 2002 when both teams ran out of players—yes, apparently that’s possible too. It’s a highly controversial topic considering it doesn’t seem fair in the slightest.
For those who don’t think the home-field advantage in the World Series matters, let’s revisit each Fall Classic since the decision was made to make the game count. Here’s a spoiler: it matters.
While it’s still only a sample size of the last 10 seasons, the fact that 70 percent of the teams who had home-field advantage in the World Series ended up winning the best-of-seven is intriguing.
Let’s look at a hypothetical situation.
The American League defeats the National League 9-6 on July 16 in Queens. By the end of the season, the St. Louis Cardinals are the top team in baseball with a 105-57 record. St. Louis cruises through the NL playoffs and advances to the World Series unscathed.
But waiting for the Cardinals in the World Series are the Oakland Athletics, who win 90 games during the regular season and win the AL Wild Card Game to advance to the Division Series. Each of Oakland’s series goes the distance, but the A’s come out on top and head to the World Series.
So, St. Louis won 15 more games than Oakland and yet, the A’s have home-field advantage. The A’s win four games in Oakland to win the World Series.
What does that say about the legitimacy of the World Series?
All because it counts.
Home-field advantage at the All-Star Game is a major debate in itself, but if the game didn’t count, there wouldn’t be people complaining about what each league’s roster looks like. Having a guaranteed representative from each team makes things just that much more difficult.