The flurry of posts by everyone from unknown bloggers to professional writers around this time of year is inevitable. The bevy of deserving All-Star snubs just provides too much good material to pass up for most writers, myself included.
Save the pieces about specific players left on the outside looking in, who are usually fringe guys in the end, these articles tend to fall into one of two categories. Either:
A) The All-Star game is a showcase for the game's brightest stars, current season be damned. Evan Longoria will get his chance; for now, the preeminent AL third baseman is Alex Rodriguez, failed tests and bum hip notwithstanding, etc.
B) The All-Star Game is an honor awarded to those players who have been the game's best thus far in the season. Add in the fact that the winning team gets home field advantage, and there is a massive incentive for the fans, players, and managers to field the team that is going to play the best on this specific night in July.
To be honest, I don't care.
Position B seems to have the glaring weakness of a time-scale argument, namely that if you want to play the hot hand, don't look at the season to date—look at, say, the last two to three weeks.
Position A creates a grey area when stars of a previous generation are declining and newer players are rising to take their place. If the game were in an AL park, who'd get your vote between Jim Thome and David Ortiz?
Here is my question: How much do these two views really differ? How many players make one roster and not the other?
For comparison's sake, here are the AL lineups for both views.
Position A (Showcase of Stars)
C: Joe Mauer
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Dustin Pedroia
3B: Alex Rodriguez
SS: Derek Jeter
OF: Ichiro Suzuki
OF: Josh Hamilton
OF: Jason Bay
P: Roy Halladay
Looks pretty close to the real thing, no?
Position B's All-Merit Team (Loosely, the players with the highest VORP)
C: Joe Mauer
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Aaron Hill
3B: Evan Longoria
SS: Jason Bartlett
OF: Ichiro Suzuki
OF: Torii Hunter
OF: Carl Crawford
P: Zach Greinke
Notice two things before you react: First, the dearth of large-market players in the second list and, second, how great but unremarkable the second list is.
As far as reserves go, there'd be plenty of crossover between the two; star players are usually quite talented. Derek Jeter may be overrated, but that doesn't mean he's bad.
In fact, most of the guys from the first team would earn their way onto the second team. The ones who wouldn't (Tex, Pedroia, A-Rod, Hamilton) aren't so much unworthy as just inferior to other guys there (Kevin Youkilis and Russell Branyan, Ian Kinsler, Longoria and Scott Rolen/Brandon Inge, Hunter and Crawford among others).
At the end of the day, that's a grand total of four players in dispute. The rest are simply a shuffle between starter and reserve, and since everyone plays, it just isn't worth getting upset over.
Sure, Branyan got jobbed so that Tex could go, and that sucks. Branyan is having a career year, and Tex isn't playing anywhere close to his best baseball in the Bronx.
As a savvy baseball fan, I know who I'd rather see, but can you really blame the vast majority of Americans for wanting to see the guy who has been traded for massive returns and netted the huge offseason contract over the 16-year vet who finally seems like he's put it all together?
That's all the game is about—who Americans want to watch. As much as people want you to believe that this is a spectacle and that it's influential and whatever else is in the ad campaign, it's all about TV viewers. Some people want to see the players they are told are great while some want to see childhood heroes one more time.
Me? I'm just pulling for a good matchup because, as we all know, come July 14, this is the only game in town.