The issue of boy wonder Stephen Strasburg’s possible placement on the National League All-Star team has been hotly debated over the last few days. A majority of writers and fans are up and arms at the very idea that a pitcher with only five MLB starts under his belt might possibly maybe make an appearance at the Midsummer Classic.
I agree that Strasburg doesn't deserve to make the team—fairly or not, players are measured by performance, not talent, and it takes more than five appearances to make a real impact on the game.
However, I think Stephen Strasburg should pitch in Anaheim in two weeks for reasons that have nothing to do with his 2.27 ERA or his 13.6 K/9 rate.
The words “national drawing card” have been thrown around a lot the past few weeks in response to the massive boost in attendance every time Strasburg takes the mound. The hype is real, and everyone wants to see the future best pitcher of all time.
I had the great privilege of seeing his second start when he came to Cleveland and saw people in the nosebleeds for the first time since the 2007 playoffs. Before the game, I realized that I had never been so excited to watch the Indians lose.
Watching Strasburg face off against the best hitters in the Junior Circuit would be a sight to see, and every person who’s ever seen him pitch would agree.
“Now Lewie,” you might say, “That’s all well and good, but we don’t give All-Star spots to people we want to see, we award them to the best players in the game.” If that actually sounds like something you would say, please imagine me sending a hostile stare in your direction.
I dare anyone to look at the voting leaderboards and tell me with a straight face that we are voting for players based on skill and performance instead of reputation and favoritism.
Take a look at Strasburg’s potential teammates: Albert Pujols is having a solid season, but even if you think he’s been the best first baseman in the league this year, surely you can admit that he doesn’t deserve to have almost four times more votes than Joey Votto while Adrian Gonzalez hasn’t even cracked the top five. My brain goes into convulsions every time I try to rationalize Placido Polanco’s place atop the third base vote-getters.
Things are even worse in the American League. Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeira is hitting .230, yet he’s beating out Triple Crown candidate Miguel Cabrera in the voting and is within striking distance of Justin Morneau, who’s pacing all of baseball with 4.6 WAR. Legitimate cases could be made for both Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre to win at their respective positions, and are no-brainers to at least make the top two; yet they are languishing in third and fourth place, respectively, stuck behind Yankees celebrities who are having undeniably worse seasons.
Speaking of which, Derek Jeter may be the best shortstop in the league, but if he is, it’s a close race and he certainly shouldn’t be getting more double the votes of his closest competitor. Meanwhile, I’m left scratching my head about why Ichiro Suzuki is the top vote-getting outfielder while the superior Alex Rios and Shin-Soo Choo don’t even crack the top 15.
The answer isn’t a mystery: Pujols, Suzuki, and Jeter are all fun players to watch and have large national followings. On top of that, players on teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies get automatic boosts from their passionate hometown fanbases. Most people vote for the players they most want to watch, not the ones who most deserve it.
That’s why Stephen Strasburg—a player who’s fun to watch and who we fans can’t get enough of—should be granted a place on the team. Selecting slumping stars while simultaneously slamming Strasburg isn’t just stupid, it’s hypocrisy.
To the many people who will disagree, I completely understand where you’re coming from and if the rest of the game worked the way it was supposed to, I'd be on your side.
But if you’re planning to moan and groan if he is announced as a member of the NL All-Star team on Sunday, you’d better not be voting for Mark Teixeira.