Unless you're new to Major League Baseball, you know the American League has been unbeatable against the National League in the All-Star Game for the last 13 years.
Excluding the 2002 contest that ended in a tie and featured the infamous Bud Selig shrug, the Junior Circuit has won every game since being shutout in 1996.
Obviously, a 12-game winning streak that spans over a decade has a litany of explanations. For example, the AL has been quite a bit stronger at times during the run and Lady Luck has played her role as she always does on the diamond.
However, for at least the last several years, there's been a blatant and irritating deficiency with the assortment of Senior Circuit talent. It's opened the Midsummer Classic with a distinct disadvantage.
One that can be traced back to the voters—including the fans, players, and managers.
While the American League has suited up for the early July exhibition with its strongest roster of available athletes (give or take a couple on the fringe), the National League has been taking the field with a mixture of richly deserving stars and guys who rode the coattails of misplaced popularity to the honor.
Either the hometown fans in a large market ignorantly and blindly stuff the ballot box or the players/managers give a pseudo-lifetime achievement nod to a recognizable name. One way or another, glaring omissions are common-place and the team is weaker as a result.
The situation is no different in 2010.
The errors almost jump out at you:
—The Friars are the Show's biggest surprise, they're tied for the NL's best record with the Atlanta Braves, and have the same number of All Stars (one) as the putrid Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Arizona Diamondbacks. The Milwaukee Brewers, who are eight games under .500, have three.
Meanwhile, the Braves have five.
—One of those Bravos is a utility infielder with a painfully empty .311 average in only 164 AB. For some reason, though, Omar Infante beat out the Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto's .312 BA and league-leading .984 OPS (over 200 points better than Infante's).
Got that? A decent singles hitter who doesn't play every day beat out arguably the NL's Most Valuable Player for the first half.
Of course, the Philadelphia Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel—who'll skipper the All-Star club for a second consecutive year—sees a ton of Atlanta. Apparently, Infante has played in enough of those games to impress one key set of eyes.
The list of self-inflicted wounds could go on and on—no Ryan Zimmerman, no Aubrey Huff, no Josh Willingham, etc.
But an exhaustive and tedious look at all the snubs isn't necessary because there's one in particular that demonstrates the ill-fated phenomenon to a perfect tee.
Athletic injustice, thy name is Miguel Olivo.
The Colorado Rockie hasn't just been the best catcher in the Senior Circuit, but he's been the best one in all of baseball. If you don't believe me, take a quick look (minimum of 200 PA):
—His .308 BA, 5 3B, .540 SLG, .905 OPS, and 3.0 WAR lead all MLB catchers.
—His 39 RBI are tied for second.
—His 11 HR and 37 R are tied for third.
—His 4 SB are fourth.
—His .365 OBP is fifth.
If you narrow the contenders to the relevant field (NL backstops), Olivo leads the way in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base-plus-slugging percentage, runs batted in, home runs (tied with the New York Mets' Rod Barajas), and triples.
Pump your brakes; there are two sides to the ball, you say?
Fine, Miguel has also been the best defensive catcher in all of baseball and the margin's even clearer over here.
To give you an idea of exactly how suffocating a weapon the 31-year-old has been, you have to go beyond his .993 fielding percentage. You have to look at his 20 runners caught stealing against only 19 successful swipes, good for a 51.3 percent success rate.
It's not often you stumble across a rifle arm that nabs more would-be thieves than it suffers, but the more staggering observation is the company it keeps with that lofty caught stealing statistic.
Olivo's 20 CS is good for second in the Majors behind the 22 belonging to Jason Kendall of the Kansas City Royals.
In stark contrast to Colorado's sparkler, Kendall has a meager 25.0 percent success rate courtesy of 66 thefts allowed. Only Yadier Molina's 47.4 percent clip (18 CS against 20 SB) can hang with Olivo and the Redbird will start the All Star Game simply for his defense i.e. it's his only contribution and it's still not better than Miguel's.
That's really where this charade becomes perversely laughable.
Neither All-Star rep that "earned" the selection over Olivo—neither the Braves' Brian McCann nor Molina—can beat the rightful starter in anything except doubles and on-base percentage (in McCann's case).
St. Louis Cardinal fans should be flat-out embarrassed by their counterproductive idiocy, masquerading as bias.
Their team stands a very good chance of actually making the World Series where home-field advantage could be a huge asset. In other words, it ultimately might not be just an exhibition for the Cards and their faithful.
Yet, they voted their guy to start the game despite offensive metrics that rank dead last almost across the board. What is supposed to be an intelligent baseball city just delivered a .231 hitter with a .616 OPS to the All-Star Game, trying to justify it by pointing out he's a defensive specialist.
Trouble is, he's the second-best defender at the position and can't hold a candle to the lumber swung by the real defensive leader.
Sadly, the fanatics under the Gateway Arch are just the latest example of National League stupidity.
Which is why the Senior Circuit is already trailing the American League, for a 14th straight year.
And the All-Star Game hasn't even started.