There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether or not Stephen Strasburg should have been elected to the All-Star game this season. The fact is, this debate gets at the heart of the confusion that surrounds the purpose of the All-Star Game.
There are three competing and often contradictory schools of thought when selecting an All-Star team.
First, should the All-Star game be a place simply for fans to pick who they want to see play? If that’s the case, a player like Stephen Strasburg should have been an All-Star because we have already seen how many people have turned out to watch him pitch so far. Fans want to see him pitch. So if the All-Star Game was still just an exhibition for the fans, there is no doubt that Strasburg should have been there. However, it isn’t anymore.
The game itself used to be meaningless. It was simply for entertainment purposes. Things changed forever when Bud Selig announced that the All-Star Game would determine which league would have home field advantage in the World Series.
Some people think that the All-Star Game is meant to reward players who have had the best first half of the season.
“I don’t care if two of his first four starts were no-hitters,” said former ML pitcher Mitch Williams on the MLB network. “There is no way you can put this kid on the All-Star team after five starts.”
Williams is right… if the purpose of the game is to simply gather the best players each year based off of three month’s stats (even though voting starts after just after a month of the season has passed). Joe Torre seems to hold this point of view as well.
“I think for the few players that have a terrific first half, they may never do it again and they should be rewarded,” Torre told MLB.com
But Torre doesn’t seem to get it either. The All-Star Game is much more than just putting someone out there that had a great two or three months to start a season.
What Selig did when he made the game “count” was more monumental that he must have thought. The problem is that the meaning of the game has changed but how the players are selected has not. With the stakes of the game being so high (home field advantage is pretty important), either how the players are selected needs to altered or the game needs to go back to being an exhibition.
The philosophy of the All-Star Game has now shifted to winning the game. It’s not just a show anymore. Each league needs to put out the players that are going to give them the best chance at winning. Sometimes the different philosophies merge and those having the best first half of the season may indeed give you the best shot at winning.
The same thinking must be applied to Strasburg. Charlie Manual had to pick the pitchers that he felt gave him the best chance to get the American League hitters out. I don’t know if that’s Strasburg or not. I haven’t seen enough of him.
It’s hard to judge if Strasburg would be a better option than some other experience pitchers when 31 of his 48 strikeouts this season have been against the Pirates, Indians, and Royals. He gave up nine hits to the Royals lineup over six innings.
He wouldn’t be facing the Pirates lineup in the All-Star game. He would be facing the best of the best. I’d like to see a little more of Strasburg before believing that right now- at this point in his career- he is a better option to pitch against the American League All-Stars than a Halladay, Wainwright, Lincecum, Carpenter, Gallardo, etc.
The reason why Strasburg being an All-Star was such a debate is because we’re not all on the same page in what we are arguing about in the first place. Selig needs to decide what direction the All-Star Game is going to be taking from this point on. If it’s for the fans, they should get to vote each player in. If a guy like Strasburg was voted in by the fans, there would be no argument because the fans had spoken.
If the game is to reward those based off their early season numbers then you would just need a small committee of people to delete all names attached to the numbers and pick which numbers are best at each position.
But if the game is going to continue to carry such weight moving forward by giving the winning league home field advantage in the World Series, then the managers as a group should decide who to send based off of who gives them the best chance to win the game.
So… should Strasburg have been an All-Star? Depending on your philosophy the answer is yes, no, and maybe.
Read more: John Mark runs a blog that covers the Cubs and the Cardinals over at TheOutfieldIvy.com