A Giant Problem With the All-Star Game

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The rosters for the Major League All-Star Game were announced yesterday, and the Cardinals did pretty well for themselves. Rafael Furcal made it in as the starter at shortstop for the National League, Yadier Molina is going as the backup catcher, and Lance Lynn was selected to join the pitching staff. 

David Freese has a chance to go as well, through online fan voting to determine the last man on the roster. You can vote through Thursday over at the MLB website; if you want to see Freese make the team you may want to go vote right now, because I kind of have the feeling some guy named Bryce Harper (you might have heard of him), is going to run away with the vote. 

The most visible Cardinal is going to be Carlos Beltran, who, in addition to a starting outfield spot, has been asked by Matt Kemp to participate in the Home Run Derby. (Kemp is the captain of the NL team; remember, the Home Run Derby teams kind of work like middle school kickball now, except the fat kid -- i.e. Prince Fielder -- usually gets picked pretty early.) As both a Cardinal fan and a huge Beltran fan, I'm kind of excited, but also nervous as hell about his participation in the derby. I suppose I'll just keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. 

What I'm really interested in this morning, though, is bitching about the roster which, once again, manages to show us what an idiotic farce the All-Star Game actually is. We see it every year, of course, but this year...well, let's just say it's a little easier to spot this year than most. 

There are three members of the San Francisco Giants who will be starting for the NL squad in Kansas City: Buster Posey (C), Melky Cabrera (OF), and Pablo Sandoval (3B). All three are good players (well, two of the three are really good, and one has a funny nickname); all three are absolutely the wrong choices for their respective positions. If, that is, you're looking for, say, the best player at the position. Which isn't necessarily what you should be, but I'll get to that in a moment. 

Buster Posey is the one I have the least problem with. Yadier Molina is having the best season of his career -- which just might be a Hall of Fame career by the time he's done, depending on how things go over the next handful of years -- and should have been the starter for the NL. Still, Posey is very much Yadi's equal as a player, though the shape of their values take somewhat different forms. 

Cabrera, though, has no business starting. As much as I hate to say it, Ryan Braun has been easily a better player, and is a much higher quality player just in general. Melky has lucked (his BABIP is .390), his way into a high batting average; Braun has been the same guy he's always been, and has to at least be in the conversation for the NL MVP again. Hey, you can say he's a steroid cheat, but according to baseball he isn't. He's played the games, and he's been the better player. 

The really ugly inclusion is Pablo Sandoval, whose spot comes at the expense of David Wright, the man who probably should be the league's Most Valuable Player as of right now. Wright has been worth 4.5 WAR this year; Sandoval has been worth exactly 1.0. I realise David Wright doesn't have a goofy nickname like Kung Fu Panda, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been several times better than Sandoval this season. 

Now, I'm not going to take a shot here at the fans of the San Francisco Giants, who stuffed the ballot boxes quite magnificently. They got three of their players onto the starting roster, one of whom didn't even deserve to go to the ASG, much less start it. That's great for them, and I don't begrudge that fan base. I've read a couple pieces here and there blasting Giant fans for being foolish, or biased, or not understanding the game. That kind of talk is stupidity itself. 

The reason is that they are fans. They don't have to understand which players are objectively better than others if they don't want. They want the guys from their team in the All-Star Game, and that's fine. You root for your team when you're a fan. It's what fans do. The fact they stuffed the ballot boxes better than fans of the other 29 MLB clubs doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them. 

What it means is that, once again, we are being smacked square in the fact with the abject stupidity that is the MLB All-Star Game; specifically, the fact that home-field advantage in the World Series is being determined by the outcome of a game in which Pablo Sandoval will be starting and David Wright will not. The National League is, to put is succinctly, screwed. 

The dueling and incompatible imperatives of the All-Star Game have never been more apparent. It's fine for fans to vote for their guys, whether they happen to actually be the best guys or not. But when you make a game count, you want to actually play it with something resembling those best guys. 

Bud Selig made one of the most monstrously stupid decisions in the history of sport when he decided to attach the fate of his sport's championship to an exhibition game whose rosters are determined by the votes of millions of random people, virtually all of whom only care about how much they like a given player, and hardly at all about what kind of chance at winning that player gives their league's team. The fact this ridiculous farce has persisted so long is a black eye on the face of baseball. And if this year's rosters don't prove it to everyone, then stupidity runs even deeper than I would have ever believed before. 

The ironic part, at least to me, is that one of the teams who will be most handicapped by the overabundance of Giants on the roster is, in fact, the Giants. After all, they currently lead the NL West, and that pitching staff could easily lead them back to a World Series before 2012 is over and done. Wouldn't it be something if San Francisco made it all the way back to the Series this year, only to find once they got there that they had to play the majority of the games in the opponent's ballpark because their own players weakened the exhibition squad that determined the parameters for the sport's most important games? 

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