MLB All Star Game 2011

On the Major League Baseball official website, there are five different symbols at the bottom of the page that lists the All Star Game rosters. They indicate: Chosen on Player Ballot, injured; Chosen by fans, injured; Injury replacement; Named as reserve, will start as injury replacement; Final Vote winner; Final Vote winner, injured.

New York Yankees teammates Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and C.C. Sabathia each have a symbol next to their names, but their “injuries” are vastly different. Rodriguez has a torn meniscus in his knee and had surgery yesterday. Jeter is “mentally and physically” exhausted after surpassing the 3,000 hit mark this past weekend. And Sabathia pitched Sunday, making him ineligible to take the mound in the All Star Game—and besides, he’s vacationing in the Bahamas.*

*I’m not picking on the Yankees, though I do enjoy it. This trio simply served as an example of some of the problems with the All Star selection process as it related to one particular team. That it happened to include high-profile players on a marquee franchise didn’t hurt.

The fans vote for the starting position players (16 players in total). After that, the players cast their ballots. And finally, the All Star Game managers pick a few more guys…Until it goes back to the fans to vote for the “Last Player In” in each league…And then the mangers pick some more, because A-Rod is injured and Jeter is tired and C.C. is on a beach.

And that is how 85 (EIGHTY FIVE!) players can call themselves 2011 Major League All Stars, the highest total ever. That means 11.3 percent of the league (30 teams multiplied by 25 players) is an All Star. You hear a lot about today’s kids being told they are super awesome at everything, while old school parents grumble about how, in their day, there was no such thing as a participation trophy. Major League Baseball is starting to feel like today’s kids. And a lot of writers and fans, myself included, are starting to feel like the old school parents.

The straw that broke Bud Selig’s back was the infamous 2002 All Star Game—you know, the one that ended in a tie because both teams ran out of pitchers after 11 innings. It was pathetic, no doubt, but there were plenty of other solutions that didn’t involve inviting one out of every nine players in the league to participate.

Now MLB makes sure there are plenty of pitchers on the rosters, even though any pitcher that starts the Sunday before the game is not eligible to pitch in the All Star Game (this year that list includes Justin Verlander, David Price, and Cole Hamels, among other aces). That doesn’t stop managers from selecting a guy like Sabathia as a replacement player, despite knowing he won’t be available. I’m not saying deserving pitchers should be denied the honor (and, in most cases, the contractual bonuses that come with it) simply because their turn in the rotation came on a certain day, but the selection process has to be questioned when the hand-picked fill-ins are useless additions.

It’s difficult to find an All Star snub anymore. I had saved space to complain about Andrew McCutchen’s omission, but he was added at the last minute. Do a Google search for “All Star snubs” and you’ll find that nearly all of the players for whom an argument is made eventually received a nod.

With all of that being said, the Midsummer Classic is still the best All Star game in the world. No matter what, it’s still a game of baseball that, except for the steady stream of substitutions, looks like a regular game of baseball.* And a game of baseball played by the game’s best players—and many of the game’s mediocre players, too—is a fun thing to watch.

*The same can not be said for basketball (no defense) or football (rules are changed to make it less dangerous).

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