And The Meek Shall Inherit The All-Star Game

I’m speechless.

I know – given that it’s me – but I’m speechless. I probably uttered my first complaints about All-Star Game selections in 1968 and gave up hope of an equitable solution no later than 1990, but I did think I long ago had become immune to surprises.
And then Evan Meek and Omar Infante were named to the 2010 National League All-Star teams. I literally thought MLB Network had made some kind of mega-typo. There are no constructions in which either player is an All-Star. None. Not “it’s close,” not “there are arguments pro and con.” They’re not All-Stars.

Meek is a great story, a Rule V draftee who is finally harnessing his talent and is showing signs of developing into a useful major league relief pitcher. His ERA of 0.96, WHIP of 0.85, and his strikeout to walk ratio of 42:11, are fantastic. But he has been doing this in baseball’s equivalent of a vacuum: in low-leverage, middle relief situations. Not as a closer, not as the key set-up man. Not even as the penultimate set-up man. The Pirates may be a last place team, but they do have 20 Saves and 32 Holds this year, and Meek has one of the former and just five of the latter.
Because “Blown Saves” don’t appear in very many stat lines, the fact that Meek has been used in six save situations and coughed up the lead in five games, is easily smoothed over. It shouldn’t be. It suggests that Meek is a great guy to bring in when you’re down by four or up by five but he isn’t ready to handle games that, you know, might still be in doubt.
Meanwhile, the “Hold” is an imperfect statistic to say the least, but in the category, Meek is only third on his own team. Joel Hanrahan of the Bucs has 13 of them. When play began Sunday, 44 National League pitchers had more Holds than Meek did. Mike Adams has 21 in San Diego and Luke Gregerson 19 (and Gregerson’s K:W ratio is even better than Meek’s) and neither of them are going. They essentially have four times as many Holds as Meek. They are not going to Anaheim, Meek is. 
It’s as if somebody said “we need to honor the top non-important reliever in the NL Central.”
We both know why Meek is on the team: the Club Representative rule. Each team gets an All-Star whether they have one or not. This rule exists for only one reason – television. There is still some sort of assumption that the game’s ratings in a given market will be shattered if one of the market’s players is not present. As a 29-year veteran of national and local television, I’m afraid you’re going to have to show me a lot of research to prove a) that this is still the case, or b) that more than 100 people in Pittsburgh are going to watch the All-Star Game just to see Evan Meek. Because it would be my contention that the Each Team rule is one of the reasons the All-Star Game is not what it used to be, television-wise. 

Still, in some senses Meek’s selection makes more sense than the anointing of Omar Infante. Don’t you have to be at least a platoon starter, with several impressive statistics, to merit the All-Star Team? One homer, 22 RBI, three steals, a .311 average, and an OPS of .721 is impressive in what way? He can play four positions? That’s great – we’re in the day of four-man benches. Each team has at least one guy who can play four positions. Take a number. And the number better not be 47% – which is where Infante stands in At Bats relative to the leader on his own team, genuine All-Star Martin Prado. You will notice that the official All-Star depth charts list Infante in the back-up Third Base slot (rendered ludicrous by comparisons to Ryan Zimmerman or Casey McGehee). If for some reason, a National League “ninth guy” who has played multiple positions, suddenly needs to be named to the All-Star Team, I think the argument could be made that Prado’s own teammate Eric Hinske is more deserving (5-31-.284, .836) but of course…
Holy Crap we’re discussing the relative merits of Eric Hinske and Omar Infante as All-Stars while Joey Votto isn’t one.

This is baseball’s ultimate nightmare: an All-Star Game populated by utility infielders or mop-up relievers or Team Tokens. To revise what I wrote earlier: there are American League examples of non-star All-Stars, they’re just not as egregious. Matt Thornton comes to mind (he is having half the season Daniel Bard is and who is arguably less valuable to his team than is Scott Downs or even Will Ohman) and so does Ty Wigginton (he is hitting .251; Tigers rookie Brennan Boesch is at .342 and has more RBI and nearly as many homers as Wigginton). The first step to preventing this triumph of mediocrity from subsuming the Game is to eliminate the Team Rule, although obviously that wouldn’t have kept Infante home. 
But I’m afraid we are heading towards the ultimate step, which is to discontinue the Game outright. It previously rewarded and brought together the season’s top stars, to pit them against opponents they would otherwise never face, for the benefit of fans who would never see them live or on tv. Today, the players understandably would prefer the time off, the selection rules guarantee “stars” who aren’t, inter-league play destroyed the distinctive nature of the two leagues, every game is televised somewhere, and nobody outside his family is going to watch the All-Star Game hoping to see Evan Meek keep the American League lead at six runs in the 7th Inning!

PERSONNEL NOTE:
If your jaw dropped, as nearly all of them did inside the press box at broiling Yankee Stadium this afternoon, when CC Sabathia and not Andy Pettitte made the A.L. roster, fear not. Sabathia should take his regular Yankee turn next Sunday, and therefore be ineligible to pitch in Anaheim. Pettitte, the Yankees expect, will be his replacement.
Hope Andy can sleep the night before knowing he might have to face Infante.
DYNASTIES ILLUSTRATED:
Yankees commemorated George Steinbrenner’s birthday by displaying the seven World Series Trophies won under his regime. Despite game time temperatures of 93 degrees (felt more like 126 in the labyrinth behind the team’s museum – and yes, the line up and then down the ramp is for the chance to take a quick photo of the trophies) none of the hardware melted:
IMG_0027.JPG

24 Comments

How long are we going to pretend that MLB is any better than the WWE? … predetermined results and steroids.

One team has a $210M payroll, another has a $40M payroll. It’s just a joke. When I was a kid, franchises like Pittsburgh and Kansas City were routinely competitive. No longer.

It’s just sad we’ve reached this point.

I’m still new at being an MLB fan, so at first I thought, “So what? It’s a game that doesn’t even count.” Then I realized who I was about to be talking to. For the pure love of the game, I completely agree that this should be about the best of the best. It should be about fans getting to see all the year’s greatest players all at once.
Of course, by voting, the fans have decided whom they want in the game. However, the voting system itself seems flawed to me. Fans sit at games with BOXES of ballots, and spend hours on this. I don’t get it. Am I missing something? Like I said, I’m new to this, so I welcome gentle corrections that will help me understand.

I can see the issues with using raw stats, but I agree that trying to be “fair” by getting players from every team is detrimental to the spirit of the game. I would suggest instead, perhaps a LIMIT of # of players from a single team. An all-Yankees team, for example, would not be fun for some of us.

Happy 4th of July. By the way, one among your biggest fans — a master and faithful troll swatter — is in the hospital today. Wish her well.

Dan,
Roughly speaking, the Pirates get some $25m in revenue sharing and $35 million from the national TV contracts. That’s $60m–without the added revenue from MLBN/MLB.tv/MLB.com–before selling a single ticket or other stadium-related income. And they field a $25m team. So, where does that other money go? Hmm…

The real joke is replacing top talent w/semi-scrubs just to appease the financial bottom line (paging Billy Beane!) and/or pocketing the revenue sharing monies that could get you some talent out there. (Pirates, Marlins, take a bow.) On the flip side, look at what the Rays have accomplished with little money but good scouting, smart draft picks, and solid trades: their team is a bonafide contender. Yes, having cash can give a team an edge but then, why aren’t, say, the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, and Dodgers winning pennants every year? Let’s not talk payroll bogeymen, shall we? The real culprit is greed.

You see, what no one wants to admit is that baseball is full of owners whose only interest is to keep a profitable operation afloat and pocket every bit of loot while crying poverty and selling empty dreams to their fans. Period. As a fan of the game it saddens me when storied franchises are reduced to a punchline, but their respective fans need to stop letting themselves be hoodwinked and demand a better product on the field.

As Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo said last year, “People don’t own teams to lose money. If you ask any owner whether they would rather make $20 million and come in last place or lose $20 million and win a World Series, there’s only one guy who honestly would take that championship: George Steinbrenner. Nobody else.

What is Jason Heyward doing as a starting outfielder in the ASG? If he is an All Star, then so is Jaime Garcia and I want to lodge a complaint with MLB. I may be a rabid Cardinals fan but I am not stupid. It would never occur to me to suggest that Jaime should be on the All Star team. Jason Heyward does not belong there either.

I was watching the end of the Rockies/Giants game and the Rockies’ announcers were whining that Miguel Olivo had not made the All Star team. Seriously, Miguel Olivo? Yadier Molina is the best defensive catcher in the NL. Olivo has no Gold Glove awards, Yadi has two. Yadi’s pick off percentage is the highest in the NL. Only the fastest runners have the guts to attempt a steal with Yadi behind the plate and some of them get picked off. I have seen Yadi almost pick off runners throwing from his knees for God’s sake. And Miguel Olivo should be an All Star? His batting average is higher than Yadi’s and that is what makes him an All Star catcher? If so, then let’s just take the two players with the highest batting average in both leagues and stick them behind the plate.

Joey Votto does deserve to be an All Star. I plan to vote for him.

Normally, I wouldn’t want to pee on anyone’s Cheerios, but maybe the All-Star Game’s time has simply come and gone. Kinda like the Oscars, anymore. Every year, there are Oscar contenders for ?Best Picture? which leave me shaking my head wondering how/why they even made the short list. ?Just because? seems to be as good a reason as any, it would seem. Artistic talent sometimes takes a backseat to box office revenue and corporate profits. Isn’t a variation on this theme going on with the All-Star Game, too?

All due respect to CC Sabathia’s athleticism and the fact that he’s obviously a big guy, but for the sake of his health, he really should be more vigilant of his weight. Crikey, if that was a female athlete, she’d never hear the end of it!

I guess the McCourt ownership fiasco is taking greed to a new level. Dodgers regularly draw 3.5 million, yet the payroll keeps shrinking. These two grifters have pillaged the hallowed Dodger franchise to feed their outgrageous lifestyles and pay their attorneys. Frank couldn’t afford the team when he leveraged his parking lot 5 years ago, and I daresay he cannot afford it now, but he and Jamie haven’t wanted for a single luxury ever since they blew into town. And the public just keeps buying tickets…. go figure.

I think this is GIGANTIC week in the NL East race the Phillies play the Braves and will gain one of the two games in hand they have on them and the second place Mets. This is one of those biggest weeks of the season for the Phillies not only for outcome but also for confidence. They are do for a little run and I beleive this is the week they take 6 of 7 games and get within 1.5 games of the leader of the division which will still be the Braves. Could even be 0.5 games goin into the all-star break the way they are beat up injury wise. If they pull off 6 of 7 this week and get healthy after the break. This to me will be the week that turned it around for them. Cause if it goes the other way and they trail 7-9 games. Its a whole new ball game!

With Halladay, Hamels and Moyer who all but mabye Hamels can keep the Braves liineup under 4 runs per. They need to look at this week as a crucial week and get any offensive player ( Werth,Rollins) in the starting lineup! waiting till after all-star break may be too late!

To say Meeks stats don’t matter (because of “when” he pitches) but then go on to state stats that don’t matter (Holds, Saves when/because he’s not the closer on a team that’s only won 29 games at the time of the announcement) is assinine. When your team is losing 2 out of 3, how many “hold” opportunities are there? He still has to get hitters out, and he still has amazing stats.

And for the uninformed, missinformation spewer above, get your facts straight. That financial information your trying to pass off regarding the Pirates payroll and money’s spent as fact is old news, and it’s incorrect.

James Binney

Ok, if the All Star game is all about offensive numbers then why don’t we just pick the best pitchers and hitters and let them pitch and hit for 9 innings. Who cares about defense anyway? As for pick off percentage, how many games has Olivo played? He’s played 58 and Yadi has played 72. Redo the math. Or better yet go to the MLB website and look up the fielding stats for catchers. Molina is ranked #1; Olivo is ranked #8. Nice try.

Oh and by the way, your criteria for who is the best catcher for the 2010 season is performance for three months? The 2010 season ends in September. Come back then and we ‘ll talk.

The argument against Meek is valid but I wish you had followed it up with support for Andrew McCutchen. His numbers alone should have at least got him into the voting for the last roster spot.

Keith,

I read through your article not once but twice, then used by CTRL+F shortcut to search for “home field advantage” or “World Series.” I did not find either of those phrases in reference to the All Star Game.

The truth is that the ASG isn’t about an exhibition game showing off the biggest stars anymore, otherwise Strasburg would be the starter. Its not even about the best players this season so far, otherwise Votto and not Pujols or Howard would be starting first base. Its about home field advantage in the World Series.

Infante simply gives Manual – a manager who expects to be back in the WS come October/November – the better chance to be playing at home than a 3rd third baseman in Zimmerman or 3rd first baseman in Votto. That’s all it is. You can obviously argue that Infante is not an all star or even a star, but you have to agree that he is a clutch utility player who will give Manual plenty of options. When Selig decided to make the ASG mean something, this is what he created. Future ASG will show much of the same – managers not picking the biggest names or their favorite players, but the ones that will help them win the most and net them home field advantage. Times are a changing, so I think it is high time to change our understandings and expectations as well. If the game needs to be renamed Home Field Advantage Game, then so be it!

To mantlewasarockstar:

You might want to check your stats. Olivo has a higher pick off percentage than Yadi (51% vs 47%). Olivo has a higher batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and has 5 triples on the season to boot.

Here are some stats for you:
Yadi: 1B:56 2B:9 3B:0 HR:3 RBI:31 BA:.229 OBP:.309 SLG: .302 OBS:.611.

Olivo: 1B:65 2B:6 3B:5 HR:11 RBI:39 BA:.307 OBP:.363 SLG:.538 OBS:.901.

Olivo is clearly a better catcher and batter this year. Who cares if Yadi has two golden gloves? This isn’t the 2008 or 2009 All-Star Game. It’s the 2010 game and Olivo is the better player this year.

Sorry, that was to mrlyngreen not mantlewasarockstar

James Binney

Ok so the All Star game is all about offensive numbers? Then why don’t we we pick the best pitchers and hitters and let them pitch and hit for nine innings? Who cares about defense anyway? As for the pick off percentage, how many games has Olivo played? He has played 58 and Molina has played 72. Redo the math. Or better yet go to the MLB website and check the fielding stats for catchers. Molina is ranked #1; Olivo is ranked #8. Nice try.

Oh and the numbers for who is the better catcher in the 2010 season are based on three months of play? The 2010 season ends in September. Come back then and we’ll talk.

Right on, sag969. “This Time It Counts” has ruined the All-Star Game. Knowing he has to win the game for World Series home-field advantage for (he hopes) his team, Charlie Manuel chose a utility player in Infante and a middle reliever in Meek. He’s not building an all-star team — a team made up of stars. He’s building as close to a true team as he can get with the few spots he has available to him after the fan and player ballots select the starters and many of the reserves.

Generally, I don’t have a problem with the requirement that every team is represented, but if the game is to count for something, then that rule should be abolished. You can’t have it both ways — either it’s an exhibition of true stars, with every team in attendance, or it’s a game that matters for World Series home-field advantage in which it’s a game of all-star starters and then the best collection of reserves as deemed by the manager. If the game was still an exhibition with no tie to the postseason, I don’t think Manuel picks Infante or Meek. Infante’s spot probably goes to a fourth first baseman in Joey Votto, and Meek’s spot goes to another, truly deserving Pirate, McCutchen.

This all has me more annoyed than the fact that Manuel admittedly chose Ryan Howard (presumptively over Votto) because Howard plays for him. I used to get angry every year over the managers’ “homer” selections and Tom Gordon was an All-Star, but that’s taken a back seat to the rest of this nonsense. No way should there be three Yankee starters on the AL squad before MLB strikeout leader Jered Weaver — with the game in his home ballpark. Not bringing the K leader is like not bringing the HR leader, and though that man right now is Jose Bautista and the fans didn’t vote him in, the players did. And had they not, Girardi probably would’ve taken him anyway.

I have given this some thought and I have come up with various options concerning the All Star game and how the players are chosen.

1. Get rid of the All Star game altogether since it causes so much controversy.

2. Keep the system the way it is for the reason that the fans should be allowed to decide who they want to see irregardless of three months worth of stats.

3. Let the managers of each league decide. They could pick which players who in their estimation represents the best player in each position based on some agreed to criteria.

4. Move the All Star game to the end of the season so that a full season worth of stats are considered, thus making it more fair for the players.

There are probably other options but these are the ones I have come up with. I have no favorite myself because frankly, I don’t think the All Star game matters in the larger scheme of things.

Just as a point of clarification to my previous post. My remark about pick off percentage for Molina v.Olivo was based on career percentage not the most recent. Many may disagree but my opinion is that a player should be looked at for the basis of All Star selection by what they have contributed career wise to MLB not on what have you done for me lately.

Olivo’s been on fire this season both behind and at the plate. It’s not all about offense, but you can’t deny that it’s not a part of it. Molina may have started more games but Olivo is still a great catcher that deserves an all-star berth.

I really don’t think that it should be a career-long nomination. Would you really want Ken Griffey Jr. in the all-star game this year? He’s had an amazing career but this year has been down in the stats across the board. This is probably the same reason why Halladay will start instead of Jimenez. Sure Jimenez has 14 Ws so far but he’s been blown up the last three outings. You don’t want to put someone in the game who hasn’t been performing lately.

jbrockies = james binney. I just changed my nickname so my email address wasn’t posted again :)

I’m not saying it should be a career long nomination, but more must be considered than three months worth of stats. If the home field advantage thing were not a part of the All Star game would everyone care as much? Does it really matter in the end? What matters is where the teams are on game 162 and then the post season.

There are a lot of things about MLB that don’t makes sense really. I could argue for example that Tim Lincecum maybe should not have won the Cy Young award last year because his performance toward the end of the season began to slide. Yes, Molina’s offense hasn’t been as good of late but he could go on a tear tomorrow and Olivo could implode. The fact that Molina is in a hitting slump doesn’t mean he isn’t a better catcher overall than Olivo. There are all kinds of comparisons both pro and con between the two, but when all is said and done Molina is still the best defensive catcher in the NL, All Star game or no All Star game. It doesn’t matter that much to me whether others believe Molina deserves to be in the All Star game or not. His career speaks for itself.

Ridiculous. Everything in this game is done for the benefit of 10 large revenue teams. Take away the every team gets a rep rule and you have the same thing interleague play has become- a benefit to large markets only. The Yanks have a $200 million payroll with 8 all stars and the problem with the game is the $39 million payroll, one all star Pirate? McCutcheon

(continued) has the highest OBP of any CF in the NL, but he couldn’t get voted on if the Pirates gave away money to vote for him.

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