Sunday, July 08, 2012

Bring Back the Snubs

Dear Major League Baseball:

I'm sorry I have to be the one to point this out to you, but in your efforts to make everyone happy, you've managed to destroy one of the best things about the All-Star Game.

I speak, of course, of the outraged fan reaction to deserving players they root for getting snubbed. It was the best part of seeing the teams get announced; the immediate, frenzied analysis of who'd gotten jobbed by being left off because the team needed at least one rep from every squad. And in the old days, guys did get genuinely jobbed, because there were only so many spots to go around, and a couple of them had to go to the Sid Monges of the world or the old warhorses who still raked in the popular vote regardless of performance, and, well, yeah. Guys who should have been there got left off, and we as fans got upset, and we went to war for our favorites who'd gotten screwed. There was passion there, and interest, and a genuine interest. There was weight to the debates over whether the team should be made up of proven guys who maybe didn't have the best stats this year or unknowns who were having the best first halves, and might never shine this brightly again.

Now, though, there's no debate. Put 'em both on. Hell, put 'em all on. 34 players per team. Fan votes. Player votes. Manager picks. More fan votes. By the time it's done, everyone gets a say and anyone who's got a positive WAR is on the team. There are no real arguments left to be had. Oh, sure, this year we got a little heat over Tony LaRussa's decision to leave off a couple of Reds he wasn't particularly fond of, but A)Brandon Phillips isn't having a particularly great year and B)Johnny Cueto is kind of a jerk. There's maybe a little smoke here, but even if LaRussa was being a vindictive jerk (and all signs point to yes), it's really not that big a deal. Poke around the bushes of the baseball blogs and you'll maybe see some love for Enesto Frieri, but other than that?

Also: Ernesto Frieri. Yeah, he's got 10 saves and an ERA of 0.00, but...he's Ernesto Frieri.

So we're left with bloated rosters and no excitement, no real investment in who makes it because everyone vaguely deserving does. Someone at MLB's offices should remember that the big excitement with the NCAA tournament isn't who gets the 1 seeds, or whether the big name schools get it. It's on the bubble, where the fans of the maybe-teams live and die with every game all season long. With rare exceptions, none of those teams ever makes noise in the tournament (VCU, you're excused), but everyone still goes out of their mind over perceived snubs, relative RPI, and the like.

Baseball used to be like that, before the 34 man All-Star roster, and it was better for it.
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