(Alternate title: Shut Up, Take Some Cialis.)
Derek Jeter is going to start the All-Star Game and that's OK.
There's one question anyone who embarks on writing seething screed about The Captain being voted into the Midsummer Classic should first have to answer. If they can't, they have to turn their energy toward another topic, something less contentious than who starts in the all-star game (suggestion: "Religion: What Is The One True Faith?").
Here it is: Has anyone from Major League Baseball ever made it clear whom the All-Star Game is actually for, the players or the fans?
An answer has never been apparent during the past 20-odd years as a baseball-obsessive. That's why anyone -- present company very included -- who writes a blog post or any full-length article giving her/his opinion on whom the fans should have voted into the game is, at best, fulfilling their obligation to provide content. At worst, they're a little bit full of shit for being blind to a grey area that Roger Clemens' family could drive six Hummers through, side-by-side.
Just using should is strikes one, two and three. There is no should about an event that's ensnared by the MLB hype machine's meathooks. Derek Sanderson Jeter is producing a garden-variety .732 OPS and his usual just-OK defence for his $21.6-million salary, which makes him one of the game's most overpaid players. It's not even the second-best production among a thin field of American League shortstops. All three Yahoo! Sports national baseball writers anointed the Texas Rangers' Michael Young as their starting shortstop.
So what, though? All of you can take your OPS and your WARP and your VORP and stuff it in a sack. Don't share your Win Shares. Shame on Yahoo! Sports for telling baseball geeks what they want to hear, that the game is for the players who are doing the best this season.
Anyone who watches a Fox station on a regular basis (in the case, only because FOX 44 from Burlington, Vt., shows Family Guy and Seinfeld reruns between 11 p.m. and midnight) knows that this is being played up as, cue the ominous music, "the last Midsummer Classic ever at Yankee Stadium."
Let's ignore that Yankee Stadium isn't what it is because of anything that ever happened in a glorified exhibition game in July -- can you even name the last time the game was played there? -- but because of what's happened there in October. Never mind that, as Will Leitch pointed out last week in a New York Times piece, "the bleacher bums, the upper tier folk, the families who have had the Yankees in their blood for decades," likely won't be at the July 15 game since tickets for an event typically have such a mark-up that only the most well-connected and well-heeled can attend.
Fox and MLB want that image of No. 2 in pinstripes trotting out to take his place at shortstop in the top of the first inning of the last all-star game ever at Yankee Stadium. They want Joe Buck -- did you know the guy doesn't even like baseball that much? -- to make some extemperaneous remarks about how it's fitting that it's Jeter who's starting in this, the last all-star game ever at Yankee Stadium.
(Digression: At some point, there will be a post about how watching The MLB on Fox stirs up more mortal terror than anything Alfred Hitchcock ever put in a movie. It's this funhouse-mirror distortion of America -- the banal commentary from Joe and Tim McCarver, along with a steady stream of commercials for all sorts of wonder drugs for your wang. Far be it to suggest that there's a time-tested holistic remedy if your penis isn't doing what you need it to do -- stop drinking beer and watching sports, put down the channel-flipper and the fatty foods and get some exercise!)
October, according to the major media, is Jeter's time, but of course, there might not be playoff baseball for the Yankees, who are four games behind the Red Sox for the wild-card spot. One major culprit for the failure of a $196-million ballclub is a lack of a production from the all-important 2-hole in the lineup, Jeter's normal spot in the lineup. Note the irony? (Fire Joe Morgan pointed out a couple days ago that this only adds to the reason to blame the Yankees' shortcomings on Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez.)
From here on out, let's at least be halfway intellectually honest and stop humouring ourselves that the All-Star Game exists for any such noble purpose. The annual byproduct of ballot-box stuffing does decide home-field advantage for the World Series, which is like choosing the next president of the United States by the same method used on American Idol (which will happen, by 2024 at the latest).
ESPN carries on like the only two baseball teams that exist, much less matter, are the Red Sox and Yankees. It's no surprise, then, that the Evil Empires account for six of the nine elected starters in the American League, with Ichiro Suzuki, who's 26th among AL outfielders in OPS (one spot up from the Jays' Alex Rios, for pity's sake) also voted since there's a huge voting bloc in Japan. The Cubs' Kosuku Fukudome, .420 slugging percentage and all, was also elected as a National League starting outfielder, although he's simply having a nice first season in North America.)
It's just pointless to spew venom about Jeter, or to point out that among the 17 elected starters, only five are the most productive hitters at their position going into today (this is based on OPS). If you want to get mad at anyone, point out that if the Red Sox hadn't traded Hanley Ramírez out of the league, he could be starting for the AL. Hey, since everything gets blamed on Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi, point out if his ballclub had ever been able to come up with a solid shortstop (too bad Troy Tulowitzki, whom the Jays infamously passed over in the 2003 draft, is having a lousy, injury-riddled year?), maybe there would be a viable, popular alternative to Jeter in the AL.
(Digression No. 2: Obligatory passive-aggressive swipe at Ricciardi -- if Kim Ng is ever going to become baseball's first female general manager, could it please be in Toronto?)
Fox and MLB use the all-star game to sell stars, not call attention to the guys who might happen to be better at baseball. They need Derek Jeter out there patrolling his range of infield dirt — a range which is shrinking like the polar ice cap — instead of a deserving player, so-called. Judging by how the voting turned out, ESPN, Fox, et al., are doing a very good job of persuasion. The two Boston/New York players who actually have great numbers but who are also media-inculcated whipping boys, Jason Giambi and J.D. Drew, didn't get voted in.
At least Red Sox slugger David Ortiz' injury means that Texas' Milton Bradley should get to take his spot as the designated hitter.
See? There's that word should again. We've lost already.
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