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Baseball's All-Star Game is broken and Andrew McCutchen was the latest victim.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
My first sports memory ever was listening to Game Six of the 1986 NLCS between my beloved New York Mets and the Mike Scott-led Houston Astros. My family was moving from Indianapolis to Bethel, Conn., and a 16-inning game is a great way to keep a rambunctious four-year old semi-still for 12 hours in the car.
Baseball was my first love, and the midsummer classic was a huge part of my childhood. My birthday always falls a few days before the Tuesday All-Star game, and when I was kid, getting to stay up late and watch the likes of Howard Johnson, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Darryl Strawberry or Doc Gooden play against the best players the game had to offer was always a part of my birthday celebration.
It was a special, time-honored tradition of late night baseball with my family.
And now, it is a joke.
The fact that the All-Star game determines home field advantage for the World Series is stupid. The fact that pitchers who start on the Sunday before the game aren’t eligible to play is stupid. The fact that the designated hitter is used in both American and National League parks is not only stupid, but technically not actual baseball. The fact that players have to vote five starters and three relievers (Brandon League, anyone?) into the game is, that’s right, stupid.
Last but most certainly not least, the All-Star game should not be a popularity contest. It should reward the greatest the game has to offer for their performance on the field. And so, you guessed it, the fans are stupid too.
Shame on the 4,536,386 people who voted Derek Jeter as the American League’s starting shortstop. They clearly haven't watched any baseball in 2011. Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera should be your starting shortstop. He's scored 14 more runs, hit 12 more home runs, driven in 29 more runners, stolen five more bases and out-hit Jeter .293 to .256. Is he a better baseball player than Jeter? Maybe not, but he certainly is having a much better year and deserved to be recognized for it. There is no way the Indians are in first place without his defense, bat or speed.
If fact, Elvis Andrus, Jhonny Peralta, Yunel Escobar, Alexi Ramirez and JJ Hardy have all had dramatically better seasons than No. 2, and not one of them is even on the roster. (Even Marco Scutaro, and his .268 average over 149 at-bats, got more votes than Ramirez, Escobar and Hardy.)
The system isn’t perfect. It probably won’t ever be. But as a conglomerate of managers, fans, media and commissioners, we should be able to get it closer than this.
Here are the biggest All-Star snubs in 2011:
1. Andrew McCutchen, OF, PIT (52 R, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 15 SB, .294/.890)
Not only is he one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game today, but his offensive production has also been astounding. He is a true five-tool athlete, a leader in the clubhouse and would have been the ASG starter if he played in New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Chicago. Exiled: Jay Bruce, CIN
2. Tommy Hanson, SP, ATL (10-4, 2.52 ERA, 103 K, 1.04 WHIP, 96.1 IP)
Hanson has always had star written all over his bio, but he is putting it all together in 2011. He is on pace to shatter his career highs for wins (11), strikeouts (173) and ERA (2.89) and that’s with a short stint on the DL. He has allowed more than three earned runs one time all season and is the main reason Atlanta has the third-best record in baseball. Exiled: Ryan Vogelsong, SF
3. Victor Martinez, C/DH, DET (37 R, 6 HR, 46 RBI, SB, .328/.854)
Michael Young has been swinging a great bat for the Rangers, so it's tough to strip him of All-Star honors, but it is hard to argue that V-Mart isn’t the most important hitter in the AL Central. The Tigers are six games over .500 with Martinez’ clutch bat in the line-up and two games under .500 without him. Detroit went 9-1 upon his return to the field after a quick stop on the DL, and he has played 23 games behind the plate. Exiled: Russell Martin, NYY
4. Paul Konerko, 1B, CHW (39 R, 21 HR, 62 RBI, SB, .319/.959)
You could make an easy case that Konerko is the current AL MVP. This issue should (hopefully) be remedied by the final fan vote-in. The Paul-Star campaign began shortly after the announcements, and it appears Konerko will win this final roster spot, but the fact he even had to go through this process should be offensive to all baseball fans. Exiled: Carlos Quentin, CHW
5. CC Sabathia, SP, NYY (11-4, 3.05 ERA, 106 K, 1.21 WHIP, 129.2 IP)
Yes, he plays for the Yankees, but he is still leading all of baseball with 11 wins, is third in the AL in innings pitched and seventh in strikeouts. He is THE horse for the best team in the American League – the Yankees have lost only five of his 18 starts. Exiled: Jose Valverde, DET
Other American League Changes:
IN: Jhonny Peralta, SS, DET
OUT: Derek Jeter, SS, NYY
IN: Michael Pineda, SP, SEA
OUT: Brandon League, RP, SEA
IN: Dan Haren, SP, LAA
OUT: C.J. Wilson, SP, TEX
Other National League Changes:
IN: Aramis Ramirez, 3B, CHC
OUT: Chipper Jones, 3B, ATL
IN: Miguel Montero, C, ARI
OUT: Yadier Molina, C, STL
IN: Drew Storen, RP, WAS
OUT: Brian Wilson, RP, SF
IN: Mike Stanton, OF, FLA
OUT: Gaby Sanchez, 1B, FLA
IN: Craig Kimbrel, RP, ATL
OUT: Tim Lincecum, SP, SF
Athlon Sports' 2011 All-Star Selections
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)