Saturday, July 10, 2010

Friday Baseball Post

Sorry, a little late this week.

Well, I suppose it's time for an All Star Game post, isn't it.  Problem is, I was all set to go, and then I saw that the great Christina Kahrl beat me to it.  I'll try anyway, but she's tough competition.  Here's a taste:
It's easy to write off the All-Star Game as MLB's variation on another triple-named oxymoron: the Holy Roman Empire. If, as Voltaire once quipped, the old Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire, the problem with the All-Star Game is that it might not fulfill any one of its three elements. Because of the selection process, the rosters aren't comprised solely of “stars,” let alone “all” of them, and as to whether or not it's a real “game” in which baseball gets played, we get hung up on whether or not it's an exhibition and a promotional tool, or a game played to a serious purpose by two teams, with victory as its objective.
Read, as they say, the whole thing.  At any rate, the All Star Game didn't used to be this way.  As a fan, I'd like an actual game filled with Stars.  If I got my way...

The team would be chosen based on a variety of criteria, severely downgrading the current "best three months of the season" standard.  Actually, fans are not too bad about that; it's more a problem with bench players than with the starters.  So I'd like everyone who fits the general "best in the league right now" description (even if they've had a rough first half of the season).  Then, fill out the roster with a few of the good-first-half types, some faded all-time greats, and don't forget to include last year's best players. 

And, the starters would actually play the game.  I'd like to see the starting players (obviously, pitcher excepted) go a minimum of six innings unless there are unusual circumstances, and I want to see the biggest stars go the full nine.  Yes, that means that a lot of players won't get in the game.  Tough luck! 

By the way, none of this is radical; it's just asking for a return to the way the game used to be.  Christina mentions the 1989 game in her piece.  That year, Ozzie Smith and Ruben Sierra p played the whole game.  Each AL starter had at least three times at the plate, as did most of the NL players.  Only one spot (other than the pitchers; it was a DH game) had more than two players -- the NL used three catchers.  So that means (again, outside of pitchers) the AL used 17 players. the NL 18.  Oh, of the guys who played, there's no one who stands out as an oddball All Star. No Omar Infantes.  Go back even farther, and the starters stayed in even more.  In the first 9 inning game with revived fan voting -- that's the 1971 game in Detroit, with Reggie Jackson's famous home run -- Bench, Yaz, Brooks Robinson, and Aparicio played the whole game It's hard to compare total number of players because there's no DH, but for what it's worth the NL used 18 players, the AL 16, not counting pitchers.  Now, compare that to the most recent comparable game (9 innings, DH) in 2005.  No one played the whole game.  The NL used 19 players, the AL 20 -- and among these "stars" were Shea Hillebrand, Scott Podsednik, and Morgan Ensberg.  (To be fair, the 1971 game had quite a few mediocre players, but they were mostly NL middle infielders -- Felix Milan, Don Kessinger, Glenn Beckert, Bud Harrelson.  No idea where Joe Morgan was, and I'm not sure who else in the NL should have been there.  SS may have just been a weak position). 

I'll try one other way of thinking about it.  The seven All Star Game MVPs since the tie game are Crawford, Drew, Ichiro!, Michael Young, Tejada, Soriano, and Garret Anderson.  Ichiro is going to Cooperstown.  I suspect Crawford is, as well.  The rest?  I don't think so.  They started giving the award in 1962, the last year of two games, which everyone agrees didn't work.  The next seven MVPs: Mays, Johnny Callison, Marichal, Brooks Robinson, Perez, Mays, and McCovey.  In fact, the next three years after that was Yaz, Frank Robinson, and Joe Morgan.  By my count, in ten years, you have one dud, one extreme fringe HOFer (that's Tony Perez), and, well, the third-worst guy is Brooks Robinson, a solid HOFer. 

By the way, I'd retain the rule of having at least one player from each team.  Yes, I know, it means that there are a few marginal All Stars, but they don't actually have to play, and I very much remember being a kid and being thrilled to watch Chris Speier or whoever getting introduced along with Bench, and Reggie, and Seaver.

I'm also pretty much resigned to the pitching situation; we are, for better or worse, past the point that starting pitchers can work three innings off-rotation.  I'd still like to see as many starting pitchers as possible, but I doubt there's much that can be done on that one...about the best I can hope for is that they'll take more career stars and fewer guys who put together twenty good innings over three months.

So: choose stars, and let the starters play.  

Oh, and please get rid of Chris Berman on the Home Run Derby.  I suspect it might be watchable without him. 


  1. I always thought the Home Run Derby was stupid, but when it was played at China Basin a few years ago, the Derby was the most entertaining event of the entire shindig.

  2. I have to take issue with your remark about the seven MVP's after the tie game. Mainly, the fact that you think Crawford will go to the HOF but not Garret Anderson or Michael Young.

    Perhaps I misunderstand, and what you mean is that they aren't popular enough to be voted in, which is certainly possible. Anderson had his big years in Anaheim and Michael Young plays similarly under the radar in Texas so I have my doubts that either will get the respect he deserves by HOF voters.

    But make no mistake, they're both remarkable players who've had remarkable careers. You can knock Young for playing in Texas, but he's not a power hitter as much as a contact hitter, and an excellent one. He's also not too shabby defensively.

    Garret Anderson was the foundation of the Angels, a consistent hitter who didn't get on base as much as he should have, but he was clutch.

    If Carl Crawford deserves to be in the HOF, then so does Anderson.

  3. I love a good HOF discussion...

    There are two questions: will they get in, and should they get in. On the former, we're all guessing, but the Bill James HOF Monitor is highly successful. I think we can agree that Anderson's career is just about done..he's accumulated 72 points on the HOF Monitor, meaning that he just hasn't done the kinds of things that HOF voters reward. Young could get in. He's at 98 right now on the Monitor, which is technically borderline but in fact it's been a little light, lately. He's 33, having a fine season (and he had a fine season last year). OTOH, he's already moved out of a middle infield spot, and he'll lose 8 points when he drops under .300BA lifetime. His ten most similars by age are somewhat promising: #1 is Larkin, who will get in IMO, and #3 is Biggio, who will get in; #4 is Travis Jackson, who might not exactly be the most legit HOFer, and no one else is in. Basically, he needs several more solid years. Now, Crawford. He's only at 43 on the Monitor...but this is his 28 year old season. His #1 and #3 comps are in (Clemente and, oddly enough, Sam Crawford), plus Rock Raines, who should and might go in, is #9. He'll finish this season with over 1450 hits. If he's a regular through age 40, he's going to get 3000 hits. Now, he might not last that long...he's good, but not a truly great player. Still, the HOF rewards guys like him, and I think his chances are excellent -- although looking at it, I definitely can see an argument that Young's chances are as good or better, so I was a bit too quick to dismiss him.

    As far as deserving to go: I don't think any of them will really be deserving. If Crawford was a CF, yes, but he's not, and Young is going to be a corner guy for half his career, and as a corner guy he's really nothing special. Anderson? Not even close. It's true he did play some CF, but we're basically talking about a LF with a career 103 OPS+. That's nowhere near HOF territory.

    So I can't really argue with "if Crawford, then Anderson" as far as deserving it, at least unless Crawford's season this year is the beginning of a five year run of excellent he hasn't shown until now. But as far as actually getting in, I think Crawford is pretty likely

  4. Interestingly, Anderson's most similar player is Steve Garvey, who I feel has been denied the HOF unjustly. I suppose I'm doomed to root for these kinds of players. (Yeah, yeah, I know... Garvey played first base and didn't produce as many runs as other first baseman, but he took the Dodgers to four WS's, won one. That's a miracle for a west coast team)

  5. Cal Ripken told the New York Times the other day:

    My first game was in 1983, and the National League was on a long winning streak. We were told: “They think they’re the better league. We’re playing this game to win, and we apologize if you don’t get into the game.” Over time, the philosophy changed, and the game became more of an exhibition. Joe Torre was phenomenally successful managing All-Star teams, but he had a different approach. He’d say, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you guys, so I’ll get you in there."

    (Note: I haven't checked to see how the game was actually managed in 1983, but that matches my memory. It wasn't until the mid-1990s -- which was the time Torre took over -- that the game was managed solely to get every player in there.)


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