By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) There aren’t any brackets, you won’t find anyone being sent to Dayton for a play-in game, and nobody – not even Bryan LaHair – gets a No. 16 seed.
But Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game and the NCAA Tournament do have at least one thing in common: Every year when selections are announced, we seem to spend as much time arguing about who didn’t get picked as we spend analyzing those who did.
This summer, no exception.
Since the All-Star rosters were unveiled on Sunday, many have been shouting that Jake Peavy and A.J. Pierzynski should have made the American League squad. Others bellow that rookie phenom Bryce Harper deserves to be on the National League team. And Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker even made sure that everyone knows he’s ticked that Brandon Phillips and Johnny Cueto didn’t make the NL roster – even though three other Reds did.
Now, are all those guys worthy of being called All-Stars? Sure, they’ve got the credentials. And there are a number of others players who could have easily made the cut for the AL and NL squads, too.
But, just like with the NCAA Tourney, there’s always somebody pretty good who’s going to get left out. It’s the nature of the beast.
However, the fact that omissions happen in baseball leads some critics to roar loudly the longstanding rule that requires each MLB team to have a representative in the All-Star Game.
It’s a rule that I happen to like. But on Sunday, Tribune baseball columnist Phil Rogers called it “outdated” and unspooled his campaign to abolish it, writing: “Let’s get rid of the every team-gets-a-guy rule. It worked before the MLB package and the MLB Network, before everyone played fantasy baseball, but fans follow 30 teams now, not just the one in their markets.”
That’s an argument I find to be ridiculously narrow-minded. For one thing, I don’t play fantasy baseball. Neither does my dad, my brother or many of my friends – all of whom love the sport, but either do not have the time or simply lack the interest to play its fantasy version. (That’s no knock on those who do love fantasy baseball. It’s just not for everyone, and no one should assume it to be, least of all MLB.)
Beyond that, while advanced technology may indeed allow fans to easily follow more teams and players more closely than in the past, it doesn’t also mean that those same fans no longer have a favorite team that they’d like to see represented in the All-Star Game.
Nevertheless, Rogers wrote, “The Cubs are one of about five teams that probably shouldn’t have an All-Star this year (along with the Padres, Marlins, A’s and maybe the Rockies and Mariners, once you hold home-park advantage against Carlos Gonzalez and Felix Hernandez).”
But while the Cubs perhaps didn’t deserve an All-Star this season – let alone two of them – as a fan, I’m still glad that they do have someone playing in the Midsummer Classic. And I’m guessing that many fans in San Diego, Miami and Oakland feel the same way about Huston Street, Giancarlo Stanton and Ryan Cook representing their teams.
Because, even if your town’s All-Star isn’t a marquee name, it’s still fun to watch him take his swings or throw some pitches against baseball’s best – or, you know, most of the best. At least, it’s fun for me.
And as for Rogers’ statement that Colorado’s Gonzalez and Seattle’s Hernandez should have their home-park advantage “held against them,” well, I can’t imagine anything more nonsensical. After all, if that were case, how would the Rockies or Mariners ever have an All-Star?
And don’t Denver and Seattle deserve to be represented in the game just as much as New York or L.A., even if their team’s budget isn’t as big?
While it often doesn’t seem like it these days – what, with the contest’s outcome deciding home-field advantage in the World Series – the All-Star Game is still intended for the fans.
Or, at least, it’s supposed to be.
And in my book, that means fans of all teams. Not just some of them. So I say keep things the way they are. Let everyone have at least one star to root for. And if you’re really itching to eliminate something from the game, then how about dropping the “World Series advantage” instead?
Given the choice, I’ll argue that’s the better bubble to burst.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.