Monday, July 03, 2006

This One Counts -- If You Can Make The Team

Superstar player pouts. Thinks he should be an All-Star, and damn those voters! He feels "dissed", that 21st century word that is supposed to justify any reaction, including anything up to physical confrontations. Says he won't be on our stinking All-Star team even if he's added later. Doesn't care to be an "afterthought" selection.

It happens in almost every sport -- the player left off an All-Star roster who feels strongly that the fans, writers, bloggers, and other riffraff have done him a horrible injustice. Then an injury happens, or someone's conscience gets the best of him, and there's a place for Superstar after all.

"You can take your roster spot and stick it in your $#!#$," Superstar says.

It's July, and that means baseball's best -- a definition about as easy to grasp as soup with a fork -- will congregate, this time in Pittsburgh, and engage each other in an All-Star game that is actually falsely named. There are stars, true, but there aren't "all" of them.

Sometimes it's been misnamed because the players in the lockerrooms haven't "all" been stars. The fans, God bless them, have been known to vote a miscreant or two to the team, based on reputation and past performance. But it's their game, so all is forgiven.

The Tigers, to a man, believe that five or six of their teammates are worthy of All-Star consideration. You certainly can't blame them, with a nifty 56-26 record and all. But so far, only catcher Pudge Rodriguez and pitcher Kenny Rogers will be in the Steel City representing the American League. Pitcher Justin Verlander has a shot, if he gets elected via the online "Extra, Extra!" that MLB now provides. One roster spot is up for grabs during the Internet voting, and Verlander is among the five candidates.

If everyone who "deserved" an All-Star roster spot actually got one, rosters would be as long as Refrigerator Perry's grocery list. And managers have a difficult enough time getting everyone in the game as it stands. So there's going to be "snubs", that worn All-Star suffix.

Some missing persons are indeed conspicuous, no question. They are the ones for which "snub" is the appropriate designation. A cache of .300+ hitters, pitchers with glitzy records and teensy-weensy ERAs, and other worthyables have spent the three day break fishing, golfing, playing with their kids, and taking their wives to dinner. Come to think about it, what's so bad about that?

In 1974, when the All-Star ballot was a 3x6 card full of chads, and only available at MLB ballparks courtesy of the good folks at Gillette, candidates were limited. Back then, it was fun to see who was going to be on the ballot at all, much less who was going to be voted in as a starter. And you couldn't vote for pitchers; that was the manager's duty. But there was a space at the bottom of the ballot for write-in candidates. You punched that chad, and wrote in your choice.

Steve Garvey, the Dodgers' first baseman and All-American kid, had enough smart, discriminating fans write in his name that he ended up starting the game in '74. Impressive, because it took a lot more than frivolous mouse clicks to earn a spot that way.

It's too early, still, to know if we'll have a Superstar Crybaby pouting over his "snub" from this year's All-Star teams. But it's not too early to say that there have been some. And not always has the pouting been without reason.

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