I know the allstar game is for fans, but I’m not a fan of fan voting. Too many times it’s a popularity contest and the players that earn a spot are snubbed. The allstar game is by far the best in the four major North American sports. Football – after the Super Bowl with no blitzing. Really? Hockey – a sport that only catches my eye when the gloves drop isn’t about to thrill my in a gentlemen’s version of the game. Basketball – not bad. A great show. But no defence.
Baseball’s allstar game – the best hitters vs. the best pitchers with World Series homefield advantage on the line. Amazing.
That’s why the best players should make it. Not the fans favourites.
The Blue Jays currently have 3 players representing the team at the allstar game: Jose Bautista (voted in by fans), Edwin Encarnacion (voted in by MLB players), and Brett Cecil (selected by AL manager Jim Leyland). There is also a very good chance that Steve Delabar will claim that last spot on the AL roster with – you guessed it – another fan vote.
The question becomes, are these Jays deserving?
I have trouble thinking someone who isn’t batting at least .280 as deserving (if not .300 – we want to see the best, right?). So is it a roster determined by the first half of 2013 or a roster determined by the best player by position?
Even though Bautista has been up and down (just like the Jays), he is still arguably the best RF in the AL. So I can see why he makes the squad. Bautista has been named to the allstar team in each of the past four seasons. He’s enjoying another productive year at the plate despite struggling at times during June. The 32-year-old is tied for seventh in home runs (20), third in walks (47), 10th in OPS (.872) and 12th in slugging (.511).
Encarnacion has been the Jays MVP this season in my opinion and is deserving. Encarnacion will appear at his first allstar game after being a surprise snub in 2012. He ranks among the league leaders in virtually every major offensive category. The 30-year-old finished Toronto’s game against Minnesota on Saturday afternoon ranked third in home runs (23), sixth in extra-base hits (38), seventh in runs (54) and ninth in OPS (.877).
Cecil – a middle reliever – really? Yes REALLY. I think it’s great that the teams are taking more middle relief guys. Typically we see only starters and closers. The middle relief role is extremely under appreciated and Cecil has been among the best in the business so far this year (if you’ve followed my blog from the start, you’ll remember I’ve been suggesting Cecil in this role all along and even discussed it with GM Alex Anthopoulos). Cecil, 27, is a former starter who was converted into a reliever late last season. He experienced a drop in velocity a couple of years ago, but now consistently throws in the mid-90s while also possessing a devastating curveball that has proved lethal to his opponents. He set a franchise record earlier this year by going through 40 at-bats without surrendering a hit. He also went through a span of 20 innings without allowing a run and has become one of the elite left-handed relievers in the league (you’re welcome, Anthopoulos).
So if we are including middle relievers, why not Steve Delabar. Include him too. Vote! Delabar’s inclusion along with Cecil’s would be a testament to the job the Jays’ bullpen has done this season. Since May 29, the Blue Jays’ relief corps leads the Majors in ERA (1.45), opponents’ average (.177) and WHIP (0.92).
But here’s the thing: I don’t have a problem with any of these 4 guys making the roster, but when you step back and look at it, well, it starts to irritate me. Why should a team that is in last place in its division and under .500 take up 4 roster spots? What does that say about the other 21 guys on the Jays bench?
If I’m a big fan of another AL team and I see 4 Jays on the roster, it would piss me off. So while all 4 guys are deserving – they are among the elite for their respective positions – it puzzles me that the Jays are a) playing so poorly and b) sending 4 players to the allstar game.
If you’ve never watched the allstar game, make sure you do. It’s the best in sports.