So. Aaron Judge lived up to his notices in the Home Run Derby Monday, inspiring speculation on whether he’ll take Max Scherzer over the fence in the All-Star Game tonight. (My call: Don’t bet against it too heavily.) At long last the All-Star Game isn’t going to determine World Series home field advantage. But I find myself transfixed on a remarkable article at FiveThirtyEight whose sub-headline is more arresting than the main one: “Cal Ripken made too many All-Star teams, Keith Hernandez not enough.”
What to take away from the All-Star Game other than the American League’s 6-3 win and thus home field advantage for this year’s World Series? The Mike Trout Show?
* Trout (Angels) became the first player in 38 years to lead off an All-Star Game going deep, hitting Zack Greinke’s (Dodgers) fourth pitch the other way, into the right field seats next to the Great American Ballpark visitors’ bullpen. Add scoring ahead of a powerful throw by Joc Pedersen (Dodgers) on Prince Fielder’s (Rangers) single in the fifth, and Trout—who’d reached base in the first place by beating out what might have been a double play finisher—joined Willie Mays, Steve Garvey, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Gary Carter as baseball’s only two-time All-Star Game MVPs.
Thirty years ago, LaMarr Hoyt—in the Padres’ silks, following a winter 1984-85 trade that made a White Sox of Ozzie Guillen—became the almost unlikely All-Star Game MVP. A month and a half later, what began as a tiny shoulder twinge had exploded into something making it difficult if not impossible to pitch.
And thus the beginning of the end for a pitcher who’d recently ruled the American League, winning its 1983 Cy Young Award and leading the league in wins in back to back seasons, and who’d become infamous soon enough for a series of drug issues that we know now to have been tied directly to what ended his career somewhat prematurely.
As regards the final All-Star voting—fans, players, etc.—minus the Last Man online vote, a few sobering thoughts:
1) Four Royals turned out to be voted as starters, after all, compared to eight Reds voted but six left remaining in the 1957 ballot box stuffing scandal. (Then-commissioner Ford Frick, we repeat, removed Wally Post and Gus Bell from the starting lineup in favour of Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.) Apparently, the Kansas City stuffers just didn’t quite have what it took to set a new record for voting perfidy.
I didn’t cast my own All-Star vote until this past Thursday, but I’d like to think that I applied a little more intelligence and a lot less up yours to the exercise than seems to have been applied by those determined to stuff the American League’s starting lineup with Kansas City Royals whether or not said Royals (I’ll get to that shortly) actually deserve starting berths.
“We’ll see how it all turns out,” says baseball commissioner Rob Manfred about the All-Star voting that still has eight Kansas City Royals—only one of whom actually does deserve the honour—going to the American League’s starting lineup by dint of the fan voting. “We are responsive and open to change if we get a result that is not consistent with the goals of the system that is in place.”
Boys will be boys, in baseball and elsewhere, and grown men will be boys, too. But some of what the Show Me State’s boys and girls seem to be showing don’t seem to be the kind of thing you’d like showing.
If the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office isn’t facing an investigation into whether people therein hacked into the Houston Astros’ internal data networks, Kansas City fans are gleefully stuffing online All-Star ballot boxes in favour of the Royals regardless of whether the players in question deserve to be in the starting lineup.
So you thought the Cincinnati All-Star ballot box stuffing scandal was scandalous? Try explaining the San Francisco All-Star ballot box stuffing this year. Once you’ve done that, explain to me how and why a guy (Pablo Sandoval) who’s only played in 44 games with decent numbers gets the fan vote to start at third base over the arguable first-half National League most valuable player (David Wright, New York Mets) who’s carried a team with an injury and inconsistency-wracked offence into the thick of the pennant races. Unless you think a 1.013 OPS through this writing indicates a player worse than one with an .848 OPS.