All Star Game

Trivia Friday – Mets Lone All Star Representatives

With the way the Mets season has been progressing, it appears Michael Conforto will be the team’s lone All Star.  If he is, it will be the 21st time in the Mets 55 year history they have had just one All Star.  Can you name the Mets players who were named as the team’s lone All Star?  Good luck!


Richie Ashburn Duke Snider Ron Hunt Ed Kranepool Tom Seaver John Stearns Pat Zachry Joel Youngblood Jesse Orosco David Cone Bobby Bonilla Bret Saberhagen Mike Piazza Armando Benitez Daniel Murphy Jacob deGrom

Why Wasn’t Conforto On The All Star Game Ballot From The Beginning?

It doesn’t matter what position you are voting.  If you are looking to elect a president, dog catcher, or an outfielder to the All Star Game, when you are solely relying upon write-in votes, you have a steep uphill climb to accomplish your goal.  With the first round of voting results being published by MLB, we see Michael Conforto is going to fall far short of being elected one of the All Star Game starters:

 

Even if Conforto was one vote behind Carlos Gonzalez, that still puts him 226,223 votes behind Jason Heyward for the third spot in the National League All Star outfield.  Even if Conforto were to get a head of steam in the voting, it is unlikely he gets elected because Cubs fans coming off their first World Series in their lifetimes have been stuffing the ballot box.  Right now, the lowest any Cubs player is in All Star Game voting is fifth.  That honor goes to Kyle Schwarber who is hitting .173/.294/.339 on the season.  Right above him is World Series MVP Ben Zobrist.  Long story short, a Cubs outfielder will likely start the All Star Game.

They will start the All Star Game despite Conforto being far superior to the three Cubs outfielders.  Arguably, Conforto is the second best outfielder in the National League behind just Bryce Harper.  Still, he has no shot to start the All Star Game, absent Joe Maddon making him the DH, because he was not put on the All Star Game ballot when it was first released.  In fact, Conforto’s name is still not on the ballot.  Why?

Back in the days when ballots were printed and put in ballparks, this was understandable.  There’s a finite amount of room on a paper ballot, and you are not going to undergo the cost of revising ballots after they have already been printed and put in 30 MLB ballparks.  However, MLB no longer prints paper ballots.  It’s all digital meaning the same constraints you have with paper ballots are presumably not present.

Even if there are some unforeseen issues with updating the ballots mid-vote, there is a legitimate question over why Conforto’s name was not on the ballot the minute it was released.  Conforto made the Opening Day roster.  As such, his playing in the first half of the season was not in as much doubt as say an Amed Rosario who began the season in Las Vegas.  Given how players get injured, why couldn’t MLB put every player who made the Opening Day roster on the ballot?

If Conforto was on there from day one, he might have had a chance to overtake one of the Cubs outfielders to start in the All Star Game.  The fans could have rewarded him for his terrific start to the season by voting for him.  However, his name wasn’t there, and for many voters he was out of sight out of mind when the ballots were cast.  It is something that could have been rectified by having all palyers who made the Opening Day roster on the ballot.

There’s really no downside to this unless MLB is overly concerned with players like Chase d’Arnaud being elected starters.  Of course, this exact scenario happened to the NHL with John Scott.  Of course, the end result of that was increased attention to the sport, increased rating for the All Star Game, and a feel good story.  If MLB still has this concern, maybe they should take the vote away from the fans.

It wouldn’t be a huge stretch from where they are now when MLB doesn’t even list players like Conforto on the ballot.

I Tuned In to Watch Terry Collins Manage

Given the fact that the Mets weren’t going to have any players playing tonight, I wasn’t as excited for the All Star Game. However, it was still a baseball game with the best players in the game, so naturally, I tuned in to watch. Here are some quick thoughts:

Very cool to name the AL & NL batting champs after Rod Carew and Tony Gwynn. Even better to do it at the San Diego All Star Game. 

Am I the only one who thought Collins was sitting Michael Conforto because the American League started a left-handed starter in Chris Sale?

The Terry Collins getting tired of the Royals’ hitters jokes after the Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez homers were about as funny as Sophie’s Choice and as original as Carlos Mencia’s standup. 

I still can’t believe Collins let Jose Fernandez pitch to David Ortiz after Fernandez said he was going to groove one in to Ortiz in a game with World Series homefield advantage on the line. Fortunately, he didn’t, and Ortiz walked. 

Speaking of Ortiz, just go away already. I double down on those feelings after seeing how Tim Duncan retired today. 

love how Terry Collins lifted all the Cubs starters – Anthony RizzoBen ZobristKris Bryant, and Addison Russell – as the game got close and late. You don’t want the Cubs playing with the World Series on the line.

By the way, remember when the Mets announced to everyone they were signing Zobrist – even after he already agreed to a deal with the Cubs?

As I learned during Game 3 of the World Series, the home team tapes the Stand Up to Cancer signs to each seat with a generic statement like “Survivors.”  During the World Series, you could fill-out your own in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. I was shocked there weren’t any “Tony Gwynn” signs in San Diego. 

Speaking of the signs, it was classy for Collins, Tim Teufel, and other members of the Mets to hold up signs for Sandy Alderson. I did wonder where the signs for Shannon Forde were. By the way, it was really classy for Daniel Murphy to hold up a sign for “Sandy Alderson” with the way Alderson let it be known he didn’t want Murphy around:

  
Speaking of Murphy, that Net Negative saved a run with a nice defensive play that Neil Walker doesn’t make. Just saying. It should be noted Murphy reached base in all three at bats, including being the first ever batter to be awarded first base after a replay in the All Star Game, as he’s clutch in the biggest moments. 

It was fun being able to root for Murphy again. It was also great seeing Carlos Beltran appear in the game in what is likely to be the last one for the future Hall of Famer. He joined David Cone as the only players to appear for the Mets and Yankees in an All Star Game. Note, remember this on Friday

Seeing the Jacob deGrom GEICO commercial reminded me of how great deGrom was in last year’s All Star Game

I was shocked Mark Melancon wasn’t wearing his Mets hat when Collins brought him into the game in the seventh. 

Nice to hear the blurb about how Terry Collins wanted to get at least one representative from each team in the game and then not pitch Jeurys Familia or Bartolo Colon. Apparently, he thought Mets fans were content seeing just him. But hey, at least the fans of the other 14 teams were upset with him. 

And that’s the thing, in essence, I tuned in to watch Terry Collins manage and try to figure out again why the Mets didn’t re-sign Daniel Murphy. In the process, the National League lost the game and homefield advantage in the World Series in a game that saw them leave 10 runners on base. 

In that sense, the game wasn’t too dissimilar than watching a Mets game. 

The All Star Game Is Already a Letdown

Back in 2012, there was a debate over whether R.A. Dickey should start the All Star Game.  He deserved the start as he was the best pitcher in the National League in a season where he would go on to win 20 games and the Cy Young Award.  Instead, Tony La Russa would go with Matt Cain to win the game leaving Mets fans to wait until the sixth inning for Dickey to enter the game.  Each and every Mets fan was excited as Dickey pitched a scoreless sixth inning.

The following year, Matt Harvey would get the start at Citi Field in the first All Star Game hosted by the Mets since Shea Stadium opened in 1964.  Harvey would be the first Met to be the starting All Star Game pitcher since Dwight Gooden in 1988.  There was an electricity in Citi Field and amongst the fan base as Harvey pitched two scoreless innings striking out three.  There was more excitement due to the fact that David Wright was the starting third baseman in the game.

Last year, the Mets would only have one All Star in Jacob deGrom, but it wouldn’t matter.  He would become the story of the All Star Game with his dominant sixth inning appearance.  While getting his fastball up to 98 MPH, he only needed ten pitches to strike out Stephen Vogt, Jason Kipnis, and Jose Iglesias.

In each of these instances, Mets fans felt a certain sense of pride and excitement in watching their favorite players not only play in the All Star Game, but also in dominating in the All Star Game.  With Noah Syndergaard, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jeurys Familia named to this year’s All Star Game, Mets fans were expecting more of the same.

Syndergaard was supposed to be the All Star Game starter striking out the side in the first and second inning while getting his fastballs over 100 MPH.  He was supposed to be in line for the win while Cespedes showed the world his Feats of Strength that caused Mets fans to wall in love with him last year.  Finally, Familia was supposed to come in and get the save in the ninth.  The win was supposed to let the world know that the Mets are still a force to be reckoned.  It was supposed to give not just the National League but the Mets specifically home field advantage in the World Series this year.  Instead, injuries struck.

Syndergaard has a dead arm and will not be pitching in the game.  Cespedes is missing the game with a strained right quadriceps.  Terry Collins has stated that deGrom declined to replace his teammates and/or Madison Bumgarner in the All Star Game.  Accordingly, there would be no repeat of his 2015 performance.  In their stead is Bartolo Colon, who is not likely to pitch as he is slated to pitch against the Phillies this Saturday.  The only real hope the Mets fans have is with Familia, who probably won’t be taking the mound until sometime after midnight, well after many fans have already gone to bed, in the event that the National League has a chance to record the save.

No matter the outcome tonight, the All Star Game has already been a letdown for Mets fans.

Andy Cohen Was an All Star and Matt Harvey Isn’t 

On January 29th, Matt Harvey appeared on Watch What Happens Live. It’s a celebrity and pseudo-celebrity talk show hosted by Andy Cohen, who seemingly produces everything on Bravo. Who knew that seven months later, Cohen would’ve been the only person from that night who would participate in the All Star festivities?

This is no slight on Harvey. For the second straight season, he pushed himself physically – perhaps beyond the limits

Last year, Harvey was able to help pitch the Mets into the World Series where he pitched a game for the ages. This year he couldn’t do it. He struggled all year. First l, it was thought to be his mechanics. In the end, it turned out he has thoracic outlet syndrome requiring Harvey to have season ending surgery. As a result, Harvey will not be participating in the All Star festivities, nor will he be participating in this year’s postseason. 

It’s a shame because he worked so hard to get back to this point after needing Tommy John surgery in 2013.  It’s a shame as when he’s great, the Mets look like a team that can win the World Series. It’s a shame because Harvey has been a truly great pitcher that should be out there this week. 

Except he couldn’t be. Instead, Andy Cohen is. That juxtaposition explains so much about what has ailed the Mets this year. 

It Began With the Home Run Derby

In 1985, Major League Baseball made the Home Run Derby a part of the All Star Game Festivities.  Darryl Strawberry would become the first ever Met to participate in a Home Run Derby and the only Met to win one.  He shared the title with Wally Joyner, who also hit four home runs.  Needless to say, it was a much different back then.

No other Met who followed would ever win a Home Run Derby.  In 1989, Howard Johnson‘s two home runs fell short of the three home runs hit by Ruben Sierra and Eric Davis.  In 1993, Bobby Bonilla would fall short as well as his five home runs were two short of the seven hit by Juan Gonzalez and Ken Griffey, Jr.  The Mets would not be close to winning until 2006 with David Wright.

It was that night in Pittsburgh that Wright seemed to be emerging from star to superstar.  With Paul Lo Duca as hit pitcher, Wright would hit 16 homers in the first round.  He made it all the way to the finals before losing to Ryan Howard.  In 2013, when the All Star Game was hosted at Citi Field, Wright would acquit himself well hitting five home runs.  However, he would not make it out of the first round.  Not many would notice as Wright wasn’t the story of that Home Run Derby.  It was Yoenis Cespedes flashing La Potencia:

Cespedes wowed the crowd with 17 first round homers en route to winning the 2013 Home Run Derby.  It was on that night that Cespedes’ legend began.  It was on that night that Mets fans began to become infatuated with him.  Three years later, he’s now their best player, and with him goes their hopes of returning to the World Series.

My All Star Game Ballot

Since MLB has not adopted my All Star Game changes, here is my National League ballot:

C – Buster Posey

It’s the narrowest of margins between between Posey and Jonathan Lucroy. Posey gets the vote as he has a 0.1 WAR advantage over Lucroy, and he’s the best pitch framer in the game this year.

1B – Paul Goldschmidt

Yet again, Goldschmidt is the best first baseman in the NL if not all of baseball.  Consideration should be given to Anthony Rizzo, but in reality, Goldschmidt is a better player.

2B – Daniel Murphy

Second base is very deep in the NL with Murphy, Ben ZobristNeil Walker, etc. Ultimately, the tie breaker is Murphy because he leads second basemen in batting average and slugging. He’s also been a difference maker for a Nationals team in first place.

3B – Nolan Arenado

Easiest choice on the ballot. He’s the best fielding and hitting third basemen in the NL.

SS – Corey Seager

The NL Rookie of the Year favorite leads all shortstops in WAR and is second in homers to fellow rookie Trevor Story. It’s Seager over Story as Seager has been the much better all around and consistent player.

OF – Yoenis Cespedes

Last year when Cespedes joined the Mets, he went on an absolute tear that helped the Mets turn things around. He’s been just as good this year with less help.

OF – Christian Yelich

The Marlins were supposed to have the best and most exciting young outfielder in the National League in Giancarlo Stanton. They do, but it’s Yelich.

OF – Starling Marte

Like the Marlins, the Pirates could reasonably expect one of their outfielders to start the All Star Game. Like the Marlins, it’s a different player.  You would’ve expected the former MVP Andrew McCutchen to be the guy.  However, Marte is their best outfielder. In fact, as per WAR, he’s the best outfielder in the NL.

Here is my American League Ballot:

C – Salvador Perez

He leads American League catchers in most offensive categories, and he is one of the best catchers that would actually qualify as a batting title.

1B – Chris Davis

For the most part, this has been a down year for most of the American League’s first basemen.  Miguel Cabrera has been playing well of late while Joe Mauer has tapered off after a good start.  The most consistent has been Davis, who leads first baseman in homers, RBI, and WAR.  He’s a large reason why the Baltimore Orioles are surprisingly in first place . . . again.

2B – Jose Altuve

He has been the best player in the American League in the first half.  He’s in the MVP discussion.  He’s the easy selection in either league despite Robinson Cano’s resurgence.

3B – Josh Donaldson

The reigning American League MVP has followed-up with a similarly great season for the Blue Jays.  He is yet again the best third baseman in the American League.

SS – Francisco Lindor

He has been a driving force for the first place Cleveland Indians with his glove and his bat.  Due consideration should be given to Manny Machado.  However, Machado has split time between short and third, and he began the year as a shortstop.

OF – Mike Trout

Trout is still the best outfielder in the American League as he has been for the past 5+ seasons.  By the way, he is only 24 years old.

OF – Jackie Bradley, Jr.

Bradley’s defense has always been a given.  Now, with a .294/.384/.558 batting line, it appears his bat has caught up with his glove making him one of the best all around outfielders in baseball.

OF – Ian Desmond

The guy no one wanted as a shortstop in the offseason has become a versatile outfielder playing well in both left and right.  More importantly, his potent bat has returned.  He’s been the best player for what has been the best team in the American League so far.

Vote Murphy

Over at the Oh Murph, or OMDC, I explained why Mets fans should be voting for Daniel Murphy to start at second for the NL in the All Star Game. Here’s the link

Fixing the MLB All Star Voting

On Sunday April 24th, Major League Baseball opened the voting to select the All Star Game starters. It’s another sign that the system is broken. 

The concept of voting for your All Star Game starters is becoming antiquated, if it’s not antiquated already. The concept is that the fans get to vote for the players they want to see play in the game, but that’s not what it is, or what’s is become. Rather, the All Star Game voting has become an opportunity for a fanbase to stuff the ballot box to vote for their favorites. For example, in 2012, the San Francisco Giants fans stuffed the ballot box to make Pablo Sandoval the starting third baseman over the much more deserving David Wright

Giants fans enthusiasm was much higher than Mets fans at the time with the Giants having recently won a World Series and the Mets being nowhere near contention. It also helped that the Giants’ organization led a huge push to get Sandoval elected. If we’re being honest, it’s not supposed to work this way. We’re not supposed to see fan bases making huge pushes to get their players elected. Rather, the fans as a whole are supposed to select the players that are the most deserving and who they want to see. 

And yet, the Giants fans voting enmass for Sandoval fits into the spirit of the All Star Game. 

The reason it fits into the spirit is even in the “This One Counts” Era of the All Star Game, each team no matter how bad gets a representative. The classic example is Dmitri Young representing a horrendous Tigers team that went 43-119. If 2003 didn’t force a change, nothing will. 

The reason why it hasn’t changed is because the theory is your team having an All Star would generate your interest in watching the All Star Game. The belief is that you’ll tune-in to watch your guy play. Baseball wants to generate interest in the All Star Game, and whether it’s true or not, they believe this will generate fan interest in every city. In essence, Major Leagur Baseball loves when there is a concerted effort in a city to get the fans to vote for someone. It shows that fans care about their team and the All Star Game. The hope is that this translates to more viewers. 

Now, if you want to generate as much fan interest as possible, you would want to try to ensure the fans actually get to see the players from their team they would actually want to see play. 

For example, in two of his first four seasons with the Mets, Bobby Bonilla was the lone Mets All Star. This is the same player who was wearing earplugs so he couldn’t hear the fans booing him. There were no Mets fans in 1993 or 1995 watching just so they could see Bonilla enter the game. It wasn’t happening. As a result, in these circumstances, you defeat the purpose of the every team represented premise. 

No, if your goal is to get the fans from a particular team to watch, you should pick out an All Star that they would actually want to watch play in the game. Better yet, why not let each team’s fans pick their All Star?  

Instead of voting for the starters, let everyone vote for the one player from each team they would like to see play in the All Star Game.  For the Dodgers, is there any question that player should be Clayton Kershaw?  It’s possible Red Sox fans would like the opportunity to have David Ortiz go out as an All Star. If you’re a fan of a team like the Phillies, wouldn’t you want to see how your young hurler Vincent Velasquez pitches against the big boys?  

This is also an opportunity the players themselves to market the biggest and brightest stars. Players can ask for people to vote for them and create their own hashtags. Jose Bautista could promise to do another epic bat flip if he’s selected as the Blue Jay’s representative. Maybe a slugger or two can make a reciprocal promise that if chosen they will participle in the Homerun Derby. This could be a chance for players to interact with the fans, let their personalities shine, and make themselves more marketable. Isn’t this exactly what baseball wants?  

Also, you can eliminate something inane that has taken place in baseball. You could vote for a starter at every position, but you can’t vote for a pitcher. Doesn’t make sense. Kershaw could be the best pitcher in the game. He’s the pitcher most fans would pay to see pitch, but no, you as a fan cannot voice how much you want to see him pitch. Selecting one player from every roster ends that. 

Another bonus is fans get to select more players to the game. Instead of electing 17, they get to pick 30. That’s 30 instead of 17 races to keep an eye on. Fans can get more involved. Throughout social media different factions of fanbase a can argue for their player and try to organize voting for that player. 

Now, there are some inherent dangers in allowing fans to pick more players. The selection of say Freddie Freeman for the Braves could block a more deserving first baseman from getting selected. However, that is also a risk inherent in having each team have a representative. 

The next hazard is there being too many players at each position. In some strange years, you may get three DH for the American League, which would create some potential roster issues. However, would that be any worse than Joe Torre going with five shortstops and one second baseman to the 2002 All Star Game?  Furthermore, having a surplus at one position may force the best players to stay in the game longer, which would also be beneficial for the fans. 

Overall, if you want to avoid the issue of having too many players at one position hampering the ability to field a team, expand the All Star Game rosters.  It also wouldn’t hurt having an extra player or two to avoid another Milwaukee situation. 

Now, there may be some people that would want to select the game’s starting lineups. There is no reason why that has to go away.  You can replace voting for the last player to make the team with voting for which All Star gets to be in the starting lineup. 

This would give an opportunity for fans to make a push to have their player start the game. Teams can launch their social media campaigns to have their players start the All Star Game. Then in an effort to increase ratings, baseball shouldn’t release the results of the fan vote until the players are introduced at the All Star Game. While we can debate the merits of whether or not more people would watch to see if Daniel Murphy or Neil Walker is the starting second baseman, we should be able to agree more would tune in to watch that than seeing the last All Star on each roster take the field. 

One logistical note. This is a time when voting for a pitcher to start the game doesn’t make sense. Pitchers who pitched recently are unavailable to pitch in the game. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to permit fans to vote for Kershaw only to have him miss the game.  Hopefully, this issue is alleviated by the fact that baseball and Dodger fans had the opportunity to vote for him to play in the game during the initial vote. 

Overall, implementing these two ideas would create more fan involvement and interest. It would actually let the fans of each team get to see the player they would want to see play in the game. Hopefully, at the end of the day, this will lead to bigger ratings.