The purpose of the MLB All-Star weekend is to showcase and celebrate the game’s best while having some fun in the process. The league and its fans have seemed to lose sight of the former.
Earlier this afternoon Dodgers and NL all-star manager Dave Roberts announced that Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer would make the start for the National League squad in his home stadium. Don’t get me wrong, Scherzer is one of the premier pitchers in the game, but the only reason one could give as to why he is starting this game is because the All-Star game is being hosted in Washington this year.
The right choice? Jacob DeGrom. Give me the eye-roll and dismissive sigh all you want, but me being a Mets fan does not change the fact that he has been the best pitcher in baseball all season. Forget the league-best 1.68 ERA. Forget about his 6.0 WAR (also best in the league). Forget about his 0.97 WHIP. What impresses the most about DeGrom’s season is that at one point he pitched 9 straight games allowing 1 run or less and the Mets somehow found a way to lose each and every one of those games. Every. Single. One. And yet DeGrom went out there every time and gave it his all while showing the entire league that while his team may stink he is unquestionably the best on the hill.
But hey, let’s give it to the dude with an ERA that is 0.73 higher just because it’s his team’s home-field they’ll be playing the game on. A team that has a total payroll of $198M (fifth in the league) and coming off a 97 win season while currently sitting at 48-48 in arguably the weakest division in baseball is now being rewarded for underperformance.
Don’t think it stops at Scherzer. One of the league’s most popular players, outfielder Bryce Harper, was also voted to the NL’s starting lineup after a first half campaign that saw him hit .214 and be tied for 10th in the league with 102 strikeouts. Harper’s popularity is the key issue in both him not just being named a starter, but being on the team in general, and the voting system the league continues to use. It’s the classic elementary school class president election. The most popular kid always wins, not the one who puts together the best campaign. In this case, that holds true. Harper’s hair flips may be popular, more like nauseating for yours truly, after he hits a home run and is entertaining to watch, but no way anyone hitting .214 deserves to be named an all-star. Sure, he’s hit 23 home runs thus far, but that impressive stat is left for the Home Run Derby (which he is in) and that alone. Harper even had the audacity to say a few weeks back that he would only participate in the Derby if he was voted to the all-star game. The saddest attempt at a plea for more votes I have ever seen.
So, when you sit down tonight and watch the #2 ranked Harper most likely rip his way through the Home Run Derby, enjoy it. He never fails to put on a great show. From being the 19 year-old phenom that won Rookie of the Year taking the league by storm, to winning NL MVP in 2015, and even getting into a fist fight at the end of that season with then-teammate Jonathan Papelbon, it’s always a show. Harper is much like the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, the show might not always be quality, but it’s always a circus.
Hopefully the circus is quality this time around. It hasn’t been all season and now the entire baseball community is watching…