Since I can remember, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game has never been about putting the "best" players in the contest. It's been more about putting the most "popular" players in the event. You know it and so do we in the media. Sometimes fans get it right and put the most deserving player(s) there, but the mid summer classic is littered with guys who have no business being there, so I find it laughable when Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon comes out and says Dodgers budding star, Yasiel Puig, has no business being considered to represent the National League this year.
Puig is batting .443 with eight homers and 27 rbi's. He's helped L.A. to a 15-11 record since being inserted into the lineup and has helped bring the Dodgers to within 2.5-games of first place of Arizona in the N.L. West. He became just the second player since 1900 to hit four homers in his first five games and he's only the second player to collect 40-hits in his first 100 at bats. But Papelbon isn't a believer. He told MLB radio that Puig's All-Star candidacy is "a joke and stupid." I wonder if Papelbon realizes Cal Ripken was hitting just .240 with four homers in 2001, but was named to the team, or that Sandy Alomar, a year after he was named rookie of the year, was named an All-Star in 2001 despite a .241 batting average and .287 on base percentage. I wonder if Papelbon felt the same way when his ex-team mate, Jason Varitek, was named an All-Star in 2008 when he was hitting a brutal ,218 with 73 strikeouts and 56 hits and was a humiliating 9-83 (.122) in June.
If Papelbon has an issue with Puig, I wonder if he's as upset that Angels Howie Kendrick (tops among second basemen with .323 and second in hits) isn't even in the top five in voting at his position or that Baltimore shortstop JJ Hardy has a million more votes than Jhonny Peralta despite Hardy batting over 40-points lower or that Jacoby Ellsbury, a .300 hitter, trails Jose Bautista, a .260 hitter, by almost a million votes. Maybe Papelbon is only referring to the National League. OK. Well then where is the disgust that Michael Cuddyer, who is having an MVP season in Colorado, isn't even in the top 15 of votes for outfielders! Neither is Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez and he does everything well, but some how Jon Jay and Justin Upton have hundreds of thousands more votes.
I'm not suggesting Puig be named an All-Star, but I do believe being put on the on-line voting is justified and that fans want to see him play. Will it make more people buy tickets to CITI Field-no, the game is already sold out thanks much in part to corporate sponsors, but guys like Puig make the game more marketable and might make more people watch. In a day and age where we see fewer kids at parks playing the game, it's important for the sport to market those exciting stars, no matter what their age: Trout, Harper, McCutchen, Castro, Freeman and maybe Puig. It's good for baseball and Papelbon can't see that. Maybe I shouldn't be surprised.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.