MLB needs to ditch old-school thinking
Posted July 9, 2013
Sometimes baseball is its own worst enemy.
By being too "old school", Major League Baseball is jeopardizing the possibility that their fans will miss out on seeing one of the rising superstars in the All Star Game next Tuesday night in New York.
For the second straight year!
Come on, fellas! Didn't we learn from this same mistake a year ago? Remember, Bryce Harper was one of those players last year? Hot, young phenom, missed the first month of the season, wasn't selected as part of the bloated National League roster, yet given the chance to make the team in the Final Vote process on-line.
Yeah, David Freese of the Cardinals, a super young player in his own right, was selected instead. Oops!
The theory that the fans who so desperately wanted to see Harper could simply vote him onto the team backfired in spite of the national fascination with Washington's rookie outfielder. Fortunately, injuries to the roster opened up a spot and Harper was added to the team. However, armed with such recent history as a guide, MLB has invited the same issue by not including the single biggest attraction in the game today on the rosters announced this past weekend.
Yasiel Puig is the latest budding superstar in the bigs. The 6'3" 245 pound right fielder from Palmira, Cuba has only been in the big leagues since June 3, but it's almost a guarantee that he's been involved in more SportsCenter highlights this year than any player in either league in spite of being in the majors for only 33 games. Puig might be the first 6-tool player in the sport. He's batting .409 with 8 home runs, can steal bases, play the outfield and throw as well as anyone in the game. On top of that, I think he scares the heck out of opposing teams. Why on earth is he NOT already on the All Star roster -- a roster that is, today, 33-players long?
Because baseball is too far-rooted in some archaic notion of dues-paying that they've completely missed the reality that this is a FAN'S GAME and the biggest attraction in the sport is a 22-year old kid that most of the eastern time zone has only seen in 5-second intervals on ESPN. The All Star Game is an exhibition, a celebration of the sport at the highest level. It's a television show, and with any TV property the goal is to garner the highest possible ratings you can draw.
So tell me again why the sport's biggest fascination hasn't already been included?
Oh, so the fans can prove how much they want to see Puig by including him in the Final Vote.
You mean, like last year?
What if fans in Atlanta -- stop laughing -- really want to see Freddie Freeman on the team? Or how about Ian Desmond of the Nationals, who should have also already been selected as an all-star? Or, what if Dodgers fans in Southern California opt for their own Adrian Gonzalez? Why leave it up to chance? And, at the same time, why make it less likely that Freeman or Desmond find their rightful way onto the team? Granted, with injuries to Rockies' shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and the possibility that Yadier Molina, the great catcher for the Cardinals, also backs out to rest an ailing knee, there figure to be roster spots opening up that Puig might be able to fill in the event the voting doesn't go his way, but why run that risk?
Need more ammunition for this foolishness? Is baseball aware that Puig had the second-most hits in a debut calendar month in the history of the sport when he collected 44 in June alone? Only player to ever register a higher total was in May of 1936 when a guy named Joe DiMaggio showed up in center field for the New York Yankees and rang up 48 base knocks.
Really, who would want to see another one of "those" players?
Wait, does baseball know that Puig collected nearly one million write-in votes for the starting line up? Not that he was even close to cracking the top three outfielders, but still it was among the highest write-in totals in the history of fan balloting and THAT has to count for something.
Nope, not in the gotta-pay-your-dues-lest-we-upset-the-nine-year-veteran-having-his-law-of-averages-breakout-season sport that baseball so embraces.
One of the chief criticisms levied against Major League Baseball over the years has been a less-than-spectacular ability to successfully promote the stars of the sport. You can't always rely on Madison Avenue to do the work for you, and baseball highlights aren't necessarily as athletically explosive as those in the NFL or the NBA. So, with the Mid-Summer Classic one week away, why can't baseball see their own forest through their own trees and recognize that the millions who will be tuning in at home -- or listening on the radio (99.9 FM The Fan) next Tuesday night -- want to see Puig and guarantee that he'll be in the National League's dugout available to help the senior circuit secure home field advantage in the World Series?
That's right, the game matters now! Even more reason to have him on the squad. Okay, for the last time, why isn't Yasiel Puig on the team yet?
Because old-school habits die hard.