Star bores

THE LIFE OF KINGS

On dubious All-Star picks

Not all teams deserve representation in baseball's midsummer classic

July 12, 2008|By KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG

I'm glad Orioles closer George Sherrill is an All-Star. I think he's (mostly) deserving. I hope, when he found out, that he called his family and swelled with pride. I also wish he knew, deep down, whether he made it because he's one of the best relievers in baseball this year, or because of baseball's ridiculous rule that each team needs to be represented in the All-Star Game.

The All-Star Game is hardly something worth getting fired up over anymore. The Home Run Derby, once appointment television, now feels like the most painfully contrived two hours in sports. (Hearing Chris Berman bark "Back-back-back!" for 90 minutes is fine as long as you're willing to numb the pain with three Aleve and half a bottle of scotch.) The game has also never truly recovered from the disastrous and embarrassing 7-7 tie in 2002. So it hardly gets my blood boiling anymore.

But the idea that every team needs to be represented next week at Yankee Stadium is the one thing about the All-Star Game still worthy of complaint, and is yet another example of how little backbone Bud Selig has. He would much rather make everyone an All-Star than hurt anyone's feelings. Major League Baseball should be better than that. It shouldn't have to adhere to the rules and standards we apply to third-grade recess kickball. Everyone is not special, and it goes against the best thing about sports. It's a meritocracy.

Severna Park native Gavin Floyd has quietly put together one of the best first halves in baseball this year for the Chicago White Sox, going 10-5 with a 3.63 ERA. He has posted 11 quality starts and has given up more than four runs once since May 11. But he's not going to the All-Star Game, even though his team leads the American League Central. Neither is White Sox outfielder Jermaine Dye, who is hitting .297 with 20 home runs, with 20 doubles and 53 RBIs.

The American League is instead taking six closers, including Sherrill. The other five (Joe Nathan, 1.19; Jonathan Papelbon, 2.27; Mariano Rivera, 1.07; Francisco Rodriguez, 2.48; and Joakim Soria, 1.54) all had ERAs well below Sherrill's 4.12 entering last night.

If the All-Star Game were simply a glorified exhibition game, as it used to be, it wouldn't matter who was on the roster. (In fact, if that were the case, the Yankees would probably find a way to get Billy Crystal an at-bat Tuesday night.) But in the wake of the 2002 debacle, Selig decided that the game had to mean something, declaring that the winning league would get to host the World Series opener. Right then and there, he should have done away with baseball's version of social promotion. But he didn't have the courage to do it.

The NFL doesn't practice this form of charity for the Pro Bowl, and neither does the NBA for its All-Star Game. Fans pay to see the best players in the league, and if your team doesn't have one of the 30 best players, it's another reminder that your team needs to do better drafting, scouting and signing free agents.

Sherrill will always be able to tell his kids he was selected to an All-Star team, a remarkable accomplishment for a pitcher who was an undrafted free agent. And his 27 saves are an incredible number for a team that is hovering around .500. He hasn't pitched well lately, but he put together a strong case for All-Star consideration before this month.

It's a shame he can't claim - without hesitation - that he was picked solely on merit.

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