Read the opposing argument from and Loyal Homer.
Even before the recent announcement of the MLB All-Star game rosters there has been a whirlwind of controversy surrounding the potential inclusion of rookie pitching sensation Stephen Strasburg on the NL roster. Having only made six major league starts – with a record of two wins and two losses, but a remarkable stat line of 2.45 ERA, 54 Ks, and 1.06 WHIP – many current and former players have weighed in on the issue about how deserving of an All-Star Strasburg is. Critics claim he hasn’t earned it and it would be an insult to those who pitched well all season long and were snubbed from the team. I am not so convinced.
Talent is talent. Whether it is displayed across six starts or 16, ability makes itself known. Strasburg has quickly become one of the most popular players in the country and his star burns brighter with each start.
He has become an invaluable asset to the Washington Nationals as well as MLB. He has skyrocketed to stardom not just as a pitching marvel, but as a popularity maven as well. Strasburg has driven up TV ratings and ticket sales for Nationals games both home and away. His merchandise is in high demand everywhere he goes, so much so that teams like the Cleveland Indians are cashing in, having taken to setting up stands devoted solely to selling Strasburg merchandise. A popularity like that is good for baseball and should not be ignored.
Strasburg is good for baseball, and therefore should be showcased during the All-Star game. Were it the decision of those representing and marketing MLB (i.e. Bud Selig) it would be foolish to pass on such a popular and up-and-coming talent as Strasburg.
Strasburg has developed quite a bit of name recognition for himself since being drafted with the number one overall pick of the Washington Nationals in 2009. I can honestly say I am more familiar with him than I was with other dominant National League pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez who is buried in the anonymity of the Rockies roster.
During the B.S. (Before Strasburg) Era, the Washington Nationals were not even a blip on the proverbial radar f, but now I follow them with a unique fanaticism. He has honestly made a believer of me. I actually pay attention to the Nationals box score and make appointments with the television to watch him anytime I can. Admittedly I am doing some fantasy scouting, and counting down the days until he hits free agency (so he can be lured to the pinstripes and bright lights of the Big Apple, but that is another story entirely). He has provided a huge boost in popularity to the Nationals and baseball itself, and as such merits inclusion on the All-Star roster for the good of the game itself.
Obviously he is not going to receive a special invitation to the All-Star game because he is important and marketable. Fortunately he warrants inclusion on the roster because of what he can actually contribute to the team.
Strasburg should make the All-Star team because he gives the NL a legitimate shot at winning. Think about it. There is not one batter on the AL All-Star team, starter or reserve, that has ever seen Strasburg’s electric stuff. Talk about a secret weapon. American League batters would be stepping into the box with zero previous at-bats against him and only minimal scouting reports to assist them. Add to that the fact that he will only be called on to pitch to one or two innings of batters… and we are talking about a deck stacked in favor of Charlie Manuel’s team.
Make no bones about it, the All-Star game has consequences. Like it or not, the winning league secures home field advantage for the World Series. Every player and manager has to realize the importance of this consequence and capitalize on the strengths at a team’s disposal. Strasburg’s usefulness as an overpowering pitcher that the American League has virtually no prior read on is an advantage too powerful to ignore.
Few if any critics of Strasburg’s participation in the All-Star game challenge his talent, but rather how much he deserves to play in the event. The idea that he has not “paid his dues” by playing in the entire 2010 season is irrelevant. The belief that Strasburg’s inclusion due to his overwhelming talent and popularity is somehow inappropriate because it insults players who didn’t make the cut is flawed at best. If that were the most important factor, then why would fans get to vote at all?
The fans vote for who they want to see play, not who has earned the unwavering support of their peers. Plenty of players get questionably selected to the All-Star team. For example, Derek Jeter is having a down season but easily won the starting shortstop gig for the AL team with the second largest number of votes. Is he having a great season? No. Is he having the best season of any shortstop in the AL? Maybe not. But does that make him undeserving of the honor? Absolutely not. This highlights how “being deserving” – however that phrase is defined – is not essential criterion for participation in the event. Jeter made the team because the fans want to see him play, and I firmly believe that if he were available for voting Strasburg would easily emerge with a ticket to Anaheim.
Strasburg belongs in the All-Star game. He belongs there for baseball’s sake. He belongs there for the competitiveness of the National League team. And he belongs there because the fans obviously want to see him play. Any argument to the contrary is obviously motivated by team loyalties or jealousy.