The final player vote for the All-Star Game is kind of like democracy on steroids, which, considering baseball's recent history, is perhaps fitting. I had to block a person on Twitter for the first time ever today (sorry, Matt in Atlanta) because he kept tweeting #VoteFreddie and including me (more than 150 tweets, apparently each tweet counted as a vote) -- something about a conspiracy theory to get Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game instead of Freddie Freeman.
As it turned out, Braves fans like Matt in Atlanta rallied around Freeman, and he beat out Puig for the final spot on the National League squad.
Look, Freeman is a fine ballplayer having a very good season. He is hitting .307 with nine home runs, has driven in 56 runs and plays a nice first base. He's only 23 years old and has a chance to get a lot better considering his age; I could see him turning into this generation's John Olerud, and I mean that with the highest of compliments.
Also, considering the Braves are in first place, it's fair to argue they deserved another All-Star besides closer Craig Kimbrel. So there's nothing wrong with Freeman winning the vote for the National League's final All-Star slot. You can even argue that the NL's team chemistry will be improved with Freeman on the roster instead of Puig, with Puig apparently already earning villain status among his fellow big leaguers. Freeman's presence will lead to a happier dugout and since the game COUNTS, a happier dugout will give the National League a better chance of winning. (You can't tell me it was a mere coincidence that the NL went 3-11 in years Barry Bonds was on the team!)
But isn't the All-Star Game ultimately a chance to market the sport? It's played at a time when little is going on in the sports world outside of sports beloved in Europe (cycling, soccer), and Puig has been one of the big stories of the first half, a reason casual fans may tune in to watch the All-Star Game when they otherwise wouldn't. The argument against Puig is he hasn't earned the spot, that 35 games and 152 plate appearances don't warrant selection, even if he is hitting .394, belting home runs and playing spectacular defense. Of course, he has played more than Kimbrel -- who has faced 131 batters -- but I get it: Puig hasn't proved anything over the long haul.
Another argument against Puig is that teammate Hanley Ramirez, out much of the season with an injury, has been just as hot since his return from the disabled list, actually outhitting Puig. Considering Ramirez's track record of MVP-caliber seasons, why Puig and not Ramirez?
In looking just at 2013 value, however, Puig had earned an All-Star nod. His 2.6 WAR is basically the same as Freeman's 2.7 and better than seven NL position-player All-Stars.
In the end, it's not that big of a loss that Puig won't be in the game. He probably would have received one at-bat, maybe two, hardly much of an opportunity to display his talents. Baseball did miss a golden opportunity by not including Puig in the Home Run Derby, but I guess there's always next year; I get the feeling Puig will have some All-Star Games in his future.
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The American League also had a final player vote, a choice of relief pitchers Joaquin Benoit, Steve Delabar, David Robertson, Tanner Scheppers and Koji Uehara. Toronto's Delabar won the vote and becomes one of the least likely All-Stars ever.
Jim Caple outlined Delabar's amazing story when he first reached the majors in September 2011 -- from substitute teacher that March to major leaguer six months later. When the Mariners signed him, he had been out of baseball for two years and had a metal plate and screws in his arm.
It's an improbable story, but now he's heading to New York as an All-Star. And that's the beauty of baseball, isn't it? Anyone can become an All-Star, whether you grew up in Cuba or the suburbs of Southern California, or even if you worked as a substitute teacher.