|ESPN.com: All-Star 2013||[Print without images]|
Yasiel Puig hysteria, while a joyous sidebar to the summer of '13, doesn't go nearly far enough. We shouldn't be consumed only with the borderline creepy, Tass-like quest to pave his way to next week's All-Star Game. After all, why stop there? To fully honor the Month of Puig, we should redirect our efforts toward Cooperstown, where surely all the resident historians would agree that Puig's first month in the big leagues begs for a suspension of the rule requiring a five-year wait for enshrinement.
There's no denying fact: Puig has been the Dodgers' second-best player over the past 35 games, which makes you wonder why Hanley Ramirez hysteria has failed to sweep the nation.
|Josh Donaldson might appreciate the break he's getting later in the season.|
The Puig case goes to a larger point: Nothing causes otherwise sensible people to lose their stuff quite like the All-Star Game.
In Oakland, where fan furor is traditionally limited, the absence of Grant Balfour and Josh Donaldson from the American League team has kicked up significant dust. It drifted as far east as Detroit, where Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who could have made Donaldson an All-Star with a wave of his wand, felt compelled to issue a statement declaring Donaldson an All-Star who isn't. Donaldson was sufficiently unimpressed by the gesture, maybe because Leyland didn't offer to cover the bonus money.
The A's have the second-best record in the American League and -- at this point -- precisely one All-Star: Bartolo Colon, who will pitch Sunday and will undoubtedly be replaced by game time, probably by Balfour.
Don't feel sorry for Donaldson. He has received more attention for being an All-Star snub -- a word saved from the linguistic dustbin only by all-star games and movie awards -- than he ever would have for being named to the team and grounding into a fielder's choice in the eighth inning. He's winning by losing.
Which is exactly why Oakland manager Bob Melvin should be the happiest man in baseball. He doesn't have the worries of Davey Johnson, who has been giving Bryce Harper days off because he's "grinding too hard," only to see his young star be named to the All-Star team and the Home Run Derby team. By contrast, Melvin has it made: His guys get snubbed, accentuating an inferiority complex that can be used as second-half motivation, and he can leave the ego/injury/fatigue worries to the managers of other contending teams.
For instance: Buck Showalter. Just how eager do you think he is to send Chris Davis to New York to participate in the Home Run Derby? Sure, it's a great honor, but the ghosts of 2008 derby runner-up Josh Hamilton (21 homers, 95 RBIs before the break, 11 and 35 after) and 2012 participant Mark Trumbo (.306 average and .966 OPS before the break, .227 and .630 after) hover over the proceedings.
Coincidence? Maybe. Arbitrary cherry-picking of players without empirical evidence of cause and effect? Guilty as charged. But if you're managing a contending team, the All-Star break is one big pain. You're torn between what's best for your team and what's best for your sport. Angels manager Mike Scioscia came right out and said it: He doesn't want Mike Trout anywhere near the Home Run Derby. A meticulous micromanager like Showalter must feel the same way.
The anti-Oakland? St. Louis. Adam Wainwright wants to hang out at the All-Star Game, but he doesn't want to pitch. He'd also like to bequeath his innings to another pitcher, preferably a teammate, if that's OK with you guys. Yadier Molina's right knee is balky right now, and there's a growing sentiment that the Cardinals would be wise to prohibit him from partaking in the festivities as well.
All of this, from Puig to Donaldson to Wainwright, underscores an irony: The All-Star Game has become even more of an exhibition since it started meaning something. More players, more play-it-safe talk about guys like Molina, more silliness of the Puig-or-no-Puig variety -- it's never been more obvious that nothing, not World Series home-field advantage -- or even press-box seating -- should hinge on the outcome of this game.
It's a great spectacle, a midsummer interlude that gives baseball fans a two-week opportunity to take leave of their senses -- and Bob Melvin an opportunity to privately cheer the injustices raining down on his players. That should be enough for everybody, especially Melvin and the guy commissioned to fashion the Hall of Fame plaque of Yasiel Puig.