The K.C. Star's Sam Mellinger takes issue with folks (like me) who are scratching their heads at the Josh Hamilton selection:
Except here's the thing: he does deserve it. He deserves it because the fans say he does. They're the boss, and sometimes it feels like too many lose track of that . . . The undisputed highlight of last year's event was Hamilton's jaw-dropping spectacle at the home run derby . . . That's what this whole thing is about, and Hamilton delivered, gave us a moment that we remember a year later, and won't forget 10 years from now.
In that sense, Hamilton might be the most deserving All-Star of the bunch.
One of the reasons I try not to get too wrapped up in All-Star arguments (apart from the fact that the All-Star game has become something of a joke in concept and execution) is that when people argue about the players selected, they are usually engaging in apples and oranges comparisons. Person A thinks that Player 1 shouldn't have been picked because he's not the best player at his position. Person B thinks that Player 1 should have been picked because he's the most famous or popular or something. Or because he's neither, but boy howdy did he have a good year last year. Or because he's about to retire and kind of deserves a curtain call. There are any number of justifications, really, and I'm sure you've heard them all before.
But those aren't arguments, really. They're examples of a communication breakdown. Why? Because all of those things can be true at the same time. The real discussion to have is not really over Player 1's suitability or lack thereof, but what you think the All-Star Game should be about in the first place, and that argument is often an afterthought among those who get bent out of shape by the the All-Star rosters.
If the All-Star Game is a true exhibition for the benefit of the fans, great, put in Hamilton. Heck, put in Ken Griffey, Jr. for that matter. People love those guys and on that basis they are certainly deserving. If it's about sheer entertainment, how do you not have Manny Ramirez in there? Because no matter what you think of him as a person, man, he's entertaining. If, instead, it's about first-half performances none of those guys make it and Matt Kemp isn't on the outside looking in and hoping he makes out in the sympathy vote. If, however, we truly believe the stuff about home field advantage and "this time it counts!" don't we have to scrap the every-team-gets-a-representative rule? Maybe that would stink for Andrew Bailey, but I'm sure whoever represents the AL in the World Series this year would prefer it that way.
The point here isn't that Josh Hamilton is or is not deserving, the point is that the All-Star Game represents different things to different people. Whether Hamilton deserves to be there depends on what you think the game is all about in the first place. Here Mellinger asserts that it's about entertainment, and that's fine, as long as he's consistent with that as it relates to the other selections. But not everyone feels that way, and no amount of argument is going to convince someone who thinks that the All-Star Game is a reward for a good April-July that Hamilton should be there.
It's probably a good idea to keep that distinction in mind as the arguments rage on through July 14th.