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Posts Tagged ‘All Star Game’

Tonight’s World Series opens up in St. Louis because the National League won the 2011 All Star Game. For many in and around the game, linking home field advantage in October to an outcome in July is the height of folly, but this season at least, the symmetry is almost perfect.

Despite the Brewers being eliminated, Prince Fielder's impact on the World Series is still being felt.

In order to advance to the World Series, the Cardinals had to beat the Milwaukee Brewers, the team that currently employs Prince Fielder. As some might recall, it was Fielder’s three-run home run that propelled the National League to victory at the home ballpark of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who just so happened to be the victims of the Brewers in the NLDS. What does all this have to do with the American League champion Texas Rangers? Well, Fielder’s game changing blast was hit off C.J. Wilson, who will toe the rubber for the Rangers tonight in St. Louis, and the manager of the American League was none other than Texas’ Ron Washington.

Unfortunately, the lineage from All Star Game to World Series hasn’t always been as direct, but that doesn’t mean the idea of tying the two games together is as baseless as many seem to suggest. After all, before the midseason classic was first used to decide World Series home field in 2003, an alternating system existed. That’s why, for instance, the 85-win Minnesota Twins hosted the 95-win Cardinals in game 7 of the 1987 World Series. Perhaps more than any other Fall Classic, home field proved to be a decisive factor in that series, but you never hear anyone call into question the credibility of the Twins’ championship.

Baseball’s home field advantage determinant has been the subject of increased criticism this October because the 96-win division champion Rangers will be opening the series on the road against the 90-win wild card Cardinals. However, it should be noted that this is only the second time since 2003 that World Series home field has gone to the team with fewer wins in the regular season. In 2004, the 105-win Cardinals traveled to Fenway Park to open that year’s World Series against the 98-win Boston Red Sox, but otherwise, until this year, the team with the better record has enjoyed home cooking in October. Of course, after drawing the short end of the home field process in both 1987 and 2004, you can’t blame Cardinals’ fans if they refuse to apologize for having the opportunity to host this year’s World Series opener.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Since baseball unveiled its 68 All Stars last Sunday, the combined roster for both squads has swelled to 84 players. In addition to the 14 original selections who either backed out or were disqualified from the competition, two replacements were also forced to withdraw. As a result, more attention has been paid to who isn’t attending this year’s All Star Game than those actually making the trip to Arizona. Maybe, next year, major league baseball should simply replace the voting process with a game of musical chairs?

The Replacements: 2011 All Star Roster Evolution

American League    
Original Selections Reason for Withdrawal Replacement
3B: Alex Rodriguez* DL 3B: Kevin Youkilis
SS: Derek Jeter* Rest SS: Jhonny Peralta
SP: Felix Hernandez Pitched Sunday SP: Jon Lester
SP: Jon Lester DL SP: Ricky Romero
SP: David Price Rest RP: David Robertson
SP: James Shields Pitched Sunday SP: C.C. Sabathia
SP: C.C. Sabathia Pitched Sunday SP: Alexei Ogando
SP: Justin Verlander Pitched Sunday RP: Micheal Pineda
RP: Mariano Rivera Rest RP: Jordan Walden
National League    
Original Selections Reason for Withdrawal Replacement
SS: Jose Reyes* DL 3B: Pablo Sandoval
3B: Placido Polanco* Missed last 6 games C: Miguel Montero
OF: Ryan Braun* Missed last 10 games OF: Andrew McCutchen
3B: Chipper Jones DL 3B: Scott Rolen
OF: Shane Victorino DL OF: Andre Ethier
SP: Matt Cain Pitched Sunday RP: Craig Kimbrel
SP: Cole Hamels Pitched Sunday SP: Kevin Correia

*Elected as starters.
Source: MLB.com

In all fairness to the players who declined to participate, six were disqualified by rule, five are currently on the disabled list, and two others have missed at least the previous six games leading up to the break. Only Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and David Price declined the invitation despite being able to play during the final weekend of the first half. So, in reality, baseball isn’t experiencing an epidemic flight from All Star participation, but rather a confluence of events that has led to unprecedented turnover. Nonetheless, baseball could, and should, do more to encourage participation.

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Despite garnering six All Star selections, three Yankees were conspicuous by their absence from the team. Both Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia currently rank among the top three players at their respective positions, according to fangraph’s WAR, while David Robertson sits atop all American League relievers in the category. If either or all three had been named to the team, it would have been justifiable.

If the Yankees had ended up with nine All Stars, it would have come within one of the franchise record, which was set in 1939 when 10 Bronx Bombers were selected. In that year’s game, the Yankees also fielded six starters, another franchise high.  Even with six participants, the 2011 team ranks among the top quartile in terms of the number of players selected to the midseason classic.

Yankees’ All Star Selections by Year (click to enlarge)
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Although some Yankees fans might not be happy with six All Stars, especially after the team had eight in 2010, others might argue the team is lucky to have that many.  In the mainstream media and among the more casual fan base, Russell Martin’s selection as a backup catcher is most likely to be called into question. However, Martin does rank third in WAR among A.L. catchers, so if three spots are allocated to the position, the Yankees’ backstop is certainly deserving.

Derek Jeter’s election as the starting short stop for the American League has been discredited by the sabermetric crowd. The future Hall of Famer’s struggles have been well documented, so his selection can’t be justified by first half statistics. However, nowhere in the voting bylaws does it mandate that criteria be used as a basis for inclusion. Since the game’s inception, legendary figures well past their prime have frequently been elected, so Jeter’s inclusion is well within precedent. It is, after all, a contest for all stars, and the Yankees’ short stop qualifies as one of the brightest in the game.

Robinson Cano is another Yankees’ All Star that could be disputed. Although Cano’s WAR of 2.6 is nothing to look down upon, he currently ranks fifth among A.L. second basemen. Like Jeter, however, albeit to a much lesser degree, Cano has established himself a bona fide star, so the combination of his current season statistics and impressive track record suggest that, if not a worthy starter, the Yankees’ second baseman is a deserving reserve.

Most Frequent Yankees’ All Star Starters, By Position

Po. Player #
C Yogi Berra 11
1B Lou Gehrig 5
2B Willie Randolph 4
3B Alex Rodriguez 6
SS Derek Jeter 8
LF Several  1
CF Mickey Mantle 12
RF Dave Winfield 5
P Lefty Gomez 5

Source: Baseball-reference.com

All things considered, there probably should be six Yankees jogging out to the foul line at Chase Field next Tuesday. However, some might argue for a different combination. That debate is part of the charm of All Star Game. Although the midseason exhibition has been met with increased cynicism over the years, the number of ballots cast and the volume of discussion about the selections suggest that the event is not only still relevant, but one of the highlights of the baseball season.

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