Devil Ray Lance Carter’s reaction to being named to the American League All-Star team was to tell the assembled media that he was as surprised as they were.
I doubt it.
This is not to bash the closing pitcher because certainly, when he goes into the game in Chicago, it will be a great story.
Recovering from not one, but two Tommy John surgeries on his right elbow, he was written off as a Major Leaguer. And it will be great that his story can be told on a national stage in front of more than 11,000 (cough) diehards who show up at Tropicana Field to watch the Rays.
No, this is a criticism of, surprise, Major League Baseball. As usual, the keepers of the Great American pastime have managed to bungle things again. First was the brilliant idea that home field advantage in the World Series should be determined by an exhibition. FOX’s seemingly omnipresent ads tout that once again ‘the game means something.’ Perhaps I’m confused, but isn’t that why they call them exhibitions? The score doesn’t count for anything. Commissioner Bud Selig took all the booing in Milwaukee last year to mean that the fans wanted the game to have a bigger impact. Really, all they wanted was for somebody to win. Remember, this isn’t hockey; there aren’t supposed to be ties. They didn’t really care which team it was.
So now, MLB has decided to take the chore of picking, allowing players and coaches to vote and the league to fill in the gaps. The league also took it upon itself to expand the rosters. One thing it didn’t change was the archaic rule mandating every team having one representative, which brings us back to Carter.
So, while Carter may be a fine story and a good person, he isn’t the player the fans want in the game. He’s not even a guy his peers thought needed to be included. Rocco Baldelli took both of those honors, finishing 11th among the fans by far the best tally for a Ray. He was also No. 6 in the players voting. The need to have more pitchers and a Tiger (outfielder Dmitri Young) ultimately meant Carter was in and Baldelli was out.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Baldelli said. “Obviously, it would have been an honor to represent my team.”
Baldelli wasn’t the only player who just passed the drinking age to be overlooked. No player has been creating a buzz like Florida’s Dontrelle Willis. But if you haven’t seen him yet, you’re still not going to. It’s certainly not his numbers keeping the flame-throwing 21-year-old left-hander out of the game — 8-1, 2.13 ERA.
Somehow, neither the league nor the players saw it fitting to include him. Fans can’t vote for pitchers. It’s obvious by the amount of publicity that he’s creating a buzz (media requests are numerous and his last start was the most watched game in Miami since Game 7 of 1997) and people want to watch him play.
What better place than baseball’s showcase? You know, the game intended to be solely for the fans.
Nope, he’ll be at home. Perhaps, Willis and Baldelli can go fishing together.
Which brings us to someone whom will be going, but even his own fans don’t approve. Mets closer Armando Benitez is reviled by his hometown faithfuls as evidenced by the swift sale of ‘Trade Benitez’ T-shirts. He’s already blown six saves, which nearly equals his total for the past two years. His ERA is 3.11; not bad but almost a full run per game worse than a year ago. Never mind that he’s the closer on a last place team.
There are other sterling choices such as Richie Sexson (the .262 average) and the worst offender, Pirates closer Mike Williams (an All-Star appearance with a 6.29 ERA?).
I hope Carter has fun, and maybe someday, he’ll be back again and it won’t be a surprise to him or anyone else. Mostly though, I wish MLB would stop meddling in the All-Star Game.
“My initial reaction was ‘Are you sure?'” Carter said.
Yes, I’m sure.