Today Ian Desmond, even on a day where he was 2 for 2 with a home run, was announced as a player who would have to miss the 2012 MLB All-Star Game with a strained oblique. It’s a sad moment for a Washington Nationals hitter who deserves to get in with a banner year for a shortstop — the sort of breakout campaign the Nats have been waiting for Desmond to have. Suddenly the National League roster had an opening. The question was: who would fill it?
Michael Bourn of the Atlanta Braves has been announced as the team’s replacement and it’s a solid selection that’s hard to argue with on the surface. Bourn is having an excellent season in a year where he will be a free agent, and he’s making himself a lot of money in this now All-Star campaign. With a .305 average, 7 home runs, 32 RBI and 23 stolen bases, Bourn has been an excellent part of the Braves line-up.
But what is missing here is the perfect opportunity to introduce the greater baseball world to a player in his rookie season who will end up at this game for the next decade or more anyway: Bryce Harper. In failing to put Harper on the team in any way, baseball is missing a chance to hype its own players. In the end, that’s the one thing that matters most about the All-Star Game.
If anything, Tuesday night’s game is an exhibition. The ratings might not be through the roof, but they don’t have to be. The game might be meaningless on the grand scale, but that’s okay. There are enough fans and enough attention to make the game purposeful if Bud Selig were to use it right. Instead, good enough players get to pat themselves on the back for 80 games worth of good-to-great stats.
Albert Pujols is not at the game. He should be. Bryce Harper is not at the game. He should be as well. Baseball is a slow game that lacks the star power of the NBA and overall popularity of the NFL. Relying on history and tradition and the old America’s Pastime moniker is one thing, but baseball could also become proactive and showcase its greatest stars in a game that no one knows what to do with. Instead, Michael Bourn will make an All-Star appearance and Bryce Harper will remain a star on a level one tier lower than he should be.
Harper is one of the game’s greatest young hitters, a player celebrated since he first came into the system being drafted No. 1 overall. Baseball needs to celebrate such players, allowing everyone to meet them instead of baseball fans in the Eastern time zone. As great as the Nats have been this year, many baseball fans aren’t familiar with the reasons why. Harper could help them with that.
This isn’t about Bourn not being the right choice, but rather that Harper should have already been in a week or more ago. The system is wrong. The voting is wrong. The final vote thing was a joke. To even have a chance of Yu Darvish being replaced by Jon Broxton is stupid. Stupid. Darvish is this year’s big import for one of the league’s best teams having an incredible year. He belongs there — not the closer on a one year deal subbing in for an injured Joakim Soria on a fourth place AL Central team.
The All-Star Game should be just that — All Stars. Make it about the game’s biggest personalities, the game’s greatest players, the game’s most charismatic stars. Baseball is the single worst sport at marketing its own players and it doesn’t even do it well inside its own schedule. It could start with remaking the All-Star game and making certain that the best and the brightest were there every year.