At the risk of being irritatingly positive when raging negativity is richly deserved, we are, somehow, the foundation of the National League All-Star Team. Before 10:00 last night, that seemed really great.
Usually I feel like a chump for paying attention to the All-Star process. It seems like something I should have gotten over 30 years ago as should have baseball. Begun as sort of a midway attraction (in conjunction with the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933), it’s a gimmick that doesn’t really have any place in the modern world. The NL and AL play different games but otherwise have gone MLB on us. You’re a lifelong National Leaguer until you get a better offer. Thanks to the magic of satellite, cable and broadband, there’s no novelty in the chance, for a midsummer’s night, to get a load of the guy from the team in the other league whom we’ve only read about in the Daily Mirror or World-Telegram. It’s just more reality-show programming, and its defining stunt — home field advantage for the championship round three months later — isn’t particularly appreciated by aficionados.
Yet when ESPN unveiled the starting lineups as voted by Us The Fans and four of eight spots in the National League went to Mets, I was bursting with the pride of the validated. Like I need total strangers to tell me David Wright, Jose Reyes, Paul Lo Duca and Carlos Beltran are the best at their positions.
I do. I want it, anyway. It never happens. Never. I could go down the litany of Julys when we were so screwed over by All-Star politics, when anti-New York bias and a surge in St. Louis or Cincinnati or some other rube outpost cost some deserving Met his start or slot. I’m still annoyed that Walt Alston didn’t pick Del Unser in 1975 and Bobby Cox skipped John Olerud in 1997 and Bruce Bochy left out Robin Ventura in 1999 and I still wonder “what part of exhibition game don’t you people get?” as regards the failure to ever elect Rey Ordoñez, the shortstop capable of putting on the greatest fielding exhibition in the history of ground balls into the hole.
It was all evidence, I was convinced, of the worldwide anti-Met conspiracy. How could guys for whom we rooted, whom we told each other were awesome…how could those guys not be certified stars? Felix Millan never made the All-Star team as a Met. Rusty Staub never made the All-Star team as a Met. But for a few plate appearances short of qualifying, Lenny Dykstra would have been leading the NL in batting at the mid-point in 1986 but didn’t make the All-Star team. Even in Nineteen Frigging Eighty Six we couldn’t get everybody who should have been picked!
This year, there is no anti-Met conspiracy, save perhaps for one aimed at lulling us into complacency, but I’ll sit on that theory until another day. This year we got ours. Wright is the best third baseman around and he was recognized. Nobody changes a game as soon as it starts as does Reyes and somebody besides us noticed. Nobody’s as whisper-quiet wonderful as Carlos B. and his soft-speak/big-stick policy paid off. I imagine somebody has better numbers from behind the plate than Paul Lo Duca, but as demonstrated last night when he told A-Rod what to do with his post-grand slam heavy-petting display, is there anybody else right now who defines Catcher as he does?
It was with familial warmth and a silly amount of pride that I greeted the news of their election. Eight spots. Four Mets. Wow.
Then they announce the pitchers and we get two more! Glavine probably won’t throw and we’re unfortunately hip to why Pedro probably won’t go (this year I won’t argue with his recusal), but both are extraordinarily deserving and not just as lifetime-achievement recipients. Shoot, we even got Billy Wagner on the ballot as a you-make-the-call finalist for the last berth. I assume he’s there on reputation and because the NL is sending mostly unproven/unimpressive closers, but you’ve really arrived when they start considering guys from your team who don’t particularly deserve consideration.
Six All-Stars with a one-in-five shot at a seventh. Carlos Delgado’s on pace for 40-100 and didn’t emerge from the competitive first base mélange, yet there’s no gripe from this quarter. In how many seasons would have Delgado’s output made him the sole Met rep and in how many of those years would his selection been singled out as “oh, they had to take a Met, which meant leaving out so many worthy candidates”?
It’s great to have a team full of All-Stars. If they can get back to playing like their private jets aren’t fueled for a fifth-inning trip to the ESPYs, that will be even better. For the next eight games, it really counts.