Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Howard's Snub

Jayson Stark wrote a piece on ESPN last week that included one of my “pet peeves.” He wrote, “Complaining about the All-Star Game sure is fashionable these days. Maybe not as fashionable as hanging out with Lenny Kravitz. Or hugging the nearest Wimbledon runner-up. But in serious vogue nonetheless. Well, here at World Rumblings Headquarters, we don't want to get lumped in with all those other All Star Game malcontents. Heck, we love the All-Star Game.”

Then, of course, he goes on to “complain” about the All-Star game by listing three ways the game could be improved. Just because you preface a complaint with “we don’t want to get lumped in with all those other All Star Game malcontents” doesn’t mean you’re not complaining. I like Stark. His enthusiasm for baseball is infectious. He is thorough and credible. I just don’t like the, “I don’t like it when other people do X but it’s OK if I do X” argument. It’s OK to love the All-Star Game and it’s OK to complain about the All-Star Game. They are not mutually exclusive. I know this to be the case because I love the All-Star game and I’m about to complain about it.

How can Ryan Howard not be in the All-Star game? Winning the Triple Crown is one of the all-time great accomplishments in baseball. It hasn’t been done in the AL since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967. It hasn’t been done in the NL since Joe Medwick did it in 1937. So, leading the league in two of the three categories qualifies as a big deal. He obviously stands no chance at winning the third category with his paltry .234 batting average. However, how telling can “batting average” be in this instance when Howard leads the NL in home runs and RBIs? Plus, for those people still hung up on batting average (this population is dwindling by the year), Howard is hitting .330 with a 1.079 OPS with runners in scoring position (RISP). He is hitting .184 with a .701 OPS with nobody on base. Isn’t that what you want out of your clean-up hitter?

It has been 60 years since a player led the league in both home runs and RBIs and didn’t make the All-Star Game. That distinction went to Hank Sauer in 1948. There is a reason why it has been that long: leading the league in both categories makes you an All-Star. If Howard keeps up his current pace (47 HRs and 142 RBIs), he’ll easily finish in the top five of the MVP voting and might actually win it. This probably sounds like a tall task—almost as tall as installing video replay mid-season—but there is no reason why Bud Selig couldn’t have simply said, “Howard not being in the All-Star game is a joke, I’m putting him in.”

Outrageously, Howard wasn’t even among the five players submitted for the “Final Vote”. He is easily one of the biggest snubs ever and we’re supposed to believe that he wasn’t even one of the five biggest snubs this season? By the way, the winner of the NL’s “Final Vote” was Corey Hart.

Here is a brief comparison of Hart’s numbers to Howard’s:


I realize that once Clint Hurdle (NL Manager) chose the five players for the Final Vote, the outcome was out of his hands. My question is: what was he thinking putting Hart in the Final Vote over Howard? That’s just ludicrous.

I do understand that a numbers-crunch made it somewhat difficult to make room for Howard. He does have the unfortunate distinction of playing at a position that features two of the best hitters in MLB. Phat Albert and Fat Elvis have put up monster numbers this season and deserved to make the NL squad ahead of Howard. The other NL first baseman on the roster—Adrian Gonzalez—made the team because he was chosen as San Diego’s lone representative. However, since the game is being played at Yankee Stadium, the DH is in play. Pujols is the NL’s starting DH. That frees up a first base slot for Howard. There was easily room for Howard to make the squad as either a manager’s selection or a “Final Vote” selection. Instead, the NL leader in home runs and RBIs is sitting at home (or wherever he’s sitting) for the All-Star Game.

The worst part about Howard not being in the game—other than it not being fair to him, of course—is that the leading home run-hitter in MLB was not a participant in the Home Run Derby. Can you imagine how historic a Josh Hamilton/Ryan Howard duel would’ve been in the first round?

I thought the sporting world would be all over the Howard-snub but apparently few people even know about it. I was listening to Doug Karsch and Scott “The Gator” Anderson (the most enjoyable sports radio show in Detroit, IMHO) on 1270 AM yesterday. A listener called in and said something to the effect of “It’s a shame that Lance Berkman didn’t make the All-Star Game. He leads the NL in home runs. He’s had a monster season and I can’t believe they didn’t have room for him.” Since you’ve been reading this post, you will clearly realize that there are a number of things wrong with that statement. Instead of correcting the caller, Karsh and Anderson agreed with him by saying Berkman should be an All-Star and marveled at how well he had been hitting this year. A few minutes passed and Karsch made a correction by saying that Berkman did not lead the NL in home runs. A few more minutes passed and Karsch made another correction by saying that Berkman was, in fact, the starting first baseman for the NL. Ryan Howard’s name was not mentioned once in the segment.

Once again, baseball—led by Bud Selig—has proven why it has been the butt of so many jokes in recent years. I can’t think of another sport that would allow a player who leads the league in two of the sport’s most important categories to miss its All-Star Game. Howard is the biggest snub in All-Star Game history in any sport. All I can say about his absence in the Home Run Derby is, “Thank God for Josh Hamilton!”

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