I have been amused the past few weeks surrounding the debate as to whether Stephen Strasburg, the Uberprospect of the Nationals, should make the All Star team this year.
Certainly Strasburg has had a strong debut, going 2-2, 2.45 over his first five starts and 36.1 innings. Those are good numbers, to be sure, but the sample size is quite small. Still, as my friend Trace Wood notes, Strasburg is the most strongest pitching prospect to come along since Roger Clemens appeared in 1984.
And, when you think about it, that is saying a lot. Roy Halladay and Pedro Martinez and Tim Lincecum and Greg Maddux, to name a few, have all appeared--with Maddux, and possibly Pedro now having completed their careers--since Clemens debuted. And, that is just a few of terrific arms (and none of these guys made the All Star Game as rookies).
Not that rookies making the All Star team, let alone a pitcher doing that, is beyond comprehension.
In 1976, Mark Fydrich, a rookie who created as much buzz as Strasburg was an All Star as a rookie. And, when "Fernandomania" was sweeping the country in 1981, Fernando Valenzuela made the NL squad.
The difference is that Fernando matched Strasburg's 2.45 ERA over the first half of his rookie year, but he went 9-4 over 110 innings, and Fydrich was 9-2, 1.78 over 101.1 innings. Meaning Strasburg has toiled barely a third of the time of his counterparts.
Of course it is important to keep the context that the All Star Game is an exhibition affair. True, there has been an attempt to legitimize the game recently by awarding the World Series home field advantage to the winning team, and that is truly no small prize.
The Game, though, is still an exhibition affair. The stats don't count, for one. But, the game was introduced in the 30's to rekindle interest in baseball, after attendance tanked as a result of the Great Depression. Originally, the manager of each league selected his team, but in the 50's, when fan voting in Cincinnati ran amok, and Wally Post and Gus Bell made the team along with their outfield mate at Crosley Field, Frank Robinson.
Now, Bell and Post were pretty good, but the NL had some outfielders at the time who were as good. Like Hank Aaron. Wille Mays. Duke Snider. So, the selection from the votes of the fans, to the consensus best nine among the players, coaches, and managers was invoked. And, that is arguably the best solution for truly selecting the best players.
Unfortunately, fans were and are not so enamored and after the game became ho-hum, the power to select the starting eight position players was returned to fan voting in 1970.
Since then, there have been controversies, as there always will, about who makes the team and who doesn't. Equity, with the manager selecting 24 more players, including the pitching staff, which will round out the team lies with the manager of the respective team.
To me, knowing all the above, I don't think Strasburg deserves to be selected, and not just because he has not paid his dues, for Fydrich and Valenzuela had not really done that when they played in the game their first time. It just doesn't seem right. But, the fans, it seems, want Strasburg in the game. Of course, they also preferred Wally Post to Roberto Clemente, so the judgement of the fans is not always so keen.
But, one other change in the game over the years is that the manager of each team will nominate five players, and the fans get to vote and select that player. So, if NL manager Charlie Manuel is smart, he will nominate Strasburg as one of the five. And the fans will vote him in. And, justice will be served. Should Strasburg not be voted in, well the fans will have spoken.
In either event, justice will have been served.