DENVER, CO - Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals singles to center field during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
The fans get to vote for the final All-Star spot, and they'll get to choose between the past or the future
The All-Star Game Final Vote isn't a bad idea. It's almost like a checks-and-balances thing between the fans and the All-Star managers -- a separation of powers. It's democracy in action. It's something from a Schoolhouse Rock song.
But there are always a couple of hilarious candidates.
Hi. I'm Jonathan Broxton. I'm a closer. You probably didn't know that. My team is hosting the All-Star Game. I think I'm having a good year. I'm not sure. How much longer do I have to take pictures? Whatever. Vote for me. Again, my team is hosting the All-Star Game. Or something.
No one cares about Jonathan Broxton making the All-Star Game. There isn't going to be a grassroots effort among Royals fans to get Broxton in the game. Broxton will go to MLB.com to vote for himself, the phone will ring, and the next thing he knows, he'll be playing Angry Birds for the rest of the night. And you're tempted to dismiss the final vote for reasons like this.
But there is an important choice in the final fan vote. It's not so much a final All-Star vote as it is a window into your soul. The decision you make with this vote says all sorts of things about you as a baseball fan. It's a way to sort baseball fans into binary subsets.
There are three other participants for the NL final vote. Michael Bourn is in the middle of a fantastic season, both offensively and defensively. Aaron Hill hasn't stopped hitting since he got to Arizona. David Freese is having an okay season, but he gets bonus points for his postseason heroics, I guess.
There were pitchers who probably could have been included, too, but a couple of them were Giants pitchers. And there are apparently a couple of Giants fans in a dark room, hopped up on meth and proxies, willing to do things like get Brandon Crawford almost elected to the All-Star Game. Yeah. So you can see why the Giants pitchers like Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner were kept way the hell away from the final vote.
None of that matters, though. It's Bryce Harper vs. Chipper Jones. It's such a damned metaphor that you don't even need it pointed out. They're both former first-overall picks. One of them is retiring, and in five years, he'll be in the Hall of Fame. One of them is a teenager who just started his world domination. You can cast a vote for the older player as an acknowledgment of his career. Or you can cast a vote for the phenom as a vote for the future -- the first All-Star appearance out of 15 or so.
If you think of the All-Star Game as a way to honor the legends of the game, you know how you're voting. If you think of the All-Star Game as an exhibition filled with the players you want to watch, you know how you're voting. And if you're going on a strict stats-based formula, welp, they're both dead even. Chipper has a .291/.372/.450 line this season. Harper has a .274/.347/.475 line. The former has a 121 OPS+. The latter has a 123 OPS+. When you factor in that Harper has played a lot of right field, the positional adjustments are mostly a wash.
A vote for Chipper is a vote for tradition. It's a vote for Alex Rodriguez deferring the shortstop position to Cal Ripken for no other reason than it used to be that way. Play it once, Cal. For old time's sake.
A vote for Harper is a vote for youthful adrenaline. It's a vote for a teenaged Dwight Gooden striking out the side in 1984. It's the present, and it's the future. And it's the most exciting damned thing you can do for the game.
There isn't a right answer. It's like choosing between the Beatles or the Stones, or Extreme and Mr. Big. You have your reasons for choosing. You don't need to justify them. There isn't right and wrong. There are just two different ways to enjoy the only All-Star Game that means a damn among the four major sports.
Hell, I'm voting for Aaron Hill because I used to read "Luann" when I was growing up, and this means something to me, dammit. But if I had to choose between Harper and Jones ... I'd probably give up and secretly, shamefully hope for an injury to one of the current All-Stars. Because this is quite the devastating choice. It's perfect, really. Are you looking forward, or looking back?
If you're looking at the stats, it's Michael Bourn's to lose. But he's not even going to be in the competition. Instead, it's a tug-of-war between the past and the future. Equally qualified talents that represent two very different things. Good luck with this one. I'm okay with either player.
And, really, another All-Star is going to get hurt, both Harper and Chipper are going to make it, and this is all probably moot. But let's pretend it's an either/or decision for now. It's hard to imagine a decision quite this perfect, quite this fascinating. Make fun of the final vote if you must -- and you will. But it sure worked out perfectly this time.