Houston, TX, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Huston Street (16) adjusts his hat against the Houston Astros during the tenth inning at Minute Maid Park. The Padres won 8-7. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE
Johnny Cueto has allowed 27 earned runs in 107 innings. Huston Street has thrown 21 innings. Only one of them will be in the 2012 All-Star Game. But don't (completely) blame the one-player-per-team rule.
There isn't a single person excited about Huston Street on the All-Star team. This extends to Padres fans, members of the Street family, and almost certainly Street himself. He appreciates the honor, I'm sure, but I'd reckon he'd prefer to hunt or fish or read or finish his popsicle-stick battleship or whatever in the heck Huston Street likes to do in his spare time. Maybe I'm wrong, and he's just thrilled he's going to Kansas City. But if so, he's the only one.
So the premise of this article is already flawed. It's supposed to be an argument in favor of the one-player-per-team rule for the All-Star rosters, but we've already established that there isn't any way a Padres fan can care about Huston Street. He's thrown 21 innings for one of the lousiest Padres teams in recent memory. He has more career innings against the Padres. He's not a fan favorite. If anything, he's a depressing reminder of the 23 minutes this offseason when the Padres thought they had a tiny window with which to contend. It's hard to imagine a San Diego patriarch calling his wife and 2.3 kids over to the ol' black-and-white to watch Huston Street pitch two-thirds of an inning in the 2012 All-Star Game.
All-Star! Tim Salmon was never an All-Star because he didn't play with teammates as lousy as Mike Williams. When you talk about what the one-player-per-team rule hath wrought, you're talking about Mike Williams. Heck, at least Street has been good this year.
This kind of anecdotal evidence makes it hard to argue for the one-player-per-team rule as it's currently used. But the spirit of it is still legitimate. As a way to keep the interest of fans who might not otherwise care, as a way to give a glimmer of hope to a fan base that has to deal with 162 turgid, mostly unwatchable games, and as a way to highlight the only thing that's going right for a beleaguered franchise, the one-player-per-team rule still makes a ton of sense.
If you've never followed a truly awful team, you've never lived. You start arguing over things like Fred Lewis. Where should Fred Lewis hit? What does Fred Lewis's UZR mean? Can Fred Lewis hit for power someday? The next thing you know, you wake up in the recycling bin behind your neighbor's house, wondering where the last five years went.
But even on those teams, there's always something to get excited about. It might be Jason Bay on the 2006 Pirates, or Mike Sweeney on the 2005 Royals. There's always at least one player who rewards a loyal fan base for a lot of the games in a long, long season.
For the Padres this season, it isn't Street. It's Chase Headley -- a homegrown light in a mostly punchless lineup. The Padres may or may not trade him at the trade deadline, but he's one of the players who makes the Padres worth watching right now. If the Padres have a fan favorite, he's it. That's the kind of player who should make the All-Star team under the one-player-per-team rule. The rule isn't broken; it's just that managers treat it like the nuisance it's become.
Apart from giving All-Star managers additional roster spots with which to work, I'm not sure that there's a way to enforce or suggest that they use the spot to highlight a player that the fans might care about. The rule is alright, but managers brainlessly grabbing a reliever so they can stop thinking about their roster requirement is the downside. It can be inoffensive at times. It can be horribly offensive at other times.
But I remember being a kid and waiting around for Scott Garrelts to pitch in the 1985 All-Star Game. Spoiler: He didn't. But the idea that a Giant -- even one from the wretched 1985 team -- was in the game is what kept me interested. He was our representative, dammit, one of the lone bright spots on a dreadful team. I never forgot that feeling. Maybe kids feel that sort of thing more strongly than grown-up fans, but there are still a lot of fans who feel it when it comes to a player they actually care about. Keep the rule around. Just use it with a purpose, not a sense of obligation.