Freddie Freeman is having a nice season. It's far from a great season; he's a first baseman with nine homers and a 126 OPS+ and he's hit well in the clutch this season, and at 23 he's probably going to become a star. But the bald fact is that he's not a great player yet.
That clutch hitting, though, has landed him a spot on the Final Vote ballot ... where he's getting aced, at least in the Court of Public Publicity, by a young fellow named Yasiel Puig. And as David O'Brien writes, some of Freeman's teammates aren't real thrilled:
"I think it’s B.S.," pitcher Tim Hudson said. "It’s pretty obvious what players certain media outlets want to have plugged in. You have young, exciting players — and they are that. I’m not saying they don’t deserve to have the opportunity to be in there, but these guys that are competing with them to get these last couple of spots, they’re just as deserving.
"The whole fan vote thing, I think is obnoxious. I mean, the starting players in the All-Star game are determined by fans who can plug any players they want in there, and it determines home-field advantage for the World Series. The World Series! It’s not fair. At all."
Hudson said that as long as the game determines World Series home-field advantage, selecting All-Stars shouldn’t be a popularity contest.
"As players, we might have the opportunity to play in the World Series," he said. "I think we should determine which starting nine we put out there (in the All-Star game). Our livelihood and our season and our chances to win a World Championship (are affected by) that game."
Uggla, a three-time All-Star voted to start last summer, said: "If they wanted to start making it matter, they should let the players vote and get the right guys in.
My favorite part? Where Tim Hudson says selecting All-Stars shouldn't be a popularity contest.
What he means is that it certainly should be a popularity contest, except with the players running the contest. I would be stunned by the lack of self-awareness displayed here by both Hudson and Uggla, except the Bubble of Lack of Self-Awareness that millionaire baseball players live inside is even thicker than than those occupied by most of the rest of us.
I actually wouldn't mind the players selecting the starting All-Stars; hell, all of the All-Stars. Oh, except they would do a pretty shitty job of it. This year, the players' actual voting was released and ... Joe Sheehan, take it away (subscriber-only):
Pretty much across the board, the players voted as if channeling Thomas Boswell, as if time began on Opening Day, and nothing that came before mattered. They voted as a child would, looking at baseball-card stats on whatever day they got their ballot, and adding absolutely nothing to the process beyond that.
The players are adding nothing to this process. They're putting players on the All-Star team based on eight weeks of good play, and sometimes not even that if the timing is right. They're reducing All-Star qualification to big numbers in stat categories that don't reflect value. They're ignoring defense. They're ignoring everything that we know about the players' track records, and in doing so, snubbing some of the biggest stars in the game for playing slightly below their level to start the season. And they're not adding any information that they, as players, might have that the rest of the baseball world can't get itself. It's been a decade, and the player vote remains the weakest part of a flawed process. End it already.
Yes. Please. Except that will be exceptionally difficult. Once you give the players something, it's exceptionally difficult to get it back. So we're probably stuck with them voting for something; the trick now will be to keep from letting them vote for even more.
I don't really blame the players, any more than I blamed the managers and the coaches for all the lousy Gold Glove voting over the years. Managers and coaches are paid to manage and coach, jobs for which they're generally well-qualified. They're not qualified to evaluate the defensive value of players they see a few times a year. Players are paid to play, and they're immensely qualified for that. But they're not qualified to evaluate the overall value of players they see a few times a year, because they've got little or no interest in doing the actual work that would require. How many of the players, before filling out their ballots, actually sat down and looked at Baseball-Reference.com or any other source listing something other than batting average and RBI's and wins and losses and ERA? A dozen, maybe?
Maybe Yasiel Puig hasn't played enough to be an All-Star. There's a case to be made there, especially if precedent in these situations means anything. I'm not convinced by precedent in this case, but at least I can understand the argument. There's a big gap, though, between citing precedent and arguing the players should run the show. Because they would muck things up worse than they already are.