July 3, 2011

McCutchen All-Star Reaction

As I'm sure you've read, Andrew McCutchen was not selected for the All-Star game today. Obviously this is a terrible decision, but it's not one I didn't expect. Entering today Baseball Reference judged him as the second most valuable position player in the National League after Matt Kemp, with McCutchen generating five additional wins for the Pirates to Kemp's 5.2 for the Dodgers. Deducting at least ten wins for Kemp's decision to cheat on Rihanna - I'm not a great man but I could be faithful to her of all people - McCutchen is statistically the best player in the league. He's the fourth best offensive player in the NL and second best on defense. Yet he will be at home for the All-Star break, because God forbid anyone would bother checking how each player in the league is doing before picking the best players in the league.

Let's start with the fan voting: the NL's starting outfield is a joke. Kemp, Braun, and Berkman would be a great outfield in an NFL-style league where completely different players would take the field. Then look at the reserves. I'll give you Holliday, Pence, and Upton, but Jay Bruce and Carlos Beltran are a couple of players who could never and no longer can field, respectively, yet are no more effective than Cutch on offense. To make things quite real, McCutchen wasn't even one of five players in the "Final Vote." It's a definite sign of disrespect, but it's actually one that helps the Pirates.

Let's look at the actual effect of this decision. McCutchen was promoted in June 2009. Since then, the Pirates have played 356 games with McCutchen starting 340 of them. He plays all out at all times and has suffered at least ten injuries that I can think of in that time, but he almost always is in the lineup the next day. What he's missing out on is traveling to Arizona, being interviewed by pretty much no one since the national media don't care about the Pirates, maybe pinch-hitting once, and then flying back. If we were 20 games back as usual it would actually suck to miss that - yet the Pirates are in the thick of a pennant race in a division that could easily be won. Wouldn't it be better for our start player to go back to his bullshit hometown in Florida and get four days of rest?

Moreover, one key to the Pirates' success is the fact that teams take them lightly. Maybe we would have won two of three from both the Red Sox and Phillies anyway, but don't think it didn't help that these juggernaut teams viewed the Pirates as a break in the schedule, a series where they wouldn't have to play their best ball. The lack of All-Stars only helps that perception. Evan Meek last year had an ERA below 1.00 when he was selected and the national media still demeaned the pick. We want this to happen. We want Joel Hanrahan to not even pitch in the game - as he surely will not - even though he is the best closer in baseball. The last thing we need now is other teams realizing our players are good.

An All-Star snub is fine. Pittsburgh Pirates players will get recognition from managers, players, fans, and the national media - after we win the World Series.

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