All-Star Game Update: Too Many Players?

by Jason Epstein

Rob Neyer of Fox Sports certainly thinks so:

Look, nothing against Dellin Betances, and I’m actually thrilled for Pat Neshek, whom I’ve been following with great interest for some years. I’m just not sure if anyone had good pitchers pitching great for 30 innings in mind when they came up with the All-Star Game.

And unlike a lot of things we complain about, this really is a fairly new phenomenon. Yes, there have always been non-stars in All-Star Games. But they have not often been relief pitchers. In 1974, only nine pitchers pitched in the entire All-Star Game, and all of them were starters except two: superstar reliever Rollie Fingers and superstar reliever Mike Marshall. And there was just one more reliever on either roster: Detroit’s John Hiller, who’d finished fourth in MVP voting the year before. . . . 

Do Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar really belong on an All-Star team? Well, that all comes back to a question Bill James asked some years ago: “Who is the game for?”

Turns out it’s for nobody in particular, and for everybody. It’s for the fans, who get to vote in a starting catcher who’s played in 26 games all season and will spend the rest of this season recuperating from major elbow surgery. It’s for the TV network that gets to promote the last hurrah of the third-greatest shortstop in major-league history. And these days, more than anything it’s for the players, represented by the most powerful union in the history of organized labor.

Everybody wants to be an All-Star. Everybody wants to be described forever after as an All-Star. Last year there were 79 All-Stars. Think about that. At any one moment, there are 750 players on active rosters. Roughly 250 of those players are part-time catchers, utility infielders, fourth outfielders, and relief pitchers who don’t get to warm up during close games. That leaves roughly 500 players in key roles. So if you’re one of those players, you’ve got roughly a 1-in-6 chance of being an All-Star forever.

Meanwhile, Fangraphs’ Jeremy Blachman offers up a where-are-they-now? for the players who took part in the very first Midsummer Classic in 1933.

Here’s his rundown of the Junior Circuit participants:

American League
SP Lefty Gomez, New York — Deceased
C Rick Ferrell, Boston — Deceased
1B Lou Gehrig, New York — Deceased
2B Charlie Gehringer, Detroit — Deceased
3B Jimmy Dykes, Chicago — Deceased
SS Joe Cronin, Washington — Deceased
LF Ben Chapman, New York — Deceased
CF Al Simmons, Chicago — Deceased
RF Babe Ruth, New York — Deceased

Thanks, Jeremy! (#smh)

However. I did let loose a chuckle from one commenter’s astute observation:

Well, I know what they would say if they were alive today…

“HELP! HELP! GET ME OUTTA THIS COFFIN!!”

More here and here.

Right Field

Brief chronicles of our sporting times.