16 July 2013

A's Weekly* Digest: All-Star Game Edition

By Joe Speaker
Los Angeles, CA

The All-Star Game used to be one of my favorite things in the world. Having grown up before the advent of widespread cable television, the Midsummer Classic was frequently the one chance I got to see great players on the tube. I mean, even the local team was only on TV 15-20 times a year. There was the aspect of tradition, as well, stories of past games and heroics. Grover Cleveland Alexander, Reggie Jackson, Pete Rose/Ray Fosse.

The introductions were always the best, a parade of square jawed guys tipping their caps. I'm a sucker for pomp. The Game was a happening and didn't need home run derbies* or skills competitions (remember the skills competition? I was actually at that event in 1987--when the game was in Oakland--drunk on vodka in the bleachers). It meant a lot to me. I blew a gasket when AL manager Dick Howser didn't put Jose Canseco in the game in '86. A few years later, a couple girls showed up at my place unannounced while the game was on and my roommates and I screamed at them for having the bad sense to show up during the contest.

*Shout out to my favorite Cuban player with a sub-.300 OBP for putting on a show last night

Now, the game doesn't carry the same weight it once did. I get to see these players all the time via my Extra Innings package. There's interleague play so the AL v. NL aspect is diminished. And the game starts before I get home from work, so I don't even get to see the pomp (and the always-entertaining boos from the crowd; in that 1987 game the A's fans booed Jay Howell, who happened to be the team's closer at the time). It no longer appeals to me in the way it once did, no longer carries the weight of importance.

So you can imagine how surprised I was when I got totally bent out of shape when Grant Balfour, Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson were snubbed for this year's game. I mean, who gives a crap? There are always bad decisions, bad fan voting and, let's be honest, managers who don't like certain players or teams (see: Bochy not starting Kershaw tonight). A viable case can be made for the three above (and Balfour was added later to the team), but Donaldson has the strongest argument.

He's seventh in the AL in OPS and WAR. While he has the misfortune of playing a position that is absolutely stacked (Cabrera and Machado certainly deserving of their selections), his numbers and the fact he's been the best player on a first place team that has been wrecking baseball for more than a year now, should have merited a selection.

Still, why did I care? And the answer is simple as this:

The 2013 Oakland Athletics (and the 2012 version) have a bond with their fans that I can not recall ever seeing in all my years of rooting. Social media has fostered that relationship and the front office has done a great job of recognizing the efforts of the fans. So there is a closeness. I was pissed about Donaldson being passed over. For him. I was mad for him. I summoned all my righteous indignation because he and I once conversed on Twitter. We're in this together, see?

So...damn it!

For his part, Donaldson has been gracious in interviews. On Sunday, after driving in all three runs of a 3-2 extra inning victory over the Red Sox, he reiterated his stance: that he'd have loved to have been picked, it would have been an honor, but that he understands how difficult it is.

That's bullshit. He should have been on the team. But fine. It's just an exhibition. During the real games, he's been dominant. When we need him, he'll step up. He also said he's probably going to spend the break playing a couple rounds at Pebble Beach.

On second thought, I don't feel bad for him at all.

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