This weekend marks the final series before Major League Baseball takes its yearly All-Star break hiatus and we’re left with no pro sports of any kind for almost 100 full hours. These are the times that try men’s souls.
Thank goodness for Netflix. Seriously.
The MLB All-Star rosters were announced this week with a couple more names to be added today through the fans’ Final Vote, as well as possible injury replacements. There are always snubs to talk about with Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun being two to ponder this year. I wonder if their past supplemental indiscretions have anything to do with the league not wanting to shine its spotlight on either one. Pay no attention to the crotchety PED players; look at all our young stars!
But neither of those exclusions really bothers me. In fact, there really weren’t any egregious snubs. I would like to see Oakland’s Scott Kazmir on the team and I think the players are being a little hard on Clayton Kershaw for not being as dominant as usual, but there aren’t any glaring names for either to replace.
One name that I did expect to see on the National League roster was Kolten Wong. The former Hawaii phenom and last year’s second runner-up in the NL Rookie of the Year voting is having a much better sophomore campaign. He’s been out the past three days after a concussion, but he enters Friday’s action hitting .282 with nine home runs, 37 RBIs and eight stolen bases. He’s been a key component for the St. Louis Cardinals, who happen to own baseball’s best record.
Wong was unable to win the fan vote, which went to Miami’s Dee Gordon. No issue there. I love Dee Gordon. He’s breaking out for the Marlins with a league-best 117 hits while already notching 30 stolen bases and becoming one of the best defensive infielders in the game. Gordon is rightfully starting Tuesday in Cincinnati, despite the Marlins’ 35-50 record.
But the players then voted in Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu as a reserve at second, which came as a bit of a surprise. LeMahieu did win the Gold Glove last season, but he’s not much of an offensive player, even playing in Colorado’s Coors Field. His .390 slugging percentage and 16 extra-base hits are far behind Wong’s .443 and 29, respectively.
That put NL manager Bruce Bochy in a spot where he needed to add one more middle infielder to his squad and he decided to keep things in his own clubhouse, selecting Giants second baseman Joe Panik. Like Wong, Panik has become one of his club’s offensive X-factors and the two have comparable numbers. Panik is hitting .306 with six homers and 30 RBIs, an identical .443 slugging percentage and almost equivalent fielding numbers. You can’t blame Bochy for grabbing his own guy, especially when five Cardinals already sit on the NL squad.
Had the players given Panik the nod, then LeMahieu probably doesn’t make the team at all, giving Wong a good chance to be recognized by Bochy.
Once Wong becomes a more consistent fielder – he has a league-high nine errors at second base – he can become a perennial All-Star. But it seems that it’s not only statisticians who are placing a greater emphasis on defense these days. The players are noticing, as well. It’s not just about who can swing the bat. If it were, Wong would be heading to Cincinnati.
David Simon can be reached at email@example.com.