Your HBT guide to this year's biggest All-Star Game snubs

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As with any All-Star event that has a limited number of roster spots, there were some rather unfair omissions from this year’s Midsummer Classic. 

But that’s just how it goes.  35 players are selected from the American League and 35 make it from the National League.  There’s no way to sneak a deserving player into the park, and each MLB team must have at least one representative. 

A multi-week fan vote is used to decide the starting position players on each side and the rest of the names are selected through a combination of player ballots and personal picks made by All-Star managers Charlie Manuel and Joe Girardi.

It’s not a perfect system, but a perfect system probably doesn’t exist for matters such as these.  Thus, we are left with the following 2010 All-Star Game snubs:

Guys like Joey Votto, Paul Konerko and Kevin Youkilis, who still have a shot via MLB’s Final Vote, were not included.  Full rosters can be found here.

Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins

One of the more under-appreciated players in the National League, Uggla has hit 15 home runs and collected 46 RBI in 80 games this season.  He doesn’t have the best reputation on defense, but he has a positive 1.7 UZR/150 as of July 3 and surely deserved the nod over Omar Infante, who is a utility infielder at heart, and Brandon Phillips, who has totaled just 10 homers and 27 RBI in 82 games for Cincinnati.

Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins

What does this man have to do?  Liriano has roared back onto the national baseball scene this year with a 3.32 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and 116 strikeouts over 105.2 innings.  He has dominated some of the American League’s most relentless lineups over the first half and he has held left-handed hitters to a .179/.188/.226 batting line.  The 26-year-old southpaw would be awfully useful if the NL decided to go lefty-heavy in the later innings.

Colby Rasmus, CF, Cardinals

Rasmus doesn’t have the bankroll of teammate and NL All-Star reserve Matt Holliday, but he has been miles better at the plate this season.  Through 243 at-bats, the 23-year-old is hitting .280 with 16 home runs and 40 RBI.  His .923 OPS ranks fourth-best among all MLB outfielders.  Holliday, meanwhile, has 11 home runs, 39 RBI and an .872 OPS in 300 at-bats.

Jered Weaver, SP, Angels

The 27-year-old is leading all major league pitchers in strikeouts, boasts a 2.82 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and an 8-3 record, and the All-Star Game is being held at his home park.    Weaver may be the biggest snub of them all. 

Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals

As long as the All-Star Game determines home field advantage for the World Series, it should be treated as a serious contest and not a spectacle or an exhibition.  Strasburg has proven six times now that he is already one of the top pitchers in the majors, let alone the National League.  He has 53 strikeouts in 36.2 innings, a 1.06 WHIP and a 2.45 ERA.  If Manuel and Co. want to win this thing, why leave the game’s best young arm off the roster?

Rafael Soriano, RP, Rays

Soriano has quitely put together a dominant first half down in Tampa Bay and can claim a 1.52 ERA, a 0.74 WHIP and 20 saves in 21 chances as of July 3.  He has done everything the Rays have asked and his ability to keep hitters off balance with a slick fastball-slider arsenal would be ideal for the late innings of the Midsummer Classic.

Mike Pelfrey, SP, Mets

His peripheral numbers could be better, but there is no doubt that Pelfrey has kept the Mets alive in the NL East and deserves a spot on his league’s All-Star roster.  The 26-year-old stands 10-2 with a 2.93 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and a 66/35 K/BB ratio over 104.1 frames.  He would an ideal innings eater if the game were to run late.

Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals

The impressive rookie has snapped first-year pitching records in St. Louis this season with a 2.10 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and 77 strikeouts over his first 94.1 innings.  The Cardinals surely don’t mind that he didn’t make the cut because they’re going to have to limit his workload rather soon, but Garcia is certainly deserving of recognition as one of the first half’s finest starters.

The Padres’ pitching staff

It is July 4, a time to celebrate the birth of our nation, show support for our troops and feast on massive amounts of barbecue.  It’s also time to recognize that the Padres — yes, those khaki-wearing fellows — sit atop the National League West with a 48-33 record. 

The Friars will be represented later this month only by Adrian Gonzalez, and yet it is the San Diego pitching staff that has kept this team ticking.  Mat Latos has a 2.62 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and 91 strikeouts in 16 starts.  Clayton Richard has a 2.74 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP in 16 starts.  Luke Gregerson owns one of the game’s best sliders and has twirled it for a 51/6 K/BB ratio and a 0.60 WHIP over 40.1 innings.  All three of ’em might have made the cut in another year, and under a different system of determining what it means to be an “All-Star.”

There is no need to lament the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie”

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Today in the New York Times Jay Caspian Kang writes about what he calls the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie.” About how there are few if any big baseball movies anymore. Movies which traffic in baseball-as-metaphor-for-America with Jimmy Stewart (or Kevin Costner)-types playing characters which seem to transcend time, elevate our emotions and rack up the dollars at the box office.

It’s a bit of meandering column, with just as much time spent on Kang’s seeming dissatisfaction with modern baseball and baseball telecasts as his dissatisfaction with baseball cinema, but he winds it up with this, which sums his argument up well enough:

Baseball’s cinematic vision of Middle America no longer means what it once did. The failing family enterprise and the old, forbearing white — or Negro Leagues — ballplayer now remind us of an extinct vision of the country and the growing distance between Middle America and the coasts. The attempts to update the archival, sun-kissed, Midwestern vision — whether on last year’s “Pitch,” the Fox TV show about a woman pitching in the majors, or “Million Dollar Arm,” the 2014 Disney movie in which Jon Hamm goes to India to convert cricket bowlers into pitchers — are canceled or bomb at the box office.

You won’t be surprised that I take a great deal of issue with all of this.

Mostly because it only talks about one specific kind of baseball movie being AWOL from cinemas: the broad works which appeal to the masses and which speak to both the past, present and future, often with a hazy nostalgia in which love of baseball and love of America are portrayed as one and the same.

It’s worth noting, though, that such films are extraordinarily rare. There was a brief time when such things existed and did well at the box office — the 1980s had “The Natural,” “Field of Dreams,” “Bull Durham” and “Major League” in a relatively short period of time — but that’s the exception, not the rule.

Baseball movies are almost always niche flicks. Biopics made of recently deceased stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Weird slices of life like “The Bad News Bears” or “The Sandlot.” Quirky comedies that are baseball offshoots of larger cinematic trends like “Little Big League,” which was just the latest in a series of “kids doing adult things” movies popular at the time. Or “Rookie of the Year” which is essentially baseball’s version of one of those body-switch movies that come and go. Or “Mr. Baseball” which was just a fish-out-of-water comedy like any other.

We still get those kinds of smaller baseball movies fairly often. They’re still pretty decent and still do pretty decently at the box office, even if they’re no one’s idea of a blockbuster.

“Moneyball” was done well and did well, not as a mass appeal movie, but as one of many business/Silicon Valley flicks that have popped over the past few years. “Sugar” was a great movie, but a small movie, exploring a culture about which most people aren’t aware and basically serving as a character study. “42” is just an updated (and much better) version of those old biopics of baseball stars. “Everybody Wants Some” may be the quintessential niche baseball movie in that it’s a story about characters which just happen to have a lot of baseball in their lives. “Bull Durham” was like that too, but it just came along at the right time to become a massive hit. As many have noted, baseball was more background than plot in that movie, even if the background was amazingly well done. I’d argue that most good baseball movies use baseball like that rather than put it squarely in the foreground.

There will likely always be baseball movies, but they will almost always be smaller ones, not large blockbusters or Oscar bait with an epic sweep. Most baseball movies are like baseball itself in that they lack a grand consensus. Baseball is not The National Pastime anymore — it’s just one of many forms of sports and entertainment available to the masses — so it follows that the movies which deal with it will likewise not have that massive cross-market appeal.

I think that’s a good thing. Smaller baseball movies more accurately reflect the sport’s place in the culture. To portray baseball as something larger than what it actually is opens the door to a lot of artistic and cultural dishonesty and runs the risk of creating some really bad art.

I mean, have you seen “Field of Dreams?” Bleech.

The Yankees set up “The Judge’s Chambers” cheering section for Aaron Judge

New York Yankees
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The Yankees aren’t well-known for going all-in on goofy, fan-friendly fun. While some organizations are happy to jump on new and even silly or ephemeral trends for the yuks of it, the Yankees have tended to keep things rather businesslike when it comes to promotions and things. They’ve always played the long game, assuming — not always unreasonably — that their brand is best defined by the club’s history and greatness and quiet dignity and stuff.

Aaron Judge and his breakout rookie season is changing things. His fast start has caused fans to dress up in judge’s robes and stuff, so the team is having fun with it. They’ve set up a special section called “The Judge’s Chambers,” complete with a jury box vibe:

 

Fans will be selected to sit in the special section, which is in section 104 in right field, right behind where Judge plays, and will be handed foam gavels with “All Rise” written on them. To be selected at the moment it’d help if you wear one of those judicial robes with Judge’s number 99 on the back or his jersey or an English judge-style powdered wig. Going forward, the Yankees will also use the section for groups and charity events and stuff.

Judge is on a 58-homer pace right now. It’s unlikely he’ll keep that up, but he certainly looks like the real deal. And, for the Yankees and their fans, he’s giving them the chance for some real fun.