What debate? Of course Strasburg belongs in the All-Star Game

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Lots of people have spent a lot of time in the past few days debating whether or not Stephen Strasburg should be on the All-Star team.  I’m having a hard time getting my brain around the “no” side of the debate.

The way I see it, the All-Star Game is either (a) a pitched competition of the best players in the game that determines home field advantage in the World Series; or (b) it’s an exhibition designed to showcase the stars and thrill the fans who get to see all of baseball’s brightest lights on one stage on one night.  No matter which of those philosophies you subscribe to, Strasburg belongs, does he not?

For those who believe that the teams absolutely need to play to win, can anyone honestly tell me that there are 13 pitchers National League partisans would rather have throw one or two innings?  Ubaldo, Halladay, Josh Johnson, Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright, Mike Pelfrey, and a handful of relievers have an argument, I guess, but if you don’t put Strasburg in your top 13 most dominant NL pitchers this year, you’re crazy. Put differently, if I needed to pick one dude to strike someone out in order to save my children, I’d pick Strasburg for the job and so would you, and that has to count for something.

Likewise, if you believe the All-Star Game to be a mere exhibition, how can you deny him? What is more worthy of exhibition than Strasburg’s array of pitches? He has spurred ticket sales and TV ratings all year. He’s made guys on other teams drop what they’re doing in the clubhouse just to watch him pitch. I can’t imagine a single player in the National League who has generated more interest than Strasburg has this year. He’s practically designed to be at the center of a three-ring circus.

So what’s the cogent argument against his inclusion? That he hasn’t been up all season? Like that’s his fault? Even if you care about that — which I really don’t — I think he’s done enough in five starts alone to qualify for the “he had a great first half” argument, don’t you?

Besides: the Nats have to have someone in the game. Who you gonna send in his place? Matt Capps?

Dusty Baker drops truth bombs

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Dusty Baker was fired last offseason despite leading the Nationals to 95 and 97-win seasons. This was not new for him. Cincinnati let him go after taking a miserable Reds team to back-to-back 90+ win seasons — three in the space of four years — and making it to the playoffs in his final two seasons. In both cases the team that let him go cratered as soon as he left. There are likely reasons that have nothing to do with Dusty Baker for that, but it seems like more than mere coincidence too.

I say that because every time someone gets to Dusty Baker for an interview, he drops some major truth bombs that make you wonder why anyone wouldn’t want him in charge. Sure, like any manager he has his faults and blind spots — more so in his distant past than in his recent past, I should not — but the guy is smart, has more experience than anyone going and is almost universally loved by his players.

Recently he sat down with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic to talk about life, baseball and everything, and once again the truth bombs were dropping. About the state of front offices today. About the different way black and white ex-managers and ex-players are treated. About what seems to be collusion on the free agent market. And, of course, about the state of the 2018 Nationals, who are likely to miss the playoffs despite being, more or less, the same team he led to those 97 wins last year. It’s an absolute must-read on any of those topics, but taken together it’s a “block off some time this afternoon and enjoy the hell out of it” read.

Two of my favorite passages follow. The first one is a great general point in life: always beware of people who spend more time telling you why they are successful than actually, you know, being successful.

In Cincinnati, no matter what I did or what we did — we brought them from the bottom — they were all over me, all the time, no matter what. If we won, it wasn’t winning the right way. They were like, “I don’t understand this mode of thinking.” Well, I don’t want you to understand my mode of thinking. That’s how I can beat you.

The second one is just delicious for what he does not say:

Rosenthal: Bryce Harper struggled for two-plus months. He didn’t struggle for two-plus months when you had him…

Baker: I know.

Based on the tone of the rest of the interview, in which Baker does not hesitate to say exactly what he thinks, it’s abundantly clear that he believes the Nats have messed Harper up somehow and that it wouldn’t have happened under him.

Like I said, though: there is a TON of great stuff in here. From a guy who, if you’ve listened to him talk when he does not give a crap about what people may say about him, has time and again revealed himself to  be one of the most interesting baseball figures of the past several decades.