The All-Star Game rosters have been unveiled

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Via MLB’s official Twitter, here are the starting position players for the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field:

Nothing too shocking on the National League side of things. In a more Sabermetrically-inclined universe, Matt Carpenter could have gotten the nod over Brandon Phillips. If Troy Tulowitzki isn’t healthy enough to return, you’ll see either Jean Segura or Everth Cabrera at shortstop. “CarGo” refers to Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, not Carlos Gomez of the Brewers. Gomez probably should have gotten the nod over Bryce Harper given the playing time disparity. (By the way, Harper’s 201 PA total is closer to that of Yasiel Puig — 127 — than Gomez’s 325.)

In the American League, one could make a solid numbers-based case for Jason Kipnis over both Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia. Jhonny Peralta has been markedly better than J.J. Hardy but has half the home run total. Adam Jones could have been a reserve in favor of someone like Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury.

The pitchers:

Shocking not to see Stephen Strasburg, 4-6 but with a 2.24 ERA, not make it. Adam Wainwright won’t pitch in the All-Star Game, so it seems pretty open-and-shut that Matt Harvey gets the nod to start the game in his team’s stadium. With Jason Kipnis on the roster, the “one player from each team” rule was satisfied, making it odd that Justin Masterson earned a spot while Royals hurler Ervin Santana was left off. But other than that, there aren’t any huge omissions as far as AL pitchers go. And the reserves:

Allen Craig getting the last first base roster spot for the NL over Freddie Freeman is sure to cause some debate. In a surprisingly stacked year at the position, Ian Desmond has been the fourth-best shortstop in the NL, which may explain why he didn’t make the cut. Where is Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo and his .417 on-base percentage?

Josh Donaldson is the biggest AL omission that jumps out at you. The Athletics third baseman has a .903 OPS, fourth-best among all MLB third basemen and third-best in the American League behind Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria. Longoria, by the way, also not an All-Star.

The Final Vote candidates:

We may see Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game, after all. The Cuban, setting the baseball world on fire, has a 1.155 OPS through his first 30 Major League games. All five of the AL candidates are pitchers, and relievers at that. Would that we could submit two Final Votes for NL players and zero for the AL in this case.

Something needs to change to avoid future incidents like Machado-vs.-Welke

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced that Padres third baseman Manny Machado was suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for “aggressively arguing” and making contact with home plate umpire Bill Welke after a controversial strike three call in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game against the Rockies in Colorado. The clip of the incident is below, showing that Welke’s call was poor. Machado’s behavior was also poor, as he indeed made contact — inadvertently or not — with Welke and repeatedly swore at him. Machado also threw his bat, though it was not in anyone’s direction and no one was put in harm’s way.

Machado chose to appeal his suspension, as is his right. While that matter is in the process of being resolved, the Major League Umpires Association put out a lengthy statement on Facebook and a shorter but hashtag-laden post on Twitter. The statements were problematic for a number of reasons, chiefest being that the union is publicly commenting on an ongoing matter. MLB can keep Machado’s suspension at one game, which seems likely, or it can reduce his suspension to zero games. The league can also choose to reduce or remove the fine as well. Once the matter is resolved, the MLBUA should feel free to comment publicly on the matter.

MLBUA’s statement was also poorly proofread, hyperbolic, and creates a very legitimate argument for bias against Machado and/or the Padres going forward. The MLBUA described Machado as “violently” throwing his bat “with no regard to anyone’s safety.” It continued, “It is NOT okay to throw a temper tantrum and physically touch someone of authority, just because you don’t agree.”

MLBUA then moralized, asking, “What does this teach the MLB’s immense and ongoing influential youth movement trying to attract young fans to the game? Major League Baseball has to always lead by example in all cases of violent behavior, on and off the field.” It closed out, saying that the union was “extraordinarily disappointed” in MLB’s “inaction.”

Among the hashtags MLBUA used on Twitter were “#TemperTantrum,” “#RepeatOffender,” and “#Nonsense.”

Major League Baseball then released a statement on Tuesday night, saying, “…we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association.” The league added, “We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”

Whoever put out the message on behalf of the MLBUA should have asked themselves, “What is my purpose here and for whom am I posting this?” The entire purpose of a trade union is to create a cohesive unit, establishing bargaining power on behalf of labor versus capital. So, MLBUA is not writing this for fans, for players, or for MLB executives; it is publicly commenting for umpires. An ancillary benefit might be to engender public support for umpires vis-a-vis Welke.

It must then ask itself if the statement creates solidarity among umpires. And I think that’s a solid no. Machado is not the first player and will not be the last to make contact with an umpire and to throw a “temper tantrum” of that magnitude. So why single Machado out and die on this hill today? I would be shocked if more than a handful of umpires outside of Welke and his closest confidantes appreciated the MLBUA reacting the way it did. It doesn’t help them achieve any union-specific goals and might actually hurt them. Repeatedly referring to Machado’s actions as a “temper tantrum” and “nonsense,” and calling him a “repeat offender” is unprofessional. It’s something an Internet commenter would write in the heat of the moment, not the representative of a trade union in one of the most profitable industries in the country. Furthermore, in singling out Machado, Machado himself as well as his teammates have a legitimate reason to believe Welke and his crew might be biased against them not just for the remainder of the season but for the foreseeable future.

On a more pedantic note, the MLBUA wrote that it is not okay for players to act the way Machado did against “someone of authority.” It’s not the power that should shield umpires from workplace violence; it’s their humanity. Machado should no more or less scream and yell at an umpire than he should anyone else in any walk of life. However you rank umpires, coaches, front office executives, teammates, opponents, fans, etc. — they should all be treated equally.

All of this being said, there was one part of MLBUA’s statement that rang true. As mentioned, Welke did suffer violence in the workplace. I disagree with MLB that the comparison was inappropriate. There is nuance to what constitutes “workplace violence.” Is it a mass shooting? Of course not. But in no other employment setting would it be appropriate for one person to scream, curse, and throw items across the room during a disagreement. The union correctly wrote, “Physical contact simply cannot be tolerated.” The crux of all of this is that Major League Baseball doesn’t discourage altercations between umpires and players/coaches. Things have gotten better since the implementation of instant replay, but some instances — especially ball/strike judgment — can turn into very heated altercations.

MLB needs a flat rule instructing players and coaches not to argue with umpires. The team of the offending person(s) would incur an in-game penalty as well as a potential fine and suspension. In exchange for this loss of power on the part of players and coaches, the umpires should be subject to actual oversight. As it stands, umpires are almost never punished in any way for any kind of behavior towards players and coaches, nor are they often punished for poor results in terms of correct calls made. The umpires already have the advantage with their authority; their lack of oversight puts that advantage on steroids, which is why there’s often so much frustration. Umpires instigate confrontations a non-negligible amount of the time. If they felt like they would actually be held accountable for it, they might be much more reluctant to act, for example, the way Ron Kulpa did towards the Astros in early April.

MLBUA helped gain that power imbalance for its members, so it isn’t likely to give it up very easily. I don’t see my utopian dream coming to fruition anytime soon. But that’s the crux of every umpire-involved confrontation: authority. Umpires and players/coaches need to be on a level playing field in that regard, and the rules need to be crystal clear on what kind of behavior is allowed from both sides. Until that happens, we’ll be seeing a Machado-vs.-Welke incident once or twice every year ad infinitum.