July 3, 2011

C.J. over CC moot point everywhere except New York

Given the constraints, Ron Washington did a fair and shining All-Star job.

ARLINGTON -- Bare minutes after Sunday morning's All-Star announcements, the Yankee-blinded twits were carpet-bombing the Twitter universe.

How could anyone, they wanted to know, pick an All-Star team without the great CC Sabathia?

Ron Washington soon answered the question for them:

"C.J. is very deserving," Washington said, beginning a litany for the Texas Rangers' C.J. Wilson that he would repeat often Sunday.

"He's having an All-Star year. He did pitch for us in the World Series and was a big part of us getting there. More than anything else, though, I wanted to make sure I had some good left-handers in that bullpen.

"I just have to keep saying it: He deserved to be on the All-Star team."

Let me suggest, though, a keener, cattier answer:

If New York fans wanted to see Sabathia and a field full of their pinstriped idols at this year's All-Star Game, the Yankees should have won the American League pennant last season. And then we'd all be gathered on the Internet this week, complaining about the job that Joe Girardi did in filling out the AL roster.

By and large, however, Washington did a fair and shining job, given the constraints that the managers were under. And there's the problem.

Most of the fans, pundits and David Wells -- who woke him up? -- don't seem to understand the current All-Star selection process. Wells, whose old Yankee pinstripes were clearly showing, displayed as much during the TBS network's oblivious announcement show by grilling Washington over the Sabathia omission.

Washington and NL manager Bruce Bochy were not the ones who picked the backups and most of the pitching staffs. As per the rules, by the time the two managers were handed pencils and told to fill out the rest of their rosters, Wash was allowed only three spots and Bochy four.

Washington had to make sure that each AL team was represented, and so he used his personal selections to add three pitchers -- Wilson, the Rays' David Price and the Tigers' Jose Valverde.

What Washington also knew was that Sabathia barely missed being named to the team via the players' voting and, thus, will probably be added. All the complaining, therefore -- and CC's sniffing that he plans to have other plans on All-Star night -- are much ado about nothing.

What the starting rosters showed, meanwhile, is that despite all exit poll projections, the fans did a solid job of selecting the game's 17 starters (nine for the AL, eight for the National League). In recent years, it seems, as long as the periodic voting updates have acknowledged the worthy candidates, the fans' final announced choices have shown an uncanny ability to get it right.

Hmm. Who counts these votes?

No, wait. It doesn't matter.

There was something equitable and proper when Detroit's Alex Avila overtook the Yankees' Russell Martin in the vote for AL starting catcher. Avila deserves it.

And while some will take issue with the fans selecting Derek Jeter to start for the AL at shortstop, I can't argue. Jeter is the most popular player on baseball's most popular team.

The All-Star Game is, after all, still an exhibition game, despite the World Series home-field advantage gimmick that commissioner Bud Selig has attached to it. The fans' voting, in turn, reflects the popularity-contest nature of the game.

Which is probably how the Rangers' Josh Hamilton was voted as one of the AL's outfield starters, despite missing 30 games. Hamilton's appeal and back story continue to transcend even team loyalties.

Washington took his assigned task seriously. He has nothing to apologize for, especially for picking his own worthiest pitcher over a guy who will likely be named as a replacement, anyway.

Grumbling about All-Star selections, I suspect, has been a baseball tradition as far back as 1957, when Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot boxes and voted in seven Redlegs.

But to argue is like complaining about the MTV or Golden Globe awards.

If CC wants to miss the red carpet, the All-Star Game will go on and the stars will shine just as brightly.

As the AL manager said Sunday, they're All-Stars, and they deserve it.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7760

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