Monday, July 5, 2010

When a new rule is a bad rule

The 2010 MLB All-Star teams were announced on Sunday, and, as expected, some of the usual suspects (i.e. Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, etc.) were named to their respective teams. The defending World champion Yankees have 6 players, including 2 starters (Jeter & Robinson Cano), which was to be expected with manager Joe Girardi leading the AL team. The Mets, though, have just 2 (David Wright & Jose Reyes), but should have at least one more.

A new rule instituted for this season may screw the Mets in the end. Their best pitcher, Mike Pelfrey, going for his 11th win tonight vs. Cincinnati, is not on the team. His next scheduled start is Saturday, so there's a good chance that he'd still make the team as an injury replacement. However, you know there are some Mets fans that might point at Philadelpia manager Charlie Manuel and say he intentionally left Pelfrey out of the mix. However, as the New York Daily News reports this morning, Manuel was a little bit confused over the new rule, and mistakenly thought Pelfrey would next pitch on Sunday. The rule is that a pitcher selected to the All-Star team becomes ineligible to pitch in the game if he pitches the Sunday before the game. That doesn't mean that said hurler couldn't make the trip. That same confusion prevented San Diego's Mat Latos from being named to the team, for another example.

Manuel is also drawing confused looks from the press for selecting Atlanta utility player Omar Infante as a reserve. Another new rule allows for one player to be reinserted into the game in an emergency late in the game (i.e. in extra innings), and the Braves already had one utilityman on the All-Star roster, with Martin Prado, having a breakout season, tapped to replaced fan-appointed starter Chase Utley of Philadelphia at second base. Infante earned Manuel's respect with a key base hit earlier this season vs. the Phillies, such that Manuel, who knows Infante from when both were in the American League, decided to reward Infante with a spot on the All-Star team that otherwise might go to a more recognizable, more deserving player.

MLB's final five ballots for both teams aren't doing any favors, either. Why is Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher getting consideration? Do the Bombers need another All-Star? Of course not. The Mets don't get any love, as the most likely position player who'd fit on the ballot, outfielder Angel Pagan, was snubbed. Pagan has done yeoman's work, holding down center field while the Mets wait for Carlos Beltran to come off the disabled list, and, like Prado, is having a breakout season.

You can end the debate over Washington rookie Stephen Strasburg making the team. Barring any late injuries, it ain't gonna happen. An apparent injury to Milwaukee's Yovanni Gallardo on Sunday opens the door for someone like Pelfrey or another Nationals pitcher, Livan Hernandez, but not Strasburg, who didn't look all that dominant in five innings on Saturday against the Mets. However, ESPN's Karl Ravech, during Baseball Tonight, made it seem like Strasburg had the inside track. As the Daily News' Bob Raissman asserted on Sunday, and as I wrote previously, Strasburg's inclusion is strictly for the benefit of MLB and its television partners, ignoring the risk of burning out the kid too soon. After 6 starts, Strasburg is 2-2, and has gotten 0 offensive support in his last three games. The Nats bailed him out after he was out of the game on Saturday.

I firmly believe that now isn't the time for Strasburg to be an All-Star. Those in the media that believe otherwise are just feeding the beast (MLB hype). Meanwhile, it is the perception of disrespect, with just 2 All-Stars when they could've had more, that might fuel the Mets in the 2nd half. If I'm Manuel, I have reason to worry. The heat will be intense if the AL wins again next week, even more so if the Phillies can't catch the Braves or even the Mets for a playoff spot. The cynics in New York will have a field day, I'm sure, but, as the saying goes, that's why they play the games.

Meanwhile, Girardi has a way to circumvent the pitchers' rule. CC Sabathia, one of two starting pitchers selected for the All-Stars, is on turn to pitch Sunday, which would knock him out of the game, and open the door for teammate Andy Pettite. But would MLB allow that? I'm not sure. The rule doesn't exclude relievers from the game, so Mariano Rivera is safe (naturally). We'll just see how it all plays out in 8 days.

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