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Posnanski: baseball is trapped by its own history

Jul 8, 2013, 5:12 PM EST

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Getty Images

Joe Posnanski argues for Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game. You may agree with that or you may disagree, but it’s hard to disagree with Joe’s diagnosis of a problem baseball has which leads to “arguments” like Puig or no Puig:

. . . this is the history that still traps baseball. Should the season really be 162 games long? Probably not. But it’s tradition. Should we still be judging starting pitchers by “wins” when they average – AVERAGE – fewer than six innings per start? Probably not. But it’s tradition. Heck, even the smallest and most obvious changes – like finally outlawing the ridiculous fake to third throw to first play – rattles the cages of the game.

And so the All-Star Game – which used to matter when America was a different place – clings to the traditions of another time.

Baseball’s small-c conservatism is often an asset. The game is skeptical of change and slow to adopt it.  This is good inasmuch as it keeps baseball, most of the time anyway, from lurching from one fad to the next, changing or losing that which draws so many people to it in the first place.

But there’s a difference between skepticism of change and a reflexive, reactionary abhorrence of the new. I feel like a lot of the people who don’t want to see a guy like Yasiel Puig in the All-Star Game are operating like that. Not necessarily because they don’t like Puig — indeed, I’ve not heard anyone couch their opposition to Puig as some “I don’t like him” thing. Rather, it’s a reaction to the All-Star Game truly being an exhibition and spectacle. It has long been this, yes, but people have always treated it like it mattered more and this Puig resistance is a hangover of that.

Once you let go of the idea that the game truly matters — something which would be aided by Major League Baseball getting rid of the home field advantage in the World Series aspect of it — then there is no real basis for resisting Puig. Or Bryce Harper last year. Or any other player who makes a splash in the future.

  1. jtpercell - Jul 8, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    I don’t like Puig because he plays for the Trolleydodgers.

    • pauleee - Jul 8, 2013 at 5:47 PM

      Seconded!!!

      Snarkiness aside, did anyone catch the game against SF in which he was 0 – 4 with 4 Ks? On the 3rd at bat he struckout on a high fastball, after getting a steady dose of breaking balls. As he was striking out, he GLARED (yes, with a capital G) at Baumgardner. As they say, if looks could kill… It occurred to me, though I hope it’s not true, but he might be one of those hot-heads. When things are going good, everything is cool. But if not, we could see another Milton Bradley.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:01 PM

        You get great reception with that tin foil hat.

      • pauleee - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:08 PM

        Dude, you saw the game. Tell me I’m incorrect (about the glare). I might be making more out of it then there is, but he was pissed, and focused it at the pitcher. Let’s see how hunky-dory things are when everyone learns not to throw heat at him.

      • dan1111 - Jul 9, 2013 at 3:04 AM

        Who cares if you are right about the glare? Comparing him to Milton Bradley on the basis of a facial expression is unfair and not warranted.

      • anxovies - Jul 9, 2013 at 7:01 AM

        So, he’s supposed to be happy about it?

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 9, 2013 at 7:39 AM

        Sorry, Pauleee…. you can not read other people’s minds. The Glare, as you refer to it, could be anything. Like, Gee that was a great pitch. Or, Where should my focal point be? But you decide that The Glare is an indication that Yasiel Puig is going to beat his wife one day. Fuck you.

      • dan1111 - Jul 9, 2013 at 9:01 AM

        Incidentally, The Glare would be a great nickname for a ball player. Maybe not Puig, but somebody.

  2. historiophiliac - Jul 8, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Why do I read these posts?

    • raysfan1 - Jul 8, 2013 at 6:01 PM

      Because it beats working?

    • indaburg - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:36 PM

      Joe Posnanski is bait for me. And what raysfan1said. Why not.

      • historiophiliac - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:14 PM

        History.

      • indaburg - Jul 8, 2013 at 9:08 PM

        That too.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 9, 2013 at 7:40 AM

        I totally thought that was a rhetorical question.

      • indaburg - Jul 9, 2013 at 9:11 AM

        Bah, no such thing!

  3. bmoreravens1012013 - Jul 8, 2013 at 6:01 PM

    I’m a 35 year old fan and Im not sold on him yet. He is the media darling more so than the fans’. It’s like LeBron n how they try to throw him down our collective thoughts, and act as if fans want said player. It’s b.s. and I hope he doesn’t go until he proves it more. How many tines have hitters have gotten hot as white light then fall exponentially right after they get cold…… the answer is— too many times.

    • macjacmccoy - Jul 8, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      Fukodome ring any bells?

      • laserrocketarm31 - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:07 PM

        Fukudome was kind of hot his first season, but did not have the actual production numbers of Puig. He got off to nowhere near as great of a start.

    • deadeyedesign23 - Jul 9, 2013 at 8:34 AM

      ” It’s like LeBron n how they try to throw him down our collective thoughts, and act as if fans want said player.”

      Well …

      1. LeBron has the best selling jersey in the NBA so fans DO want said player and

      2. If Puig turns into baseballs LeBron James it would mean he’s more than a media darling and the best player in the last two decades.

  4. macjacmccoy - Jul 8, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    Its not about the game no one cares about the game. Its about the honor of being named an all-star. Like you pointed out its a different time and it doesnt mean as much as it use to, but you would make it mean even less by naming someone an All-Star after only 30 games. Honestly, is what he has done in those 30 games really that spectacular? Throughout the year DOZEN’s of players go through 30 game stretches where they hit 400+ with less then 10 HR. Its not out of the ordinary. Utley is hitting around 350 with 4 HR since coming off the DL 15 games ago. Does he belong in the ALL Star game too? Of course not because its not that hard for a major leaguer to do that in 15 games or 30 games for that matter.

    That’s why he doesnt belong in the All Star game because he hasnt really done anything that out of the ordinary to deserve special treatment. Which is what you would be giving him if you named him an All-Star after only 30 games. And If were going to start doing that just because a guys popular right now we might as well just call it the Pro Bowl and get it over with.

    • bigdodgerblue - Jul 9, 2013 at 4:33 AM

      He hasn’t done anything that out of the ordinary or spectacular? Really? Where have you been living? Or watching?
      He made his debut in June and in 26 games completely wrecked the opposition. He led the Majors with a .436 (44-for-101) batting average, posted a .467 OBP and a .713 slugging percentage while smacking seven home runs. His 44 hits ranked as the second-most all-time for a player in their debut calendar month, four behind Joe DiMaggio’s 48 hits in May 1936. He also, quite obviously, led all rookies in every category that mattered, garnering NL Rookie of the Month honors and NL player of the month too! Oh and by the way Joe D made the all stars his rookie year too.

      The problem is what the all star game should be AND what it is….

      1st A player from every team???? Really?? The best 34 from each league is what it should be.
      2nd.. It shouldn’t be a veterans game of some poor bastard’s that have played 9-10 years and weren’t picked as MVP or all star in the past so we’ll do it now.
      3rd.. The All-star game DOES mean something now…HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE FOR WS..AND THAT MATTERS.
      4th. As I said earlier best 34 players on ea. side should put on the uniform to win. And each manager should manage the game to win. And make their picks based on who can best help them win. WHO PLAY’S TO LOSE???
      5TH… AND PUIG IS THE HOTTEST HITTER IN MLB RIGHT NOW …..Based on that ALONE they should take him, not to mention he is arguably the most exciting player to watch right now. And he plays the game the way it should be played BALLS OUT, PETE ROSE style.

  5. jayscarpa - Jul 8, 2013 at 6:44 PM

    Premise is wrong. They play 162 games for the money; I’d be surprised if more than half of the Cy Young winners in the last 10 years led the league in wins; nobody I know or read about gave a damn about the fake to third throw to first play rule change.

    • rmcd13 - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:26 PM

      Exactly half (10 of 20) of the Cy Young winners of the last 10 years led the league in wins.

    • deepstblu - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:14 PM

      They play 162 games because the players won’t let the season go longer and neither the players nor the owners will give up revenue by cutting it back.

    • laserrocketarm31 - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:10 PM

      That is exactly what I logged in to say. While there is a strong connection to tradition in baseball, that is not why they play 162 games. They play 162 games because it makes everyone the most money. There is a reason that if you can make it in both the NFL and the MLB, you pick baseball. I agree with everything else the article says, but when searching for an explanation as to why people do something, the first place you should look is their financial interest. Tradition, while important, is way down on the list.

    • dan1111 - Jul 9, 2013 at 2:09 AM

      I agree that he seriously oversells the tradition argument. In recent years, baseball has added a second wildcard, moved the Astros to the American league (introducing interleague play throughout the season), and added limited instant replay. All of these are bigger deals than an all star selection or fake-to-third-throw-to-first.

      To the extent that all star selections matter, the debate about Puig seems entirely reasonable and not driven by irrational “tradition”. Lots of guys put up impressive stats in small sample sizes. How should that be weighed against long-term performance?

      • dan1111 - Jul 9, 2013 at 5:01 AM

        Jose Iglesias is hitting .395/.446/.507 in more plate appearances than Puig. He had a .622 OPS in the minors.

  6. DelawarePhilliesFan - Jul 8, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    No basis for opposing Harper last year??? How about 8 HR’s and 25 RBI’s does not make one an “All Star”???

  7. mudhead123 - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:05 PM

    Craig feels like the more he writes about him he can convince people he deserves a spot

  8. Anoesis - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    As a Dodgers fan I’d rather he not go. I’d rather he not get it into his head that he’s some big stinkin’ deal after a month in the bigs. I’d rather he get a break and concentrate on the second half. I’d rather he not take a chance on injury in a meaningless game. And if he goes anyway I’d rather he hit a home run and throw somebody out at the plate from the wall in right.

  9. tbutler704 - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:23 PM

    Bud Selig is retarded.

  10. brewcrewfan54 - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:31 PM

    I don’t care who wins the All Star game. I also don’t think baseball should do things just because that’s the way they’ve always done it. I don’t think Puig should be an All Star because I don’t think he’s earned the reward yet. Yes he’s played great but being an All Star is an honor most players would like to achieve at least once in their careers. To put up All Star caliber numbers for 3 months and have to sit home because some guy caught the worlds attention by getting hot for a month is a disservice to the other player. Not to mention it likely takes a bonus check out of his pocket.

    • anxovies - Jul 9, 2013 at 7:08 AM

      Jeter got around a million votes this year and people are worried about the integrity of the All-Star Game? Give the vote back to the players and managers and make it a true honor to be named.

      • dan1111 - Jul 9, 2013 at 7:41 AM

        The gold glove awards prove that allowing players and managers to vote doesn’t necessarily produce less dumb results.

        I am fine with fans voting. The results are imperfect, but I don’t see a better alternative.

  11. tbutler704 - Jul 8, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    I just voted 30 times for Frederick Freeman from the Braves. He’s Canadian-American, not Cuban.

  12. baseballbarrister - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    I don’t oppose Puig playing in the all-star game because of tradition, I oppose it because I think there are more deserving players.

  13. Delia E. - Jul 9, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    So the fact that he’s only played a month and players like Freddie Freeman, Hunter Pence and A-Gon who have been playing half the year means nothing? If he makes it because of the “popularity vote” then I am boycotting the ASG.

    • abaird2012 - Jul 9, 2013 at 9:41 AM

      Knock yourself out. Nobody will miss you.

    • dan1111 - Jul 9, 2013 at 10:09 AM

      Philosophical question: is it really possible to “boycott” the All Star Game, or are you just not watching it?

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