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“To me, it’s an absolute joke. It’s really kind of stupid if you ask me,” Papelbon said on MLB Network Radio, as he had trouble even saying Puig’s name correctly. “The guy’s got a month, I don’t even think he’s got a month in the big leagues, and just comparing him to this and that, and saying he’s going to make the all-star team, that’s a joke to me. It’s just really what happens in baseball when… to me it really does an injustice to the veteran players that have been in the game for eight, nine, ten plus years, and it kind of does them an injustice because they’ve worked so hard to stay there.”
I can completely understand and appreciate a player’s perspective on this. Many players go their entire careers without ever making it onto an All-Star roster. Others come close, but are looked over in favor of other players (like Puig, perhaps). Others routinely make the All-Star team but put in a lot of work to maintain the level of skill necessary to do that.
The All-Star Game, however, is famously about the fans. Everything about it, from the All-Star balloting, to the live selection show on TV, to the Home Run Derby, to the Futures Game and Celebrity Softball Game, to the 30-minute pre-All-Star Game festivities — none of it is for the players, but for the fans. In the past, the All-Star Game was designed to give fans of a team in one league to see the best players the other league has to offer, since they played so rarely. Now, with interleague play, MLB.tv, and a plethora of channels showing games and highlights, fans are well versed when it comes to players on other rosters, but the interest in the All-Star Game remains.
Ultimately, the only thing that should matter is “what do the fans want?” Would they rather see Cuban superstar Yasiel Puig, or Hunter Pence? Which player is more likely to make a positive impression on fans and leave them coming back for more — Puig, or Allen Craig? Which player can bring in fans of an underserved demographic — Puig, or Jay Bruce?
With various changes to the selection process in recent years, Major League Baseball has tried to merge the two aspects of the All-Star Game, popularity, and merit. Puig represents a rare and interesting case that has yet to be properly addressed. Perhaps an explicit playing time qualification will be added to the rules in future years, but for now, Puig satisfies the criteria based on popularity and merit and as such should end up on the National League All-Star roster, whether Papelbon likes it or not.