The Miami Marlins spent a pretty penny this offseason, signing free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to help generate interest in the team and its new stadium. With several strong pieces in place before these lucrative deals were doled out, the Marlins figured to vie for playoff contention. Best laid plans haven’t come to fruition, as at 41-44, the Marlins have been very disappointing. It’s a perfect metaphor of their season that they won’t be represented at this week’s all-star game.
Giancarlo Stanton was initially tabbed as the only Marlins all-star, and his selection was deserving. Stanton has a .392 wOBA on top of solid fielding marks and is currently on pace to finish with 37 home runs and 5.7 WAR, both clear career bests. Though he was the only player chosen from his team, this was not a token selection by Tony La Russa. Stanton ranks 14th in the National League in WAR, and would certainly stands out as someone wanted for a team in a game that determines home field advantage in the World Series.
But, once again, the uncertainty surrounding the true purpose of the all-star game is rearing its ugly head. Stanton got hurt, was removed from both the home run derby and the game itself, and La Russa and MLB opted against adding another Marlins player. From the standpoint of putting the best product on the field in order to win an important game, the decision makes some sense. However, the game itself hasn’t changed all that much after the home field stipulation was added and under the current rules it seems strange not to add a replacement.
The decision to award home field advantage based on the results of this exhibition game was interesting, to say the least. Not because of the decision itself, but because it was the only change to a game that otherwise meant nothing.
The rules precluded putting the best team on the field, and that doesn’t make any sense when the outcome factors this heavily in who wins the World Series. The sport was essentially trying to have its cake and eat it, too, by adding the ‘this time it counts’ stipulation, but without modifying any other aspect of the game.
Adding the home field advantage factor likely reduced the number of true impact players who exaggerated aches and pains in order to rest up or spend time with their families — which are perfectly understandable reasons for backing out of the festivities. But it didn’t solve the contradiction of having the game count for so much with so little emphasis on actually picking the best 25 players.
So what we have is a game with a very important outcome whose rosters likely leave out players more likely to impact the final score, but who are left out due to the player selection requirements. However, given that the rules still require each team to have a representative, it seems odd that La Russa and others with decision-making powers wouldn’t select another Marlins player. What we’ll end up with is a game that counts, with each team except one represented, because, well… there actually hasn’t been a tangible reason given.
La Russa probably felt that the roster is fine as is, and that selecting another Marlins player would be an exercise for the sake of itself. That there are several more deserving players than Josh Johnson — the likeliest replacement Marlin — and that selecting him just because the Marlins need another player flies in the face of what the game has grown to represent. It seems more like making a statement about the game than actually managing in the best interests of the league. Forgive the cliche, but it’s possible that many Marlins fans won’t tune in.
There were other ways this could have been handled. La Russa could have selected Johnson, or Anibal Sanchez, and simply saved them in the pitcher-who-is-saved-for-extra-innings role. That way the Marlins have a representative, but the player — who La Russa didn’t want in the first place — has a far lower likelihood of ever impacting the game. That solution would have benefited both sides.
The Marlins are already going to suffer now that Stanton is going to miss 4-6 weeks while recovering from knee surgery. They shouldn’t be further penalized in a game that really makes little sense by not having a replacement representative.