The Tao of Garry Templeton
I don't know about you, but I can't believe Overlooked Player Having a Strong First-Half wasn't picked to be on this year's All-Star Team. It's an outrage that Aging Superstar Posting Less-Than-Stellar Numbers took a roster spot that could have gone to someone like Stalwart Performer on Small Market Club or even Promising Rookie Off to a Hot Start. Why, it's like the All-Star Game is nothing more than a damn popularity contest.
Chances are you opened up your sports section this morning or turned on ESPN or surfed over to your favorite non-American McCarver sports weblog and read something along those lines. Perhaps you've uttered them yourself. I know I used to get pretty worked up about who made the All-Star Game not so long ago until one day I stopped seeing the point in it. Not unlike Brother Snell, I've just sort of given up on the whole process.
Which is not to say that I've given up on the All-Star Game itself. I think, in the last 30 years, there have been only two or three times when I didn't watch the game in its near-entirety, and those two or three times I didn't, I felt the worse for it. It's just that, a few years ago, I came to the realization that any energy spent on griping about All-Star selections was energy wasted. For all the terrible results that fan-balloting and the managerial selection process have given us over the years, for all the times, I was reduced to a spittle-covered fury about one shortstop being passed over in favor of a lesser shortstop, I cannot at this moment recall the particulars of a single All-Star Game snub. The outrage seems to pass by the time Chris Berman is assaulting our eardrums at the Home Run Derby. So why not skip the outrage altogether?
So a sizable chunk of baseball fans want to see the rapidly aging corpse of Derek Jeter propped up between second and third for one last hurrah? Big whoop. If their idea of a good time is to watch Captain Handsome age like one of those stop-motion films or ground out feebly on prime-time network TV, who am I to begrudge them one last chance to cheer for their
over-rated beloved superstar? You put things to a vote, and sometimes you wind up with regrettable results.
Sure, it will be annoying when one of those ground balls manages to trickle through the infield for a wimpy base hit, and Tim McCarver and Joe Buck enthuse about how this proves that Jeter "rises to the big occasion," but honestly, anything McCarver and Buck say is going to be annoying. Those two could be spelling out where to find a cache of Nazi gold, and I think I would still have to white-knuckle the recliner just to endure it.
McCarver: See, it's called "buried treasure," Joe, because it's something that you treasure, which you bury in the ground. If it were unburied, it wouldn't be "buried treasure..."
Me: Where is that GODDAMN MUTE BUTTON?
And other, better writers like Jason and Joe Posnanski have already detailed, the way that All-Star Game rosters are assembled and the rules governing player usage are just nutty. You'd be hard-pressed to find a pitcher having a better year in the American League this season than Justin Verlander. And he's unlikely to play in the All-Star Game next week, let alone start it, because he'll have pitched the previous Sunday, and that's a big no-no, according to the rules.Â
Then there's the antiquated rule about every team having a representative, which probably sounded like a swell idea back in the days of eight-team leagues, but with 14 to 16 hungry mouths to feed, you wind up with teams stuffed with guys that fail to excite the populace at large. I bow to no man in my desire to force-feed Oakland Athletics down the public's throat, but even I have a hard time believing that the only reason Gio Gonzalez will be making the trip to Phoenix is because someone told Ron Washington that he had to pick an Athletic. (On the bright side, if enough pitchers get scrubbed because of the inane Sunday-Before rule, maybe Gio ends up starting the game.)
If you're going to complain about something involving All-Star roster construction, don't unleash your wrath on the withered remains of Derek Jeter or the nondescript nobodies from losing teams who invited because they have to be. Instead, get angry about the fact that someone has apparently decided that middle relievers -- the punters and kick returners of Major League Baseball -- apparently deserve a role in Baseball's summer showcase event.
Like many things, we can blame this on the tyranny of Joe Torre. Back when he was picking the American League rosters, Torre started placing middle relievers and set-up men on the All-Star team -- doubtlessly as a plot to stuff more Yankees onto the squad. (Gruber nods his head approvingly.) The result? We've been subjected to a steady stream of Jeff Zimmermans, Shigetosi Hasegawas, and -- God forgive us -- Arthur Rhodeses with our Midsummer Classics.
So when Tyler Clippard of the Washington Nationals takes the mound next week in a game that will decide home field advantage for the World Series, and your child turns to you and says, "Daddy, what in God's name is a Tyler Clippard?" feel free to curse Joe Torre's name. I know that's what I'll be doing.
Still, whenever the talk turns to All-Star Game roster selection injustices, my thoughts always turn to the man whose picture graces the top of this post, Garry Templeton. A shortstop with the St. Louis Cardinals, Templeton played in the 1977 All-Star game and seemed certain to get the starting nod after a hot start in 1979. Only one problem: He didn't. The fans voted in Philadelphia's Larry Bowa instead. And though Templeton was selected as a reserve to the National League squad, he had quite enough of that role, thank you very much.
"If I ain't starting," Templeton said, "I ain't departing." And indeed, he didn't make the flight up to Seattle for that year's game.
Templeton would get selected to one more All-Star Game -- the 1985 contest, when his manager, Dick Williams, got to pick the reserves. But for one brief moment in 1979, Templeton had figured out the dirty little secret of All-Star Game selections: they're all pretty much bullshit. It's a lesson the rest of us would do well to remember when Old Man Jeter drags his aging carcass up the Chase Field dugout steps on and onto the field a week from next Tuesday.
[Photo of Garry Templeton being physically dragged from the field after shooting St. Louis fans the bird on Ladies' Day, taken by Scott Dine of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch]