This week I finally got around to submitting my votes for the 2009 All-Star Game (to be played in a van down by the river). I tend to be fairly intuitive about this super-serious task, not putting too much stock in the hot starts of second-tier players; so I predictably voted for the Yankee’s left infield, three Cardinals, Carlos Beltran (I want the NL team to have more players who don’t really want to win), and Manny Ramirez.
As you may know, the Dodgers’ left fielder is serving a fifty-game suspension for
being too awesome a banned substance. But 442,762 other voters apparently decided, like me, to ignore that and recognize Ramirez’s dynamic boost to a pretty bland Dodger offense since last August. Manny is currently in fourth place among NL outfielders; with a modest push he could make the starting lineup. And that does not sit well with the self-appointed gatekeepers of baseball. Dodgers manager Joe Torre thinks Manny should opt out if he’s voted in, although that’s based more on the “great first half” theory of All-Star voting than any feigned moral outrage. “Kyle” of bleacherreport.com stakes out the same position. But Bryan Burwell’s take on the matter displays a shocking disrespect and even disdain for baseball fans everywhere.
Granted, the focus of Burwell’s piece in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is Bud Selig’s inconsistent and incompetent approach in dealing with performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, and not Manny himself; but his conclusion is still fairly ominous:
I wanted to hear [Selig] say that regardless of any potential groundswell from the diehard Manny lovers, the commissioner believes it’s unconscionable to allow anyone who spent nearly half of the season in exile as an admitted drug cheat to be rewarded with an all-expenses paid vacation to the All-Star Game…I just wish he would shock the world with a “the buck stops here” mandate that would at long last recast his image from an indecisive waffler to the considerable leader he needs to be.”
First, a math lesson. I might be wrong, since my B.A. is in something called “Moving Image Arts,” but 50 is not half (or nearly half) of 162; it’s more like 32%. But I digress. Burwell would not simply tolerate, but insist on, a dictatorial ruling from the Commissioner’s Office, banning a duly elected All-Star from his position.
Think about that.
If Manny Ramirez were to be voted an All-Star, Bud Selig should throw him off the team by executive fiat. I’ve come to terms with the fact that MLB is the least competent of the major sports in terms of engaging and satisfying its fans and customers, but such a slap in the face would be unconscionable even for a dolt like Selig. Just to engage in some slippery-slope semantics: do you count the other players’ votes on all the Manny ballots, creating a Rory Fitzpatrick-style fiasco?* Do you create a rule discounting votes for players serving suspensions? Suppose Manny doesn’t make the cut by way of popular vote, and the players vote for him instead? Or what if Charlie Manuel (no slouch in optimizing his rosters) selects him, if only to have a player besides Jonathan Broxton or Rafael Furcal representing a really good, division-leading Dodger team? Would Burwell still want Man-Ram banished?
The politically savvy thing to do would be letting six weeks pass and seeing if Manny falls out of the running naturally. But Burwell dismisses this idea:
Hey, and speaking of brilliant strategies, while we’re at it, how about leaving the fat guy to guard the doughnuts?…Too many fans have long since lost their ability to distinguish between what’s right and wrong in this steroid culture in sports.
Bryan Burwell thinks you’re stupid and naive, just because you honestly don’t care whether a great player is caught taking steroids, or accused of it. Even though we won’t know all the sordid details until they trickle out years from now. Even though we will likely never know with any certainty the actual effect this had on the game. (Forget asterisks – if a juiced batter faced a juiced pitcher, do we just forget the whole thing ever happened?) Even though over the decade it has gone from a national scandal meriting government intervention to a joke at the Oscars. It doesn’t matter, because he’s the sportswriter, and he just knows better, and if only we understood…it’s this condescending mentality that irks me the most about the steroids issue. When will members of the media grasp that the public just doesn’t get as worked up about these things?
I empathize with Burwell’s concern – he’s worried that Manny and the ensuing controversy will ruin Busch Stadium’s shining moment in the national spotlight, that the baseball version of Dillon, Texas will have to deal with a massive distraction from the game itself. But by writing pieces like this, Burwell only feeds the beast, and a “problem” that I wouldn’t have noticed before now becomes an issue with sides to be taken. So I plan on punching my outfield of Carlos Beltran, Ryan Ludwick, and Manny Ramirez 25 times. And I expect them all to count.
*I’m pretty sure Selig is already screwing with the vote totals – a Brewer in first or second at each position? For real?