All teams are created equal in All-Star Game
One of the best things about Major League Baseball's All-Star Game is that every team is represented. We debate this rule every year around this time, using it as a reason that an assortment of deserving players get left out.
That's just silly. There'll always be deserving players left out. What are we talking about anyway? Two players? Three?
Virtually every team has a player worthy of All-Star consideration, and do we really want an All-Star Game with just four or five teams represented? There are years that could happen.
Johnny Cueto was upset about being left off the National League team, but what about Chris Capuano, Zack Greinke, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner? The NL was so deep in starting pitchers that some worthy All-Stars were going to be left off the team.
Having every team represented allows fans of all 30 Major League teams to feel a connection to the event. Even if your team is having a lousy season, it's a cool moment to see one of your guys honored along side the best of the best.
I doubt that having every team represented does much for television ratings or any of that stuff. But it just can't be a game featuring a couple of teams.
The Astros have been in fifth place virtually this entire season, but next Tuesday night in Kansas City, their fans get to see second baseman Jose Altuve in the same dugout with Joey Votto and Yadier Molina.
It'll be a special moment for Altuve to be introduced with the other NL All-Stars, and it'll be a big deal back in Houston, a signal that the reconstruction of the Astros has found some keepers.
The Royals are hosting the 83rd All-Star Game, and their own Billy Butler is in the game. Nothing has come easy for these Royals in 2012, but it simply wouldn't be right for them not to be represented.
One of the most interesting parts of the All-Star experience is the debate that follows the team selection announcements. Some say it should not be tied to home-field advantage in the World Series.
Those of us who've covered a few of these games noticed that the clubhouses had a different feel in 2003 when the switch was made. There was a more serious tone, and a long list of players said they felt it.
If you're complaining about the All-Star Game outcome being tied to the World Series you may have forgotten has it was done before. As Commissioner Bud Selig said, "It wasn't exactly the Pythagorean theory."
No, it wasn't. The American League had home-field advantage in odd-numbered years, the NL in even-numbered years.
This change has impacted roster decisions in a significant way. When Tony La Russa put his NL club together, it was with a clear eye on protecting a lead in the late innings.
That appears to be why he left off some of the starting pitchers who've had great first halves in favor of Jonathan Papelbon, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel and Huston Street. During La Russa's 33 years as a Major League manager, he would play out games in his mind before they were played on the field.
La Russa would go over players he had on his bench that day with the other manager's rested relievers. There were plenty of days when those mental scripts played out exactly the way he thought they would.
If this really is the last time La Russa manages a Major League game, he constructed his roster with the 34 players he believes gives him the best chance to win. He loves moments like this on the big stage. Having every NL team represented on his roster makes the moment that much more special.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.