Personally, I was shocked when Tampa Bay Rays’ outfielder Austin Meadows earned a spot as an All-Star reserve on the American League squad. While I do believe Meadows is a fantastic player, he’s hitting just .242 with 16 homers and an .821 OPS. Those are good numbers, but All-Star worthy? Now that’s stretching it. With so many other deserving players, why did Meadows get the spot over other people who’ve been playing better this year?
Oh, wait! Sorry. Meadows didn’t earn a spot on the AL All-Star reserves. I’m thinking of someone else. The guy I’m referring to actually has a .247 average with just 10 round-trippers and an .812 OPS. He’ll also be playing for the National League, and his name is Mookie Betts.
Don’t try to tell me his stats are deserving of All-Star recognition. Purely based on stats, Austin Meadows has better All-Star credentials than Betts, but Meadows was never even a finalist for an AL outfield spot. And don’t try to argue that Betts’s defense has been deserving of a spot. Yeah, he’s a great outfielder, but since when does defense make someone a deserving All-Star candidate when the player has subpar offensive numbers? Andrelton Simmons has never been named an All-Star despite years of impeccable work at the shortstop position. The same could be said about Kevin Kiermaier and Nick Ahmed as well. So, why did Betts earn an All-Star nod? Name recognition, obviously.
Betts has been named an All-Star each of the last four full seasons, and has finished either first or second in MVP voting in three of the last five. He’s undoubtedly one of the game’s top players, but the All-Star Game isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a means to honor players who have been good in the last few years. It should be an opportunity to reward players who’ve performed admirably in the first half of that particular season — someone like Tyler O’Neill, perhaps? If you truly believe that Betts should be an All-Star this year because of what he’s done in previous seasons, then I would love to hear your argument why José Abreu, Christian Yelich, Bryce Harper, and Javier Báez don’t deserve to be All-Stars. Those guys have been incredible players for their respective teams in recent years, yet they didn’t hear their names called during “Selection Sunday.”
If you think Betts deserves a spot on the All-Star team because he’s who people really want to see, well, I got news for you... the people voted, and they decided that they’d rather see Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos than Betts. That’s how the starters were determined — the fans voted. People decided that while Betts has been a phenomenal player in years past, they’d rather see the guy hitting .306 with 19 bombs than the guy hitting .247 with 10. That’s just how it is. People always resort to “What have you done for me lately?” over “Who is the best?” And that’s not a bad thing. As I’ve said before, if we always voted based on a player’s past legacy, the new players doing well in smaller markets, like Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier and Cincinnati’s Jesse Winker, would never get the recognition they deserve.
I like Betts a lot. He’s been one of the best (and most fun) ballplayers to watch in recent memory. But it’s time to give up the narrative that he deserves to be an All-Star. I’ll make the same argument for Mike Trout. As great as Trout is, he shouldn’t be an All-Star this year either, but his case is much different than Betts’, obviously. Of course, I want to see both of those guys represent their respective leagues during the All-Star Game, but neither has truly earned that honor in 2021. Betts could (and probably will) rebound from his subpar start this season, but until he does, you can’t say he’s been one of the best players in the league, and that’s who the All-Star Game should highlight every year.