The San Francisco Giants will be well represented next week in the MLB All-Star Game, with Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto on the roster. And Brandon Belt could potentially join them in San Diego, as he is one of five finalists for the National League roster’s final spot. (Feel free to join the voting frenzy, Giants fans, and help the giraffe people be represented in the All-Star Game for the first time ever.)
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Though he’s not having the best offensive season among National League catchers, Posey was voted in on the merits of generally being the best catcher in baseball and as the leader of the decade’s best team. Bum and Cueto were chosen because they’re two of the NL’s best pitchers. They all belong in the Midsummer Classic.
But not all all-stars, especially the starters, are as deserving.
All-star voting, unfortunately, is an inherently flawed process, as it fails to put the best player at each position in the starting lineup. Instead, thanks to emotion and incongruence in fan knowledge of the game, it’s a mix of the most popular players, a few less-heralded players having the best seasons, and a contingent from the team whose fan base most successfully stuffed the ballot box—such as the FIVE Chicago Cubs voted to started in this year’s game.
Good for the Cubs for having a great season and electrifying their fan base. But Addison Russell has no business being in the All-Star game, let alone starting in it. While Russell is an exciting, young player who likely will be a deserving all-star in the future, he’s not at that level yet.
Ben Zobrist arguably should be an all-star, but he is by no means the best second baseman in the National League, not when Daniel Murphy is leading the National League in batting and is out-hitting his teammate, Bryce Harper. And Dexter Fowler played like an all-star the first month of the season, but hasn’t since.
Of course, Giants fans are just as guilty of stacking the starting lineup with their own, as they did so in 2012 by putting Pablo Sandoval (undeserving) and Melky Cabrera (possibly deserving) in the starting lineup with Buster Posey (most certainly deserving).
It’s easy to dismiss this all with a “who cares?” Ultimately, it is just an exhibition game for the fans, and so…but wait, it’s not just an exhibition, because the winner determines home-field advantage in the World Series. And so now the outcome of the World Series could be affected by the exuberance of Cubs fans, a people—along with their favorite team—long believed to be cursed.
Fortunately for the rest of the baseball world, the Billy goat curse is not known to haunt other teams, even when they’re somehow associated with the Cubs—such as their players sharing an all-star roster or are playing for the same goal of representing the National League in the World Series.
So, as misguided as the process is for determining starting all-stars, it might actually work to the Giants’ advantage. Chances are that the Cubs’ 108 years of curse-dom will continue, as it seems that the baseball gods would be bound to punish Cubs fans for letting their emotions get the best of them and overloading the all-star lineup with their own. The retribution will probably be administered as some sort of late-season or early-postseason collapse by their beloved Cubbies.
The Giants, meanwhile, just passed the Cubs in the win column, and they can only get better with the return of Hunter Pence later this month, as well as the eventual return of the seemingly improved Matt Cain and the expected trade-deadline addition of a difference maker. They’re poised to charge into the postseason stronger than ever, while the Cubs are sure to limp in, emotionally battered by whatever cosmological correction will soon be administered for them commandeering the all-star team’s infield.
That leaves the Washington Nationals as the Giants’ only major postseason challenge. One among the Mets, Dodgers and Cardinals, and possibly the Pirates and Marlins, will be in the mix, too—and considering the inevitably unforeseen emergence of a contender (a la the Giants in 2010, 2012 and 2014), one of these Wild Card contenders will be formidable come October.
So there will probably be at least two tough opponents in the NL playoffs. But at the very least, the Giants can find comfort in knowing the Cubs have already cursed themselves out of contention.