Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is normally appointment viewing for me. It’s the only All-Star Game in major professional sports during which the best players in the game actually play their hardest and (usually) put on a good show.
Last Friday afternoon, I’d decided that for the first time in a while, I was not going to watch the midsummer classic. I entered into my own personal boycott of the event after learning that Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals had won the final player vote to be included on the roster. In doing so, he beat out Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.
In a normal year, this might not have bothered me quite so much. The fact is, Moustakas had a pretty darn good first half of the season, making his inclusion among the American League All-Stars justified. But, although I fully admit to being bias on the matter, Dozier shouldn’t have been on the final player ballot in the first place. He should have been chosen as a reserve from the start.
Dozier — who entered the All-Star break second in the AL in at-bats (347) and runs scored (67), third in doubles (26), tied for seventh in home runs (19) and in the top 20 of nearly every other category — being left out was the last straw. The Royals fans had forced a seventh Royal onto the All-Star roster and I wasn’t going to stand for it.
Dozier was the MVP of a team that had the second-best record in the league AND had better numbers than “Moose” in all but three categories (strikeouts, batting average and on-base percentage) while playing in 10 more games and collecting 47 more at-bats. When it was announced Moustakas and St. Louis pitcher Carlos Martinez both won, I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone in Missouri works or if they all have the free time on a weekday to just sit around and vote all day long.
What bothered me more about Dozier not getting on the team is that he seems like a genuinely good guy. Back in January when he was part of the Twins Caravan group that stopped in Worthington, he got “in trouble” with the team’s media relations people because he wasn’t where he needed to be because he was signing autographs for fans. In my brief conversation with him (sorry for the name-drop), I would say he was definitely the most polite and down-to-earth high-profile person that I’ve interviewed.
In protest, I wasn’t going to watch the game.
That very night, he continued to put the team on his back by hitting a walk-off, three-run homer to complete an improbable comeback win over division rival Detroit. Saturday, it was announced that he was going to be on the team after all as a replacement for injured Toronto slugger Jose Bautista.
I could watch the game again!
Tuesday night, Dozier got into the game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter against Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Mark Melancon. In his first All-Star Game at-bat, all he did was blast a solo home run to center that extended the American League’s lead to 6-2.
Dozier’s All-Star experience was a good reminder that, despite the steroid and abuse scandals, many professional athletes are still good guys. After Dozier lost the final fan vote, he filmed a 30-second video thanking the fans who supported him. When he hit his homer in the game, he wore a big smile as he rounded the bases. Throughout his career, he’s played hard, the way it’s meant to be played, with class and youthful enthusiasm.
It would be hard not to cheer for a guy like that.