Before the internet, the voting for the MLB All-Star Game was done on paper ballots just like those that are distributed throughout ballparks across the league while voting is open. That was the only way to vote. Our vote total wasn't limited to 25 times per email address (after all, there was no email). In the Midwestern Cardinaldom outpost that I called home, that meant getting ballots from my best friend's dad. I don't know where he came across the ballots, but he would bring a huge stack of them home each summer and my friends would vote. And vote. And vote. And then vote some more.
1987 was a seminal year in my development as a baseball fan. The Cardinals won the pennant, and it happened to be the first fall that parents let me stay up (as late as I could manage) and watch the games. The next year marked my first trip to Busch Stadium. I had contracted Cardinals Fever.
That year, I voted a straight-Cardinals All-Star ballot. Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, and Vince Coleman were all defensible votes. (In fact, those three Cardinals made the NL squad.) But I even voted for Tony Peña and Terry Pendleton. At a young age and thanks to my dad and grandpa, I knew how important All-Star Game selections were. I also really wanted to see the best of the AL play the best of the NL. (This was before interleague play and this was the only time until the World Series that a fan could see such match-ups.) Looking back, I didn't want the 1988 Cardinals to play an exhibition game against the American League All-Stars. I just wanted the Cardinals players to have recognition. And so I voted for all Cardinals.
I don't remember whether the NL or AL won that All-Star Game. I remember Coleman and Smith starting for the NL and Vincent Van Go swiping a base. But what I remember most vividly was growing more and more nervous as the exhibition played out about whether or not McGee would get into the game. Finally, McGee was brought in as a pinch-runner, replacing the undeserving, 1987 NL MVP Andre Dawson. With that, my All-Star Game experience had come to a satisfactory end.
Now, things have changed a bit. It's harder for a fan to become completely immersed in the pageantry of the exhibition. The rosters have expanded to the point of bloatedness. (Seeing tweets of the Kansas City Royals that have been elected over the years was downright jarring.) With interleague play, the uniqueness of league-versus-league match-ups doesn't have the caché that it once did. The odds are we've seen at least a handful of plate appearances between the best pitchers and batters over the last few years, especially with the birth of MLB.tv. And Commissioner Bud Selig deciding that the All-Star Game "counts" as the decisive event in determining which league's World Series representative will have the home-park advantage.
Major League Baseball announced the rosters for the 2014 All-Star Game on Sunday. The Cardinals selected to the team include catcher Yadier Molina (starter), Adam Wainwright, Matt Carpenter, and Pat Neshek. (Here are links to the full NL and AL rosters, as announced.)
Neshek is an interesting case. On the one hand, he's a reliever. That means he has totaled 35 innings so far this season. Neshek had K'd 27.8% of the batters he has faced while walking just a merely 3.2% of the opposition. Over 35 innings. Neshek has a 0.77 ERA. Over 35 innings (and with a 92.2% strand rate). The sidewinder has posted a 2.00 FIP. Over 35 innings.
I'm thrilled that Neshek has made the roster. After what he and his family have been through, it's really fantastic that he is having the season he is having and will make the trip to the All-Star Game in Minneapolis. On July 15, I'll be watching the All-Star Game, pulling for Yadi, Waino, and Carpenter. As the innings pass, I'll be growing more nervous, hoping that Neshek makes an appearance, just as I was all those years ago. Neshek deserves the recognition not just for his on-field performance this season—which has been excellent—but also for what he and his family persevered through in reaching this point of professional accomplishment.