Column: Line Drives — Jeter is not an all-star

[This is my column in the July 10 issue of The Commercial Review.]

This year more than ever, it’s obvious the Major League Baseball All-Star game is nothing more than a popularity contest.

After all, it is for the fans, voted by the fans.

I’ve never been one to complain about whether or not my favorite players were selected to the “Midsummer Classic.” I never digested the rosters to determine if those were selected deserved to be there, or got upset over those who did not receive the highest number of votes.

I just want to see a fun, exciting baseball game.

But after glancing over the starting lineups a few days ago for this year’s installment of the game, there was one thing in particular that rubbed me the wrong way about the roster.

At 40 years old, Derek Jeter is not an all-star.

The future Hall of Fame shortstop is on pace for his worst statistical season in his 20-year career, save for last year when he only played in 17 games.

As of this morning he has a .270 batting average and his on-base percentage and slugging percentage are an identical .323.

He has only 12 extra-base hits — nine doubles, one triple and two home runs — in 79 games, and his lackluster 24 RBIs is a far cry from Nelson Cruz’s league-leading 73.

The American League has three other shortstops who, statistically, are more deserving than The Captain to play in Tuesday’s game at Target Field in Minneapolis.

The Angels’ Erick Aybar, Alcides Escobar of the Royals and Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox are all worthy replacements of Jeter on the roster.

Not only offensively, but the aforementioned trio are much better in the field than the aging legend.

With Jeter, though, I get it. I understand why he was voted the starter for his 13th and final all-star game. It’s a feel-good story for the former Rookie of the Year and five-time Gold Glove winner.

He’s retiring after this season, and what better way to send off one of the best shortstops to ever play the sport than have him start the all-star game in his final year on the diamond. It’s good for baseball.

But here’s the flaw in having the fans vote for all-star games, and it happens in every professional league. Players are voted on more for what they did in the past rather than the current season.

In past years, his selection was warranted. This year, not so much.

It was the same story with Cal Ripken Jr. in 2001. He also had his worst season at the plate in his final year, but he too was selected to the All-Star Game the year he was to retire.

When Jeter takes the field Tuesday, and again when he is ceremoniously removed from the game, the ovation and respect he will be shown will be great for the game, much like it was for Ripken and Jeter’s former teammate Mariano Rivera.

However, it will be hard to top the celebration from a year ago in New York when Rivera entered the game in the eighth inning as the only player on the field.

Jeter is one of the best ambassadors to the game of baseball. He goes out each and every day and plays with the utmost class and professionalism and deserves all the recognition he gets.

Most non-Yankee fans — myself included — despise those who put on the pinstriped uniform. Even if I had been a fan of a player before he became a Yankee, once he put that uniform it was hard to continue to support him.

Some people are difficult to dislike, no matter what name is on the front of their uniform. Jeter and Rivera are two of them.

Although his numbers may not merit his inclusion in Tuesday’s game, it would be difficult to see him retire without playing in the All-Star Game.

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