"No matter what you think about Derek Jeter being elected to start in the All-Star Game, I think we can all agree that he certainly should not be the leadoff batter for the American League."
Actually, not all of us can agree on that. ESPN's David Schoenfield is right that Jeter hasn't played like an All-Star in this, his final season, and that batting him leadoff doesn't give you the best opportunity to win the game. The seemingly endless barrage of fawning over Jeter highlights the need for a reality check, and nobody has betrayed her Yankee fandom to note the Captain's flaws more than I.
But instead of directing ire toward Jeter or AL manager John Farrell, Schoenfield and other critics should turn their attention toward MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Despite Schoenfield's contention, this game shouldn't just be about winning, and this is just the latest instance demonstrating the utter stupidity of the All-Star Game determining home-field advantage in the World Series.
Calls to end this absurd rule are nothing new. Without this significance artificially assigned to what should be a meaningless, fun exhibition game, there would probably still be debates over Jeter's spot in the lineup or even his selection in the first place, but at least they would come with the understanding that All-Star voting, like jersey sales, is little more than a popularity contest.
Fans made it perfectly clear that they want this year's All-Star Game to be a Derek Jeter lovefest. More 3.9 million of them voted him in as the AL's starting shortstop, and as Cal Ripken Jr. put it, "The fans need to be able to say goodbye." Additionally, Jeter's reach and longevity permeate so far into the game that this new guard of young players is equally excited to share a field with him -- or, in the case of Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier, share a field with him again.
And don't get it twisted: The league wouldn't have it any other way. The 2014 Derek Jeter Hoopla could well have been trademarked by MLB, which is promoting the heck out of the Captain's retirement. There's sure to be some sort of on-the-field tribute to him tonight -- and we wouldn't have it any other way. MLB loves a spectacle, and baseball is as much about the pomp and circumstance as any other sport. Jeter's place among the greatest shortstops ever can and will be debated for the rest of time, but he's been the face of the sport to a generation of fans who deserve to celebrate him alongside the next era of stars.
Of course, all of this is antithetical to everything Jeter's stood for over the years. Nothing has been more important to him than winning, and nobody, he would tell you, is bigger than the game. That's certainly still true, but at least for one night, for one should-be-meaningless game, Derek Jeter will have to accept that he looms largest on the diamond.
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