Xander Bogaerts isn’t an American League All-Star. At least, he wasn’t initially, but was eventually added to the team to replace the injured Tommy La Stella. (Which, as a side note, also sucks! Watching La Stella, all 180 pounds of him, use his sudden power to do something awesome in the All-Star Game would have been a highlight of the Midsummer Classic.) Regardless of the merit of La Stella’s selection, Bogaerts didn’t deserve a mere replacement nomination. That’s arguably even more insulting than not being named to the team at all. “We thought you were good, two-time World Series Champion Xander Bogaerts, but not as good as Tommy ‘Traded For a 32nd Round Draft Pick’ La Stella. Please ignore that, though, because now that he’s broken his tibia, you’re in! Cancel whatever plans you had to go somewhere fun and exotic with your family during the break, because now you have to take them to Cleveland in the dead of summer – as a REPLACEMENT.” Imagine having to look your children in the eyes and break their hearts that way.
Entering play on Saturday, Bogaerts had a 137 wRC+ in 2019, and has been one of the sole bright-spots for the struggling defending champion Red Sox. And yet, it took an injury to a career 4.2 WAR player to even get him to the All-Star Game. Not only that, but a career 4.2 WAR player from NEW JERSEY, of all places. Ha. HAHA! If you’re not laughing with me about this, then you should be, because that statement is unequivocally hilarious. Comical, even, but not in the silly, good way that Dancing Pumpkin Man is funny. Instead, it is funny in the awful way that having a terrible bullpen is funny, and you can look at a 6-1 lead in the 4th inning and just know you’re going to lose 7-6, and all you can do is give a dreadful laugh at how dead you are on the inside.
Xander Bogaerts is such a ridiculous snub that it didn’t even occur to me he might not make it in the first place. I was looking forward to the roster announcements, especially after how dismal the London Series went for the Red Sox. I needed some good news! And sure, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez will be representing Boston in Cleveland on July 9th at the All-Star Game (brought to you by Mastercard – there’s some things money can’t buy, but for everything else, there’s Mastercard). But both of those stars have been significantly outshined by the X-Man this season – or even Rafael Devers, who is ALSO a pretty bad omission.
Usually, I have no investment in who makes the team, or even the game itself (my favorite part of All-Star Weekend is watching all the player’s get introduced as if they are delegates at the United Nations). I’m pretty indiscriminate when it comes to my preferences for who gets the nod, too. I like when random nobodies having what will likely be the best year of their career (think Baltimore’s John Means) get the honor; I like when grizzled veterans like Hunter Pence, who thought their career might be over, surprise us all and earn a spot; and I like it when all the superstars in the baseball world congregate onto one diamond, regardless of how deserving they are in that particular season. Not every worthy player makes the All-Star team, and that’s just a part of the deal, but failing to include Bogaerts feels less to me like overlooking a player having a great season, and more like a consistent pattern of underrating him in this era of excellent shortstops.
For the 2019 season alone, Xander Bogaerts has been – dare I say it – the best shortstop in all of baseball. He sits atop a majority of notable categories among shortstops on FanGraphs’ leaderboards, including WAR (3.7), wRC+ (137), wOBA (.383), BB% (13.0%), OBP (.385), runs (66), and RBI (63). Back in April, I wrote about Xander Bogaerts’ extension with the Red Sox; Bogaerts was coming off of a career best 4.9 WAR season, with an outstanding 133 wRC+, but me and my brash and unearned confidence predicted that the best was yet to come for the 26-year old shortstop from Aruba. Turns out, I’m really smart (like a computer), because I was right! He should be an All-Star in 2019 because of these numbers alone, but I’m more concerned with why Bogaerts isn’t getting the same kind of votes a superstar should. Plenty of you idiots probably think that 2019 has been Bogaerts’ breakout campaign, and that he “isn’t a superstar, but dig a little bit deeper, and it’s apparent that he has been putting up these stellar numbers for a while.
Most people’s shortlist of baseball’s elite shortstops consist of Lindor, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Báez, and sometimes Manny Machado (if superstar shortstops were vowels, Manny Machado would definitely be “y,” partly because he sometimes plays third, and partly because he constantly does dumb stuff that makes you scream, “Why?!?). Heck, MLB Network’s annual “Top Ten Right Now” list didn’t even include Xander. But since the start of 2016 (the first full season in the bigs for Lindor, Correa, Seager, and Báez), Bogaerts has been just as productive. Among all shortstops since the start of 2016, Bogaerts ranks in the top five in runs (2nd), RBI (2nd), OBP (3rd), BB% (4th), wRC+ (5th), and batting average (5th). Those consistently excellent numbers all add up to 16.5 WAR for Bogaerts, third among shortstops (and 17th among all position players) in that time behind only Lindor and Machado, who accumulated a significant portion of that at third base. I’m comfortable calling Bogaerts a top three shortstop in the game, but instead of that elite status, he’s more often than not grouped with the likes of Didi Gregorious, Jean Segura, and Trevor Story – all solid players, to be sure, but a cut below the best of the best. Bottom line, Xander Bogaerts is a superstar, one of the top shortstops in a time where the game is filled to the brim with them, but people don’t seem to notice.
And that makes me sad! Star power drives the All-Star Game, which I don’t have an issue with. If people would rather see someone like Mookie Betts (.262, 13 HR, 37 RBI, really good at bowling) play than Max Kepler (.265, 21 HR, 53 RBI, one of like six people from Germany who even knows what baseball is), that’s their prerogative. There isn’t anything wrong with the way star players are usually granted safe passage over the voting bridge, and given All-Star asylum regardless of their current statistical output. The thing is, Xander Bogaerts is one of those kinds of stars.
Part of it is politics, and I get that. The 2019 MLB All-Star Game (brought to you by Mastercard – there’s some things money can’t buy. For example, the love and respect of my father, who thinks I’m too “prissy.” For those kinds of things, there’s Mastercard) is being hosted by Cleveland, and Francisco Lindor is Cleveland’s biggest star. It isn’t hard to connect those dots. He wouldn’t be left off of the team even if he struck out every bat (an absolute inverse of that old children’s book, “The Kid Who Only Hit Homers”). Plus, it isn’t like Lindor is undeserving. Despite missing some time to start the season, he has still put up a solid 115 wRC+ and 2.5 WAR to go along with strong traditional stats – .293 batting average, 12 HR, 30 RBI, 13 SB.
Minnesota’s Jorge Polanco was the only other shortstop initially present on the American League roster. He was voted as the starter by fans with the new election day system, and he’s been great. He certainly deserves to be on the team, and who gets to start is more a popularity contest than an actual reflection of statistics, so sure, go ahead and give the Twins something to celebrate before they are inevitably swept by the Yankees in the postseason.
It doesn’t escape me that there were only two shortstops named to the team, nor does it escape me that both are from the American League Central. It’s possible Bogaerts was simply discounted, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was some AL Central conspiracy, one just as damaging and detrimental to our democracy as Watergate. They conspired to keep players like Bogaerts, Brandon Lowe, and Trey Bmancini off of the team. Notice anything? All of their names start with the letter “B.” In fact, NOT A SINGLE PLAYER on the AL team has a name that starts with the letter “B.” (Editor’s Note: This is blatantly false, but Mr. Lovins refuses to listen to reason. The AL roster has both Mookie Betts and Michael Brantley on it, but Mr. Lovins claimed they were “sleeper agents of the Central designed to wreck havoc. Further, Trey “Bmancini” is not a correct spelling. We reached out to Mr. Lovins to fire him, but he lives in a cave away from society now, so we figured that was good enough.)
So yeah, Xander Bogaerts should be on the damn All-Star team, and the fact that he wasn’t at first is an affront to the baseball Gods (Vin Scully, Pablo Sanchez, and Kenny Powers. They each have an equal say on the triumvirate, though Sanchez is the unofficial leader. Together – wielding baseball bats instead of gavels – they oversee the laws of baseball and men, and, like Ron Kulpa, they can do whatever they want). It’s a good thing Bogaerts made it, too, because I was ready to do whatever it took to make it happen. For God’s sake, I would have been fine if the Red Sox traded him to Cleveland, just for a few games, so he could get that sweet, sweet hometown hero discount. If that didn’t work, I was prepared to hire Dwight’s weird friend from The Office to kneecap Lindor, and while I would have been forced to watch the All-Star Game from behind bars, I would have been comforted knowing I did my part; as Xander Bogaerts circled the bases in the 10th inning following his walk-off homer against Josh Hader, a single tear would fall from my eye. “What’s wrong,” my cellmate, Francis, who was in due to his connection to a string of neighborhood dog nappings, would ask me. “Oh, nothing,” I’d respond, before clicking off the TV, and settling into a deep, dreamless sleep. Eventually, I’d be exonerated – I planted Trevor Bauer’s fingerprints on the lead pipe used to kneecap Lindor – but it would be too late. The system would already have changed me, just like it did to Naz in The Night Of. It wouldn’t be long before I was reverting to a life of crime. But at least Xander Bogaerts would be in the All-Star Game, and credited as the superstar that he is.
Now, enough of me grouching about a player who already made the team. Here are some other grievances I have about the 2019 Midsummer Classic (brought to you by Mastercard – sometimes, you need to buy a lead pipe, but you can’t leave a paper trail, so you open a Mastercard account in Trevor Bauer’s name, and you order a lead pipe to his house, and he opens it and touches the lead pipe, unknowingly leaving his fingerprints, and then he says, “I didn’t order a damn lead pipe! Where are my drone pieces?!” And he throws the pipe out the window, and you wait in a bush in his yard until nightfall, and you sneak to his trash can, and steal the pipe back, wearing gloves to make sure you don’t get your own prints on it, and then you use it to kneecap Francisco Lindor, and the police put the pieces together and arrest Trevor Bauer. For that, there’s Mastercard).
The logo is about as bland as it gets
Disclaimer: I talk a lot about typography in this section, so if that isn’t your jam, don’t read it. But also, you suck, typography is interesting, and Georgia is the best font.
It’s widely believed that Cleveland agreed to dump their controversial Chief Wahoo logo in order to keep the 2019 All-Star Game in town. Now that that move has finally been made, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Indians attempting to distance themselves from that logo further by embracing other aspects of their city and history. Personally, I’m partial to a full on name change back to the Cleveland Spiders, but that doesn’t seem likely, and even if it did happen, it wouldn’t be for awhile.
With the 2019 All-Star Game logo, Cleveland had a chance to boldly introduce a new bit of iconography to their franchise. The message they went for – that Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – is fine, but they went about presenting that type of logo in about as boring a way as possible. Perhaps I’m alone in thinking this – a quick perusal of the comments section on this breakdown of the logo seems to indicate pretty strong acclaim – but I am not a fan!
First, let’s talk about that oblong shape. I’m always happy to work the word “oblong” into my baseball writing, so no complaints on that front. But its oblong-liness will make it a nightmare to patch onto jerseys, hats, and other All-Star memorabilia, paraphernalia, and various other kinds of ilia’s. Sure enough, take a look at this Yankees cap:
Oof. This hat was already pretty gross – it’s a Yankees cap – but throw that oblong logo on there, and it’s a complete mess (bonus points for anyone who can say “oblong logo on” ten times fast). They had to squish the guitar down, and there still wasn’t enough room, so they just completely removed the neck. It doesn’t even look like a guitar anymore. It’s just a strange, oblong, amorphous shape. It kind of looks like a blob fish trying to eat the MLB logo.
It just doesn’t work for me, particularly because removing the neck of the guitar completely eliminates the entire message they’re trying to invoke. I don’t look at that logo and think, “Yes, Cleveland, home of Rock and Roll.” I think, “WEIRD OBLONG BLOB IS GOING TO EAT THE ALL-STAR GAME!” That’s a big swing and a miss – or, in guitar terms, a real bad lick (I don’t play guitar).
Further, it somehow feels both boring and busy at the same time. There’s a lot of negative space left over thanks to the guitar neck jutting out, so most of the logo is background space, and beyond that, it’s literally just a guitar with baseball seams on it. It feels much more like a silly, minor league logo than one for the premiere baseball event of the summer. I’m also distracted by how many different kinds of typography are flying around such a small space, and the slant doesn’t quite work for me, particularly in renderings where Mastercard has their logo underneath the guitar, but instead of being slanted, it remains level with the ground – a move that Mastcard claimed was to “ground themselves under the guitar.” I have never rolled my eyes harder than reading that quote from a credit card company about placing their logo underneath an oblong baseball guitar.
Overall, it could be worse. This is Cleveland’s 6th turn as the All-Star Game host, and many of their other logos involved Chief Wahoo in some capacity. Guitars can’t be racist, so I suppose it was a safe bet in that regard, but professional sports logos just disappoint me. I’m always hopeful for something bold, fun, and new, but instead, I’m left strumming sad ballads on my six-string about logos that could have been.
Cody Bellinger isn’t in the Home Run Derby
In the midst of a record-shattering home run pace in during his 2017 rookie campaign, Cody Bellinger lost in the 2nd round of the Home Run Derby in Marlins Park to Aaron Judge. Bellinger hit 39 home runs that season; now, he already has 30, and Progressive Field is a far more amiable towards the home run ball than the spacious Marlins Park, but sadly, Bellinger declined to participate in this year’s derby. We’re being deprived of a potential spectacle, a real show, and that’s a shame, because this derby could have been the greatest in history.
On April 21st, the Los Angeles Dodgers improved to 15-9 with a tense 6-5 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. It was an exciting game for April – the 7th and final game of the regular season between the two teams, and a rematch of the 2018 NLCS (with this victory, the Dodgers won both of those series 4-3) – that already had a playoff atmosphere. You likely remember this game without realizing it, because it featured an enthralling duel between two of the premiere talents in all of baseball. Bellinger entered the game batting well over .400 with 10 homers already to his name, while reigning MVP Christian Yelich had already blasted 13 bombs of his own. In this one, Bellinger made an excellent catch to rob Yelich of a homer, and later hit a go-ahead homer in the 9th inning.
Sam Miller of ESPN recently wrote an awesome article imagining a future where the Home Run Derby became so popular that it eventually broke off into its own sport. That’s all fun and good, but imagine a final this year between Yelich (the 1-seed) and Bellinger (the 2-seed). Station each one in the outfield, and, just like that April game, let them rob one another senseless. It would be a new kind of Home Run Derby, one where individual rivalries thrive as players can use all aspects of their skill to claim the crown, and the new $1 million prize.
One last tasty lick (again, I do not understand guitar lingo)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still excited for the All-Star Game. You can bet I’ll tune in to watch the 30 minutes it usually takes for all of the players, replacements, and replacement replacements to get introduced, and then almost immediately lose interest, but I suppose that’s kind of what the All-Star Game is about.