Voice of Harold

mlb_allstar_12Holy crap. I actually agreed with something Harold Reynolds said on “MLB Tonight.”

Harold used to be one of the people that made ESPN watchable, both on “Baseball Tonight” and elsewhere on baseball broadcasts. Then he was the face of Little League Baseball coverage, blowing up the kids’ performances to gargantuan size, then he got fired for sexual harrassment.

Reynolds resurfaced on MLB Network after ESPN settled his lawsuit, but seemed to have the opinion that any information that didn’t directly relate to having played the game meant nothing. He was paired with polar opposite and former ESPN colleague Brian Kenny on a new afternoon show, MLB Now, with Kenny very much a fan of stats and analytics and Reynolds basically saying those things don’t help much at all.

Analytics has become something of a divisive issue, with some sharing Reynolds’ disdain for them and saying that they cause people to ignore what’s right in front of them in on-the-field actions and evaluation and off-the-field work. This is often argued by those who simply don’t understand what analytics can provide, and so instead of trying to learn more about them they simply make fun of them because that’s what people do with things they don’t understand.

Needless to say, I believe analytics can be a very useful tool and most of baseball seems to be agreeing as teams create departments dedicated to trying to utilize this additional tool for player evaluation that will hopefully help bring home titles and help create dynasties.

Analytics isn’t really what this post is supposed to be about, but it is part of the larger point. I don’t listen to a lot of what Reynolds says, in part because he refuses to listen when analytics arise in discussions of the sport. But he said something Monday night in studio that I agreed with, though I’ll rephrase it slightly: MLB is trying to have the All-Star Game both ways, and it’s hurting the game and the sport.

Baseball’s midseason classic is an exhibition game, meant to be a reward for top performances of the first half of the season voted on by fans with selections made by players and coaches as well. Every team gets a representative, and managers try to play as many players as they can to give them a chance to experience the potentially once-in-a-lifetime event.

But ratings were dropping and interest seemed to be waning, so in an effort to bring gravitas and interest back to the game they made it count for home field advantage in the World Series for whichever league wins. In theory every player deserves to be there and should be a solid choice to come up in a key situation late in the game if need be, but by the same token Kansas City fans are trying to vote Royals second baseman Omar Infante into the game despite him being possibly the worst player at the position in the American League this year.

In addition, MLB is promoting the game and online voting for it with the Twitter hashtag #ASGWorthy, which is being used after players have particularly good individual games. Monday’s MLB Network mention with the hashtag went to the Reds’ Billy Hamilton after he went 2-for-4 and stole four bases. But Hamilton has no other numbers that make him worthy of an All-Star Game slot except for his universe-topping 40 steals, so again a contradiction arises.

If it’s an exhibition, then let the vote and first-half performances determine the roster and it shouldn’t count for anything. Guys have bonus clauses for making the game, and that’s logically tied to them doing big things on the field to earn such a selection. The top stars in the game should be able to draw fans, and if not then you need to figure out how to better market these players. But if it is going to count for something, let managers have more say in the rosters, let them manage it like a playoff game and give them the opportunity to put a guy like Hamilton on the bench to use as a pinch-runner late in a close game, or a Nelson Cruz to pinch-hit in a key spot.

While I still probably won’t agree with a large amount of what Reynolds has to say, the voice of Harold won’t be quite so grating for awhile and I’ll be listening to him a little more closely for awhile.

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