And on the seventh day following the announcement of the rosters for baseball’s 83rd All-Star Game, David Samson, the president of the Miami Marlins, joined the long list of those who’ve got a beef with National League manager Tony La Russa.
Samson’s anger is not news. Since his NL team was unveiled July 1, the former St. Louis Cardinals manager has replaced Bernie Madoff atop the World’s Worst Person rankings.
La Russa is reviled in Cincinnati (for snubbing pitcher Johnny Cueto and second baseman Brandon Phillips), and in Milwaukee (for snubbing pitcher Zach Greinke) and in San Francisco (for snubbing pitchers Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner).
Now Samson wants La Russa to know that he’s not especially liked in Miami, either. What did La Russa do this time?
It seems that he didn’t have the simple decency to replace an injured Marlin on the NL team with another Marlin. Human rights advocates ought to be outraged because, really, what’s an All-Star Game without an All-Star representing the fourth-place Miami Marlins?
La Russa fulfilled the requirement of appointing at least one player from each MLB club to the Midsummer Classic, but when Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was sidelined by a knee injury, Washington Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper was added to the NL team.
Harper’s statistics are decent but not overwhelming – he goes into the break hitting .282, with eight homers and 25 RBI – but the Nationals’ ascendance into pennant contenders is baseball’s best story of 2012, and Harper, subject of a Sports Illustrated cover piece as a high school junior, occupies a prominent role in that story.
Should Harper eventually take the field Tuesday in Kansas City – and trust me, he’ll get at least one at-bat – the 19-year old will become the youngest position player to participate in an All-Star Game.
Television ratings tend to lag as the contest devolves into its annual bench-clearing phase, but the chance to watch Harper figures to engage casual fans.
The possibility of Bryce Harper crushing a line drive chased down by speedy Angels rookie phenom Mike Trout is a reason to stay tuned. La Russa’s inclusion of Harper on the NL roster is good for the All-Star Game and, thus, good for baseball.
Except Samson, the Marlins president, doesn’t see it like that.
“There were a lot of different ways that Tony, or MLB, could have gone,” he said Sunday. “I think it’s unfortunate. I think that every team should be represented on the line at the All-Star Game.”
Samson suggested such Marlins as utility player Greg Dobbs (the former Mariner) and set-up reliever Steve Cishek as worthy replacements for Stanton. And then he lobbed this name:
“For me it would have been natural to have Ruggiano, who has absolutely played as well as anyone since he was called up,” Samson said. “Obviously MLB, or Tony or whoever makes the decision has their own view, and it’s certainly disappointing.”
Here I must share something, and the admission humbles me to the core of my soul:
Until Sunday, I’d never considered Justin Ruggiano as an All-Star, for the simple reason I’d never considered Justin Ruggiano in general.
I’d never heard of him.
My ignorance about an All-Star-worthy player startled me, because I try to keep up with this stuff. It’s my passion and, more important, it’s my job.
Upon research, I’ve learned that Ruggiano is a 30-year old outfielder who’s spent his pro career straddling the line between Triple-A and the bigs. He made his major-league debut with Tampa Bay in 2007, hitting .214 over seven games. He hit .197 in 45 games with the ’08 Rays before going back to the minors, resurfacing last season for a 46-game stint in Tampa Bay.
The Houston Astros picked up Ruggiano as a free agent for this season, then traded him to the Marlins for Single-A catcher Jobduan Morales. Since his promotion from Triple-A Oklahoma City, Ruggiano has asserted himself, hitting a hefty .390 in 32 games.
As I was studying Ruggiano’s body of work on baseball-reference.com, I noticed that he had 40 RBI. At the All-Star break, that’s some impressive production from a journeyman outfielder. Maybe Samson had a point.
Then I looked again: The 40 RBI is his lifetime total. Ruggiano has driven in 17 runs this season.
Baseball is the most difficult of sports. A 30-year old who’s been able to survive as a pro – and thrive, however briefly, in the major leagues – deserves admiration. If Ruggiano showed up on a local sandlot today, just to throw and catch and swing a bat off a duffer’s version of a fastball, you’d look at him, and marvel at him, and walk away convinced you just saw an athlete as talented as anybody on the planet.
But Ruggiano is not an All-Star. He’s not somebody who’d compel fans to suspend their conversation and watch him as he forges a toehold in the batter’s box Tuesday night.
Those Marlins fans deprived the opportunity to see a Marlin introduced in Kansas City? My deepest sympathies for the cruelties baseball has wrought.
You’ll have to settle for the memory of those two world championships in 1997 and 2003, each won by wild-card teams that didn’t finish in first place.
My prayers and thoughts are with you, Marlins fans. Just hang in there, and remember that your outrage toward Tony La Russa is shared on two coasts, and everywhere in between.
But, hey, I get the drift.
Bryce Harper, 19, a legend in the making, appointed to an All-Star Game over the 30-year old career minor-leaguer who is Justin Ruggiano?
What’s up with firstname.lastname@example.org