One of the adorable quirks added to the All-Star Game in recent history is the Final Vote. In the Final Vote, five players who did not make the All-Star team are put on a ballot and fans get to choose who will get that final spot. This year, Justin Morneau, long-time Twins player/fan favorite is having a good enough season to be worth considering for the All-Star team, but a season not quite dynamic enough for an automatic spot. Thus, he is one of the five players on the NL Final Vote ballot.
I am imploring you to #VoteMorneau and get him on the All-Star team.
Now, I completely understand that Morneau isn't the best candidate on this ballot. Anthony Rendon is having an excellent season, currently on pace for a 6-WAR season. If I were voting with my brain, I'd choose Rendon. Anthony Rizzo is at least equally worthy when compared to Morneau, and some would argue that his hefty OBP lead over Morneau makes it a lot less close than the other stats would indicate. I don't really care about Casey McGehee and Justin Upton is cool, but neither are blowing Morneau away.
Even if Morneau was clearly the fifth-best choice, I would still advocate his selection, and to the extreme. Baseball isn't just about the numbers, although the numbers do enhance my viewing pleasure. Baseball is equally about stories and narrative, even if some narratives have become tired and boring. The return of a popular player to the place where he made his name is hardly tired or boring.
Justin Morneau would receive the loudest ovation of the five players on this ballot and that is enough for me. Maybe that is a stupid way to make a selection, it certainly isn't scientific, but sports are meant to be entertaining. When you consider that any of these five players are likely to get just an at-bat or two, it isn't really a huge deal if the "wrong" guy gets picked. Sure, this may be Rendon's or Rizzo's only shot at an All-Star game, but it could also be Morneau's last shot. Which is more important? I'm not sure.
It's not as though Morneau is having a bad season and he'd simply be a sentimental choice. Morneau had a .315/.347/.514 batting line coming into Tuesday's game. He's hit 13 home runs and produced 59 RBI. Morneau hasn't been an above-average hitter since 2010, when his career was put in jeopardy due to a concussion. To be all the way back from that brain injury is a huge accomplishment, more impressive than any of the on-field accomplishments from any of these five players in 2014. It's not a typical All-Star criteria, but I'm using it anyway.
Earlier I mentioned the ovation that Morneau would receive. Personally, my favorite part of the All-Star game is the introduction line. It's fascinating to see who gets loud cheers, who gets booed and who gets the "who?" reaction. You often can't predict beyond the home team's players and biggest rivals, but I can guarantee that Morneau would get the second-loudest ovation, if not maybe just a little louder than Twins' closer Glen Perkins. I'll be in attendance and I'd like to cheer for him. Selfish? Yep, and I don't care.
If the point of the All-Star Game is to pick the 68 best players (68, good gravy!) then why not just take a spreadsheet, sort by WAR and call it a day? This game isn't just about that season's performance. That's why Derek Jeter will be there. That's why middle relievers get selected. That's why each team is represented. The All-Star Game should be fun and enjoyable. It's okay if a few "undeserving" players get in every now and again. It gives us something to talk and write about. Morneau is deserving for many reasons, but some of those reasons won't show up on his FanGraphs page.
The Final Vote ends tomorrow and Morneau was leading at last check. If he wins, it won't be a joke or a farce, it will be the fans' will. Perhaps the fans will have voted with their hearts instead of their heads, but who cares because Morneau will be a great addition to this amazing baseball event. If the game was anywhere but Target Field, I'd use my head. Since Morneau made his name in Minnesota and the game is in Minnesota, the right move is to #VoteMorneau. And a lot.