Chicago baseball gets what it deserves for All-Star Game


Leave it to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game of all things, a popularity contest usually worth a snicker every summer, to reinforce an everyday principle every Chicago sports fan can accept.

Sometimes people truly get what they deserve.

And so it is that White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia and Cubs closer Wade Davis were the only two local players selected Sunday for the Mid-Summer Classic on July 11 in Miami and nobody in town dared to complain — especially on the North Side.

Garcia, hitting .318 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs, belongs in any showcase of baseball’s best players in the first half of the 2017 season; Cubs position players do not. It seems as simple as it is extraordinary.

“When I saw the names, I had no arguments,” said Joe Maddon, who will manage the NL team.

Any argument would have been as weak as the Cubs’ hitting with runners in scoring position. Only Davis earned a nod among Cubs, who traded for the elite reliever in the team’s smartest offseason deal by a front office that neglected the starting rotation and lead-off position.

With a shortage of snubs, just one local debate remains in a fun week of baseball conjecture: Which was more stunning, the inclusion of Garcia, a career underachiever until now, or the omission of any of the highly marketable members of the defending World Series champion? Garcia entered the season clinging to hope after a disappointing career found him batting seventh in the Venezuelan Winter League while the Cubs, who had seven All-Stars a year ago, arrived at spring training considered the class of the National League.

So as unexpected as Garcia’s rise is after years of inconsistency, the Cubs’ fall into the mosh pit of mediocrity qualifies as a bigger surprise.

At least when the Sox traded for Garcia in 2013, expectations included All-Star Game appearances and comparisons likened him to Tigers star Miguel Cabrera, who incidentally wasn’t picked for the first time since 2009. At some point in Garcia’s development, a scout or executive or manager projected this. Meanwhile, nobody predicted the Cubs entering their final home stand before the All-Star break with a .500 record and no position players deemed good enough to represent the National League. Nobody thought the Cubs would rely upon Ian Happ more by the Fourth of July than Kyle Schwarber.

The emergence of Happ on the Cubs – and Garcia on the Sox, for that matter – offers the latest reminder to maintain an open mind when labeling prospects. Happ progressed sooner than expected, as opposed to later for Garcia, but both have changed the ways they were viewed at the beginning of this season. Happ, starting at four different positions, impressed Maddon with his defense and delivered enough pop offensively — 12 home runs, 29 RBIs in 45 games — to make him difficult to part with in any trade if the Cubs are serious about repeating. Garcia, signed in January to a prove-it, one-year, $3 million contract, reduced his weight by changing his diet and responded to the challenge well enough for the Sox to make the 26-year-old part of their rebuilding effort.

General manager Rick Hahn might be tempted to trade Garcia before the July 31 deadline but he has made a strong case to stay on the South Side for what comes next. But, for now, Garcia will focus on getting healthy and going to Miami next week as the Sox’s sole representative. Try telling Garcia that, this year, the All-Star game no longer matters.

“I feel really, really proud,” Garcia said. “All (my) hard work is coming together.”

The Cubs dutifully began an online campaign to vote in Kris Bryant among five candidates as the 34th member of the NL team. Gracious as ever, Bryant welcomed the support as much as he would the opportunity to participate in his third straight All-Star game.

“It would be nice to go as many times as you have a chance to go,” Bryant told reporters. “It’s tough to do.”

If Cubs fans really want to help, they will cast as many ballots as their computer allows for Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon so Bryant can relax at home for a few days. Let Rendon go and enter the Home Run Derby and maybe he will wear himself out for Cubs pitchers by their likely National League Division Series matchup in October. As for Bryant, a guy who has won league MVP honors and the rookie of the year award in back-to-back seasons hardly would miss making the All-Star game. Remember, Bryant complained about feeling run-down even before he sprained his ankle stepping on third base in a scary scene in Washington. Nobody on the Cubs looks like he would benefit from some down time more than Bryant.

He and his Cubs teammates need the rest getting passed over will allow.

Garcia needs the exposure an All-Star berth affords him.

Everybody got what they deserved.

dhaugh@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh



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