You’ll get no All-Star arguments from me about Cubs
If you’re a Cubs fan, you won’t be watching the 2017 All-Star Game with quite the enthusiasm as you did the 2016 game.
Closer Wade Davis is having a fine season (16 saves, 1.93 ERA) and deserves his spot on the team. But he was in the American League the last eight seasons, and his World Series championship came with the Royals in 2015, not the Cubs in 2016.
So where are the rest of the guys? There were seven Cubs in the All-Star Game last season, including the entire National League starting infield. There was so much Cubs love out there that all Wrigley Field beer vendors might have been voted in were that position available.
Third baseman Kris Bryant, the NL’s most valuable player last season, was ahead of the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado in voting this season until a late surge of mountain-zone ballot-stuffing pushed Arenado into the lead.
Should Bryant be at third instead? His numbers are pretty good (.262 batting average, 16 home runs, 33 RBI) but not on pace with last season. Nor are they as good as Arenado’s (.299, 15 homers, 63 RBI through Monday), who does play in the thin Denver air.
Then, too, Bryant hurt his ankle and missed a few games.
Whatever. This is a popularity vote, a momentum vote. The fans vote for the starters, and if they want to see Barry Bonds and George Brett, so be it.
You could say first baseman Anthony Rizzo, pitcher Jon Lester and maybe even young but wonderfully athletic catcher Willson Contreras should have made the squad, and then you could go on and on.
Think about the Dodgers, the team with the best record in the NL. For the third consecutive season, they have no starting position players in the All-Star Game. Shortstop Corey Seager and third baseman Justin Turner, two stars among others on the Dodgers, didn’t win their positions.
‘‘I’ll say it loud and clear again,’’ said Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, who was named to the NL pitching staff. ‘‘It’s the Dodgers fans’ fault.’’
You see, if we all really wanted Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Addison Russell (who was batting only .237 when he was voted an All-Star starter last season), then we’d get them in.
Sure, you need other cities to help out, but this is Chicago. If locals don’t know how to rig elections, then who does?
Bryant’s jersey recently was tracked as the top seller in baseball, and Arenado’s didn’t crack the top 20. An important fact? Not to folks who aren’t Cubs nuts.
Bryant might yet earn a spot on the team thanks to the Final Vote, which rewards one player out of a five-man pool in each league with an All-Star berth.
But let’s get serious here: The 2017 Cubs aren’t the 2016 Cubs. They are below .500 and don’t have the magic, the swagger, the oompah. They might retrieve it, but it’s gone for now.
Take Kyle Schwarber. The guy who planted a monster home run atop the right-field video board in the 2015 playoffs, who came back from a devastating knee injury to star in the World Series last season, who had us all reimagining Babe Ruth with chin hair, has been reinventing himself at Class AAA Iowa.
Maybe he’ll come back strong and, along with the recently returned Zobrist and Heyward, lead the Cubs into the postseason. But the abrupt dismissal of veteran chatterbox catcher Miguel Montero should show everybody involved with the Cubs that the happy days are over. No more saying whatever you want. No more ain’t-it-great-to-be-here joking around.
The All-Star Game rewards great players in the midst of great seasons, young players on the rise, resurgent players and old-timers who are past their primes but are crowd favorites. The Cubs don’t have any of those — unless you think rookie Ian Happ is built for prime time, which he might be.
But the Cubs shouldn’t complain now. Other players on other teams have valid gripes. Not our guys. Not now.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.