As teams fast-track their best prospects to the big leagues, the All-Star Game provides a snapshot of both the past and the future. One day, they're in the Futures Game. Two months later, they're facing Justin Verlander with a game on the line.
Remember Mike Trout and Bryce Harper? Seems like they've been around forever, doesn't it? It's hard to believe that neither of them has played a full season in the Major Leagues and that they've barely scratched the surface of what their careers are likely to be.
Still, the All-Star Game ought to have a place for the players who still have star power. Hey, that's one reason the fans have a say. If it's only for the players who have had the best 3 1/2 months of one season, then we can have a computer spit out the rosters.
The All-Star Game ought to reflect celebrity and the wishes of fans. If Jeter is healthy enough to put on a uniform and play, then he should be there.
Rollins and Howard helped the Phillies win five straight division championships and go to the World Series twice. They were consummate professionals, and to the millions of people who love baseball, it's still a thrill to see them play.
There's a fine line here. Would Hamilton be embarrassed to play in an All-Star Game with a .219 batting average? Or would he understand that people still want their stars?
Would Pujols get that message? At the moment, he's a shadow of the player he once was, but he's just two years removed from being the most respected, feared, intimidating presence in the game.
Even with a .250 batting average, he remains one of the game's biggest stars even if he hasn't come close to matching Baltimore's Chris Davis in terms of production at first base. Fans almost certainly want to see Pujols play, and isn't that the point?
There are tough decisions up and down both lineups. Russell Martin may be the National League's best catcher in the first half of the 2013 season, but Buster Posey and Yadier Molina define greatness. They must be there, too.
Carpenter probably has been the NL's best second baseman, but Brandon Phillips is one of the game's true superstars.
There's an even tough decision regarding American League third basemen. Miguel Cabrera is having another monstrous season, but Machado has had a tremendous first half. If it's a close call-- and it's going to be with Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre and Josh Donaldson also in the discussion -- go with Cabrera.
Should Harper get a starting spot in the outfield over, say, Arizona's Gerardo Parra, who has helped lead the D-backs to a great start? There's not really a wrong answer. It's how one views the All-Star Game.
Not every decision is tough. Joe Mauer is head and shoulders above every other AL catcher. He's also a huge star. In this one, it's not a tough decision.
It's like that at first base in the NL. Joey Votto is one of the game's biggest stars, and he's putting Most Valuable Player-type numbers on the board. Jose Bautista, Dustin Pedroia, Andrew McCutchen and David Wright fall into this category as well at their positions.
This would all be simpler if there was a right answer, which there's not. And that's why it's so much fun to debate and discuss this stuff.
One of these days, Detroit's Jhonny Peralta may have the AL shortstop position nailed down. For now, though, Jeter plays if he's able to put on a uniform and get out there.
Not even Peralta would argue with that assessment. Jeter remains the game's biggest name even at a time when there's no way of knowing how much, if any, baseball he still has left in his tank.
Jeter is one of the people who has helped make this game what it is, and that's enough to offer him a tip of the cap and a spot in the starting lineup. Because that's what the All-Star Game should be.