published Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Greeson: Honor Gwynn as well as Jeter in All-Star way

New York Yankees' Derek Jeter watches as Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios catches his fly ball in foul territory during the third inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, in Chicago.
New York Yankees' Derek Jeter watches as Chicago White Sox right fielder Alex Rios catches his fly ball in foul territory during the third inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, in Chicago.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Atlanta Braves landed three players on the National League All-Star roster that was released Sunday. The starters were voted on by the fans -- a tradition up there with using leeches for blood disease and horse-and-buggies, considering the stakes -- and the reserves and the pitchers were voted on by the players, who did only marginally better, all things considered.

So congrats to Julio Teheran, who deserved to make it even if he was included only after Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija was traded to the American League this past weekend, closer Craig Kimbrel and first baseman Freddie Freeman.

That said, the obvious switch in talent and star power to the AL is staggering, looking at these rosters. Josh Harrison made it? He's a utility man and has great value during the marathon that is the regular season, but really? Jerry Royster 3.0 is an All-Star now? OK. Somewhere Jose Oquendo just fainted.

The other debate about these particular All-Star selections beyond the usual "This guy got snubbed; that guy doesn't deserve it" revolves around Derek Jeter being the starter at shortstop for the AL. If you have a problem with that, well, you have our permission to quit reading and go on about your day.

The All-Star game should be a celebration of the best the game has to offer. Period. And for two decades, Jeter has been right there among the best things about baseball, especially considering the storylines and painful revelations of those two decades. Jeter has been a mainstay through the strike of 1994, the steroids debacle that haunted the game and now the dragging attendance and uncertainty of the future.

Jeter is the good face of baseball in this generation, and even Boston fans should be OK with that. Dude made headlines by making plays, not playing the fool. He deserves to be introduced as an All-Star in his final season, and bask in the praise he deserves.

But you know what's more? The fans deserve it. Jeter already has started his farewell tour, getting welcome receptions at every "final" stop at various cities as the Yankees roll through. This is everyone's chance, not unlike when Ted Williams got the All-Star treatment at Fenway 15 years ago.

This is a simple thank-you and we'll be on our way, but before we go, we have a few more All-Star suggestions.

For the love of everything, find a better way to determine home-field advantage for the World Series. This is long overdue and would cure a slew of the moaning and hand-wringing over the rosters and the obvious snubs.

Can we do away with the "Every City Gets a Representative" rule? What is this, Upward MLB? Yes, make sure the host city has a player in the game, but from there, is the fact that some yahoo from the Astros is pinch-running in the seventh really going to move the meter in Houston?

Beyond that, baseball has a chance to make a statement and take a good stand, regardless of whether it's the players union's idea or the MLB office's idea.

We have a starting point to talk about the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

At this All-Star game, we need a tribute to Tony Gwynn, the greatest pure hitter since Williams and the best contact hitter of all time. In that tribute needs to be a hard and direct message about smokeless tobacco. Hey, I dipped for almost 20 years -- Copenhagen, straight and neat -- and still miss it frequently after quitting almost four years ago.

But Gwynn died in large part because of his lifetime using it, and while baseball has a great history of sticking its collective heads in the sand that is rivaled only by the NCAA, chewing and dipping still are very common across major league baseball. Discussing it and its dangers is not a bad thing, and it would honor Gwynn's impact on our lives as much as the great numbers -- Greg Maddux never struck him out in 107 plate appearances -- detail his impact on the game.

Ultimately, I quit dipping because I didn't want to have to answer my then-3-year-old son's questions about something I was embarrassed about. Now, after Gwynn's death and the images of his son, I know that having quit, I have a much greater chance to answer my son's questions for a much greater amount of time.

If baseball can have that impact -- and have it sooner than 20 years after the fact -- then it truly will be an All-Star event.

Regardless of who is on the field.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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