The reasoning is probably fairly obvious. If you’re a first-ballot guy (whether or not you believe in such things), you’re probably a consensus great player, hence a “legend, and a guy that people will remember for a long time. Derek Jeter clearly fits that description. There’s no disputing that he’ll go in the first time, and I think he’ll go in with one of the highest percentages ever. The problem, of course, is as I stated above. You have to draw a line somewhere. Would Chipper Jones, if he played next year, be considered? He’s definitely a Hall of Fame player, but will he get on the first time (I imagine he will)? Would a guy like Roberto Alomar have made it?
But in this instance, I’ll argue that you put those fears aside. Hall of Fame elections are important and have lasting impact. Allowing a “legend” player who will probably get in anyway isn’t really hurting anything if he gets another All-Star appearance. Certain players have made substantial contributions to the game, and on a night where there are millions watching, they should be appreciated for their accomplishments. One more sold-out night with a standing ovation. One more night with broadcasters bragging about their accomplishments. One more night with the fans recalling grand stories about The Flip, The Catch in the Stands, or the Lord of the Rings. The All-Star Game may “count” now, but it doesn’t count enough to ignore the game’s fading stars.
Finally, we have to ask how to accommodate such players on the roster. First, we don’t need any extra spots. There are limited slots, but the “legend” is still a viable player if he’s on a roster somewhere. If he’s not, then the sub needs to play an extra inning or two to limit the damage. Second and to accommodate such a switch, there needs to be a second sub to finish the game or play in extra innings. The rosters are already crowded with tons of “snubs”, so it would just be one more (and in cases like this season, either Johnny Peralta or Alexei Ramirez “should” have been in regardless). Third, the manager needs to use his head. The legend should get in for a little bit. It doesn’t have to be long, but there needs to be an opportunity for a standing ovation.
Whether you like or not, everyone is not created equal, and they haven’t all made lasting impressions on the game. “Legends” have, and on a night that is supposed to celebrate the fans, you should include a guy that has made an impression on millions of them. I don’t mean to make this post seem like this will be the last time Jeter may ever play or be good enough to get in the All-Star Game, but I used him as a jumping point for a larger discussion. No, he doesn’t deserve to be in the game based on recent merit, but he, and other players, have done enough to get a sort of invitation to the game like Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus did for all those years in different tournaments. The point I’m trying to make is that, though there will be a ton of griping about Jeter getting in (I may have made a little one yesterday, but I’d argue it was more about Alexei not getting in than it was about Jeter), he does have a place in this game. And if so many people voted for him even in a bad season, he must have made an impact on them. Hey, Teixeira didn’t make it.