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National Columnist

All-Star Game is for the fans, not players, which is why Harper should be in it

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No young player has created more buzz this season than Harper. (Getty Images)  
No young player has created more buzz this season than Harper. (Getty Images)  

Some of you will call this a clown question, but here it comes:

How can the 2012 All-Star Game not include Bryce Harper?

That's my question, bro, and apparently I care about it more than Harper himself, who didn't make the National League roster in the fan vote, the player vote or the managerial vote -- but who is one of five players for the last NL roster spot, alongside Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn, Aaron Hill and David Freese. Upon learning Sunday he was among the five finalists for that Internet vote, Harper said, "I'd vote for Chipper."

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So this is the loneliest of battles I'm waging, wanting an All-Star spot for a guy who doesn't seem to want the All-Star spot himself. But I'll wage it nonetheless, even if most of you hate the idea.

Which makes no sense to me, by the way.

The All-Star Game is for you. You. It's not for the players, not for the managers, and while the All-Star game is for home-field advantage in the World Series, it's not for that, either. That's not why this game is scheduled. This game is scheduled for you. And for me. It's for people like us -- who want to watch some combination of the best, most popular and most entertaining baseball players in the world.

And I want to watch Bryce Harper.

He might or might not be one of the 34 best players in the National League, but he has to be one of the most popular, and one of the most entertaining. Has to be. Listen, when it comes to something like this, popularity isn't a, um, popularity contest. It's about name recognition, fame, buzz. Lots of us tune into the All-Star Game to see something interesting, something fun.

David Freese? He's not interesting. Sorry, but he's not. He's very good, and he's very nice, but he's not very fun. Same goes for Aaron Hill. Michael Bourn? Interesting player there. Chipper Jones? Hall of Famer. So there are two decent names for fans to pick, assuming they don't pick Bryce Harper.

But why would they not pick Bryce Harper?

I know, there are reasons: He's not deserving, which I'd debate. He'll have plenty of chances in the future, which I'd suggest is impossible to predict. He's not to be trusted with home field of the World Series on the line, which I'd reject outright. There are 68 players in the All-Star Game, so there's a 1.47 percent chance of Harper being the deciding factor. And there's an even smaller chance of him deciding the game in the negative. He's a five-tool player who has a sixth tool, a motor that just doesn't stop. He'd be the most likely All-Star to go Pete Rose on some poor fool's Ray Fosse.

Call me a moron, but call me consistent. I wrote this two years ago about Stephen Strasburg and the 2010 MLB All-Star Game, and I wrote this in February about Jeremy Lin and the 2012 NBA All-Star Game.

See, when it comes to All-Star spectacles, I have this strange theory: The bigger the spectacle, the more I want to see it in the All-Star game. Entering the 2010 MLB All-Star Game there was no bigger spectacle than Stephen Strasburg. Entering the 2012 NBA All-Star Game there was no bigger spectacle than Jeremy Lin.

And entering next week's MLB All-Star Game, there is no bigger spectacle -- not in the National League -- than Bryce Harper. He has been the most hyped young player since, well, period. Ever. He has been the most hyped young player ever, even more than Strasburg, who was hyped in college and the minor leagues, which is child's play compared to Harper, who was hyped when he was a child. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16, skipped his final two years of high school to get to junior college, dominated guys two and three years older at that level, and then was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010 at age 17.

Harper has lived up to the hype, too. I mean, look, the guy can't reach the Hall of Fame in his first season in the big leagues, but he did get here at age 19, and with an .822 OPS he has played exceptionally well -- statistically, he has hit as well as any 19-year-old in big-league history, other than Hall of Famer Mel Ott in 1928 -- and he has played with all kinds of buzz. Harper has eight home runs and eight stolen bases in 219 at-bats, and here I would like to remind you that last summer his Double-A manager told me Harper just might hit 50 home runs and steal 50 bases in the same big-league season some day.

Harper is the real deal, but again, he's more than that. He's fun. He's exciting. Other than Angels phenom Mike Trout, Harper is the guy I most want to see next Tuesday night.

And isn't that the point of the All-Star Game? To get people like me -- a voracious baseball reader, but only a casual watcher -- to turn on the television? Hate to break it to you, Mr. or Ms. Hardcore Baseball Fan, but baseball isn't hoping to lure you to the TV set. See, baseball knows you're going to watch. You play fantasy baseball, you have the baseball package on your home TV, you do a damn good impersonation of Tim Kurkjian, and you watch the All-Star Game. That's a given.

Baseball doesn't put on this midseason spectacle to lure you. It puts it on to lure me, and people like me, and as a hardcore baseball fan you should encourage that. You love your sport, right? You want it to grow, right? Then give people like me what we want.

Give me Bryce Harper.

Or give me the remote control.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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