Johnny B. Great deserves All-Star start, not Giant snub

Practically all we’ve heard about this season is Chicago Cubs-Cubs-Cubs. And more Cubs-Cubs-Cubs-Cubs-Cubs.

Really, you would think the Cubs had gone 108 years without a World Series or something.

The Cubs have seven players on the National League All-Star team. What — they forgot Mike Krukow? At least four will be starters, including the entire infield, the first time that has happened since the 1963 season.

Hey, that’s not bad for the team with the second-best record in the league at the start of the weekend. Because you know who was
No. 1, right? None other than your Saaaaan Francisco Giants.

Now, National League manager Terry Collins can balance the scales with the announcement that Giants 13-game winner Johnny Cueto will get the start in San Diego on Tuesday night. He’ll do it for no other reason than this: Johnny B. Great deserves it.

Along with the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta, Cueto is one one of five candidates for the assignment. The others: Jose Fernandez (Miami Marlins), Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals) and Noah Syndergaard (New York Mets). In five key categories — victories, earned run average, innings pitched, WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched) and WAR (Wins Above Replacement) Cueto blows them away. He ranks No. 1 in each except WHIP and ERA, in which he’s a close second and third, respectively.

Ranked top to bottom — five points for first place, four for second place and so forth in each area — here are the totals: Cueto 22, Arrieta 15, Scherzer 14.5 Syndergaard 13.5, Fernandez 10.

When it comes to the Flair Factor, Cueto has no peer on the mound. After all, the All-Star Game is about entertainment, and there’s no better showman than the modern-day Luis Tiant, a guy who exudes fun and excitement.

Problem is, as Mets manager, Collins is in a tough spot. Syndergaard is his guy. But if the biggest winner on the best team doesn’t get the ball, it’s a slight of Giant proportions.

JUST DO IT: The All-Star Game is broken in every sport, and MLB’s is no different. Here’s how to fix it …

1. Move the event to late Sunday afternoon. This is an ideal time to market the game to younger fans and the more casual ones, and 11:30 p.m. (Eastern) isn’t the time to do it. An earlier start on the weekend will mean fewer advertising dollars in the short term, but MLB will benefit in the long run.

2. Scrap the World Series idea. The Fall Classic means too much for home field advantage to be decided in one game that mean so little. Instead, allow the records in interleague play determine it. That way, every team is equally involved.

3. Up the ante. All-Stars receive a piddlin’ $1,000 apiece for their time. What kind of motivation is that? Find a sponsor(s) to kick in, say, 100 grand for each starter and 50 thou for every reserve on the winning team. Bet fewer guys will bow out because of ouchies and a lot more will take it verrrrry seriously.

4. Limit the number of players from one team. MLB is hung up on humongous vote totals, but what do they mean, really? To discourage key-punchers and ballot-suffers, limit the number of representatives to five per team. The result will be fewer snubs elsewhere.

5. Adopt the Athletics Rule. Every team must have at at least one All-Star unless it has a sub-$100 million payroll, which gets it nobody.

STAR WARS: Best buds Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade sipped wine and rode banana boats together in the Bahamas last week.

OK, kids, now connect the dots.

The future Hall of Famers have talked about a reunion on the court before their careers are over, and it could happen as early as the 2017-18 season. All except Anthony can opt out of their contracts next summer.

It will be a challenge to fit four monster salaries into the projected $102-million salary cap, about $6 million less than had been anticipated. More than one would have to accept a discount, but each indicated he would consider it. And the franchise that signed the foursome could exceed the $122-million luxury tax line to make it happen.

So where might LeBron and company take their talents next? New York, most likely.

As it stands, the Knicks have the most salary-cap flexibility of the four teams in question, what with only $30.3 million accounted for the 2017-18 season. That also includes the salary of Kristaps Porzingis, a young, talented big who would give them a Fab 4.5, in effect.

The downside is, Anthony, James, Paul and Wade would be 32 years or older at that point, while the Warriors still would be in their primes. Still, Balls doubts league and network honchos would be disappointed by the matchup.

JUST SAYIN’: Word out of Los Angeles is that rookie quarterback Jared Goff looks more like Matt Ryan every day. Big whoop-de-do. The 49ers’ Plain Blaine Gabbert looks like Scott Bull, so there.

• Bartolo Colon replaced the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner on the National League All-Star roster, and he’ll get no argument here. Pound for pound, there’s no better pitcher in the bigs.

• Balls doesn’t know how 40-year-old David Ortiz does it. The guy has 20 home runs and a .677 slugging percentage at the All-Star break. OK, Balls does have a good idea of how he does it.


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