This is possibly an entirely baseball related entry. Those of you who aren’t interested can excuse yourselves here.
Saw the AL all-star voting tallies as of today, and it riled me up good. Red Sox and Yankees players leading at 8 of 9 positions, and were Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui not injured, I’d say the AL East’s most overplayed rivalry would probably be pitching a shutout.
So I had to look ’em over, and see if the fans are screwing up.
I understand that they can’t really change the ballots in mid-season, but the current voting system needs a tweak for unexpected players, and for position changes/call-ups. For example, four of the nine Blue Jays listed have either changed positions, aren’t starting regularly, or aren’t on the team now.
I guess write-ins work, but that’s counting on the intelligence of average fans, which doesn’t really inspire me. Though I do thank whatever forces made MLB.com’s ballot have a stat box for all the players at each position, so I could refresh my memory, and look at unexpected stars.
So let’s run ’em down, with leaders, wannabe leaders, and the Canadian team’s nominee at the positions:
Current Leader: Jason Varitek, Red Sox
Should Be Leading: Ramon Hernandez, Orioles. With apologies to AL batting runner-up Joe Mauer of the Twins (who should be there as a reserve), Hernandez has a more well-rounded set of numbers (.308 avg- 8 HRs- 45 RBIs, to Mauer’s .355-5-26), and is more solid defensively. Ivan Rodriguez (.309-4-25) is another perpetual candidate. Varitek, hitting just .242, is there on reputation.
Hometown Candidate: Bengie Molina, Blue Jays. Having his usual solid season at the plate, but not as much behind it. Shouldn’t be considered.
Current Leader: David Ortiz, Red Sox
Should Be Leading: Ortiz. It’s a deep crop of first basemen this year, with DHs out because of the National League park, and you can’t really go wrong with any of Ortiz, Travis Hafner, Jason Giambi, or Paul Konerko, who are all hovering around 15 HRs and 45-50 RBIs. Though Konerko is the only one of the four who’s served significant time at first base this year.
NINJA EDIT: Forgot White Sox DH Jim Thome, who’s not on the ballot, either. He could/should beat out his teammate here.
Hometown Candidate: Lyle Overbay, Blue Jays. On pace for his usual numbers at the plate (should end up around 20 HRs and 75 RBIs), though his glovework, admittedly a lesser concern at this position, has been a little skittish of late. Not close, though, in a deep field.
Current Leader: Robinson Cano, Yankees
Should Be Leading: Jose Lopez, Mariners. A weak crop of second basemen, and Lopez is heads and shoulders above them all offensively, with 47 RBIs- an amazing 23 more than the next closest player at his position, Tadahito Iguchi of the White Sox (who should make the team as a reserve). Cano’s having a solid season for an injury-plagued Yankees squad, but not close to All-Star worthy.
Hometown Candidate: Aaron Hill, Blue Jays. Has since moved to shortstop, and struggled at the plate early. Next.
Current Leader: Derek Jeter, Yankees
Should Be Leading: Miguel Tejada, Orioles. Though Jeter’s having a great season, and should be on the team, Tejada gets it by a nose for having a little more pop in his bat (14 HRs to Jeter’s 5). Texas’ Michael Young and Oakland’s Bobby Crosby have the name value, but fall short.
Hometown Candidate: Russ Adams, Blue Jays. Is currently learning how to play second base at AAA Syracuse. Let’s move on.
Current Leader: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees.
Should Be Leading: Troy Glaus, Blue Jays. Rodriguez isn’t a bad choice here, either, but Glaus gets it for slightly better numbers (.267-17 HRs-45 RBIs to .293-13-44 for Rodriguez, who has a better lineup behind him). Maybe the fans are closer than I think. Eric Chavez (.279-12-41) and Hank Blalock (.305-8-41) having solid seasons as well, but not enough to win a deep corner position. A-Rod would make it as a backup here, in my world (playing shortshop at some point in the game, I figure, now that it COUNTS), and maybe Chavez.
Hometown Candidate: Glaus.
Current Leaders: Manny Ramirez, Red Sox; Johnny Damon, Yankees; and Vladimir Guerrero, Angels
Should Be Leading: Nick Swisher, As; Vernon Wells, Blue Jays; and Guerrero. Swisher (.287-16 HRs-42 RBIs) is having a breakout season, as he’s tied with Jermaine Dye of the White Sox for the lead in HRs at his position, with 16. And he’s not listed on the ballot, at either of his positions (outfield and first base).
Wells is hitting third for a Blue Jays team that’s hanging tough in a dogfight AL East, has good numbers at the plate (.319-15-44) and plays Gold Glove defense in center field.
Vladimir Guerrero, the lone not-Yankee-or-Sawx player leading at his position, is another inspired choice. Slightly better numbers than Wells (.329-15-48), and a cannon for an arm in right. Doesn’t have much help on that Angels team, either.
Ramirez (.293-14-37) and Damon (.297-7-29-12 SBs-44 Runs) aren’t terrible choices here, either- Manny should make the team, though I’d be inclined to replace Damon with someone else, given the chance. He’s close, but not quite there in a packed crop of outfielders. Maybe with Dye, or resurgent Detroit outfielder Magglio Ordonez, a huge part of the Tigers’ hot start. Heck, let’s put ’em both on as reserves (with apologies to Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore, Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford and Johnny Gomes, and the aforementioned Damon)
Hometown Candidates: Here’s where it gets interesting. Wells, Reed Johnson, and Eric Hinske are listed on the ballot. But only Wells is a regular now.
American League batting leader Alex Rios, hitting .358 with 10 HRs and 41 RBIs, isn’t even listed. He currently leads the write-in vote, which is a nice step, but he’ll have to be named by the coaches. He’d be on my all-star team, for breaking the platoon in the first month, leading the AL in hitting, and playing outfield defense with aplomb.
Hinske, who was the other half of the right field platoon when the season started, has rightfully been banished to the bench, to be summoned as a pinch hitting corner reserve to hit against righties in the late innings.
Johnson, platooning with Frank Catalanatto in left field, is having a nice season, hitting .347 in constant duty, be it starting or off the bench.
So 32 spots on the team… How many have I taken?
Here’s who we’ve got on Shnuff’s American League All-Star team (Starters in bold):
C: Ramon Hernandez-Joe Mauer-Ivan Rodriguez
1B: David Ortiz-Travis Hafner-Jim Thome
2B: Jose Lopez-Tadahito Iguchi
SS: Miguel Tejada-Derek Jeter
3B: Troy Glaus-Alex Rodriguez-Eric Chavez
OF: Nick Swisher-Vernon Wells-Vladimir Guerrero-Manny Ramirez-Alex Rios-Magglio Ordonez-Jermaine Dye
That leave us 12 spots for pitchers… that sounds about right.
I’ve managed to almost entirely excise the Yankees/Sawx contingent from the starting lineup, though Ortiz, Jeter and Rodriguez are solid choices (at tough positions), and Ramirez isn’t bad. Robinson Cano, Johnny Damon, and Jason Varitek should sit this one out. So the fans aren’t doing all that badly.
I’m ignoring the ‘every team must have someone’ rule for the purpose of this list, which is good (They’d have to take pitchers from Texas, Kansas City, and Tampa Bay… Lord, have mercy).
There does seem to be a decided East Coast bias here as well, with 11 of 20 players I’ve put from AL East teams. I figure none of us can claim objectivity.
Not until Alex Rios gets on the ballot.