Monday, July 14, 2008

Looking back: All-Star voting results

I love MLB's All-Star Game. It is the only game in the four major sports that really is a good game. The Pro Bowl is a joke with people withdrawing and no plays, the NBA All-Star Game has no plays and too much dunking, and the NHL game is the same lack of excitement with no plays. But baseball's game doesn't require those plays, so you can put nine players on the field and play.

That said, every year we look back on fan voting and see if it screws up what should be the roster. The highest vote-getter in each position earns the start in the game. Granted, because some of the voting is done in late May and June, a player who was hot early and cooled off could get the start, but, let's take a look back at the position players and see if the fans did well.(Note: All vote counts are according to ESPN, and I won't include outfield because it is complex with positions and will take forever to explain.)

The American League (36-40 in the All-Star Game, two ties)
--Manager: Terry Francona, Red Sox (two-time World Series champion manager, won 2005 All-Star Game)

1. Joe Mauer, Twins (2,885,246 votes, starting All-Star)
2. Jason Varitek, Red Sox (2,216,344, All-Star)
3. Ivan Rodriguez, Tigers (1,483,425)
Other catchers in the All-Star Game: Dioner Navarro, Rays (not in top-5)

The fact is that really, nobody deserves to start at catcher for the AL. No full time AL catcher has double digit home runs. But, nonetheless, Mauer is the right choice with a .322 average. Red Sox nation got in Varitek despite a .217 average. .217! To compare, our own Ramon Hernandez has a .238 average right now. Red Sox nation strikes again, but this is what happens when there isn't a hands down starter. The players that have past fame will earn votes for his fame, like Varitek and Ivan (.288, 4 HR). At least Navarro (.310) was chosen to be on the roster by Francona.

First Base-
1. Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox (2,858,130, starting All-Star)
2. Justin Morneau (2,801,307, All-Star)
3. Jason Giambi (1,668,126)

Our first close race, and well deserved it is (not that I give the fans credit). Youkilis with a .314, 15 HR, and 63 RBI and Morneau with .323, 14 HR, and 68 RBI. Flip a coin, both are deserving. Giambi wasn't chosen as a reserve from voting or the Final vote (despite ESPN's cheerleading for him with the stupid mustache coverage), so he'll home. 19 HR for him, but only a .253 average. But, no thought to Miguel Cabrera as a reserve? (Tigers, .284, 16 HR, 57 RBI)

Second Base-
1. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (2,492,698, starting All-Star)
2. Ian Kinsler, Rangers (2,458,455, All-Star)
3. Robinson Cano, Yankees (1,458,126)

This is where being in Boston or New York gets you votes. Ian Kinsler is hands down the best second baseman in the AL this season. .337 average, 15 HR, 58 RBI, and 23 SB. Compare to Pedroia: .314, 9 HR, 47 RBI. I will grant that Pedroia is the better defensive player (five errors to Kinsler's 16), but come on, Kinsler should be starting this game. That said, both players and no other second basemen from the AL should be in. Cano: .246, 6 HR, 38 RBI. Again, nice try. Brian Roberts was on the Final Vote list, but did not make the cut.

Third Base-
1. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (3,934,518, starting All-Star, highest MLB vote-getter)
2. Mike Lowell, Red Sox (2,006,101)
3. Joe Crede, White Sox (1,175,229, All-Star)
Other third basemen in the All-Star Game: Carlos Guillen, Tigers (not in top-5), and Evan Longoria, Rays (Final Vote recipent, not in top-5)
The greatest ever shortstop according to the "Best Damn Sports Show Period" is the right choice for the hot corner: .312, 19 HR, 53 RBI is hard to argue with. Now, let's put aside Guillen, who with .284 and 8 HR is in because of the rule that every team must have a player (a rule that takes away a few more should-be All-Stars and should be removed). There are four other third basemen that could have a claim to an All-Star spot.
-Lowell (.297, 13 HR, 57 RBI)
-Crede (.253, 16 HR, 49 RBI)
-Longoria (.275, 16 HR, 53 RBI)
-Adrian Beltre, Mariners (.259, 16 HR, 46 RBI)
Of those four, Crede was chosen. I can't imagine this was an easy choice. The White Sox have another player, Carlos Quentin, so that wasn't the reason. Lowell didn't have great numbers down the stretch to the break, so his numbers were good. I'm puzzled he isn't an All-Star, but that's how it folded out. Longoria got in with the Final Vote.

1. Derek Jeter, Yankees (3,747,437, starting All-Star)
2. Michael Young, Rangers (2,317,403, All-Star)
3. Edgar Renteria, Tigers (987,147)

First thought, where is Johnny Peralta? The only decent power hitting shortstop in the AL and he's not on the roster (.261, 16 HR, 48 RBI). Not that any shortstop has been great, but the fact that Jeter (.284, 5 HR, 42 RBI) is having a mediocre season and still gets to start is just terrible. Young is doing better (.302, 7 HR, 52 RBI). And don't tell me that Yankee Stadium should have its starting shortstop in the last year. Frankly, Jeter has started enough All-Star Games, not all of which were deserved, and Young or Peralta should have gotten the go ahead.

Designated Hitter-
1. David Ortiz, Red Sox (3,554,209, withdrawn due to injury)
2. Hideki Matsui, Yankees (2,198,042)
3. Jim Thome, White Sox (1,417,796)
Other DHs in the All-Star Game: Milton Bradley, Rangers (not in top-5 voting)

Surprise, surprise, more Yankees and Red Sox up top. Ortiz has the power, but not the average, not counting the fact that he was injured all of June. Matsui has the average, not the power. Although Milton Bradley is a bad person (which I'm sure cost him votes) and wasn't the specified Rangers DH (Frank Catalanotto was), good choice with .316, 19 HR, and 57 RBI. You only need one DH, since anyone can be placed in the game as a DH.

Overall, the American League fan voting wasn't bad, but a lot of names should have been switched. The fact is the fan base of the Yankees and Red Sox strongly affects the voting, and it drives many hardcore sports fans nuts. Of the above six starting positions, I agree with three of them.

The National League (40-36 in the All-Star Game, two ties)
--Manager: Clint Hurdle, Rockies (2007 NL Champion, first All-Star Game)

1. Geovany Soto, Cubs (3,096,135, starting All-Star)
2. Jason Kendall, Brewers (2,503,376)
3. Brian McCann, Braves (1,749,707, All-Star)
Other catchers in the All-Star Game: Russell Martin (not in top-5)

I prefer McCann starting to Soto, but it isn't a big deal. Soto (.288, 16 HR, 56 RBI) to McCann (.302, 18 HR, 53 RBI). Martin (.294, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 10 SB) is on because on the Dodgers need a player, though he's having a decent year. But Jason Kendall?????? A guy hitting .258 with one home run. A guy who hasn't been relevent since 2004. One of the most overrated players of the era. How does he get 2.5 million votes? I'm just happy Chicago had a good catcher, it is very possible Kendall could have started if not for a strong year by Soto. Just be happy he's not in the game.

First base-
1. Lance Berkman, Astros (3,373,696, starting All-Star)
2. Prince Fielder, Brewers (2,596,217)
3. Derrek Lee, Cubs (2,374,916)
Other first basemen in the All-Star Game: Albert Pujols, Cardinals (4th), Adrian Gonzalez, Padres (not in top-5)

It is hard to blame any of the fans on this one. National League first basemen are incredibly deep right now. You have your choice of:
-Berkman (.347, 22 HR, 73 RBI, 15 SB)
-Pujols (.350, 18 HR, 50 RBI)
-Gonzalez (.276, 22 HR, 71 RBI)
-Fielder (.270, 18 HR, 52 RBI)
-Lee (.306, 15 HR, 56 RBI)
-Mark Teixeira, Braves (.271, 17 HR, 69 RBI)
-Ryan Howard, Phillies (.234, 28 HR, 84 RBI)
Take your pick. Overall, hard to complain. Berkman was hitting for the Triple Crown for a while, so that earned him well deserved votes, and Pujols might have lost votes due to his injury earlier in the season. But you could have put all of the above in the All-Star Game with their numbers.

Second Base-
1. Chase Utley, Phillies (3,889,602, starting All-Star, highest NL vote-getter)
2. Mark DeRosa, Cubs (2,039,576)
3. Rickie Weeks, Brewers (1,874,503)
Other second basemen in the All-Star Game: Dan Uggla, Marlins (4th)

Utley is the clear choice with .291, 25 HR, 69 RBI, and 10 SB. If Florida had more of a fan base, or actually have a decent attendance, they might have helped their second baseman out. Uggla deserves to go with similar numbers to Utley: .286, 23 HR, 59 RBI. DeRosa is too high, but Weeks is worse. Since when did we all overrate Milwaukee players? Weeks has a .217 average and eight dingers. But he still couldn't get more votes than Varitek despite doubling his home runs.

Third Base-
1. Chipper Jones, Braves (3,772,211, starting All-Star)
2. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs (2,432,700, All-Star)
3. David Wright, Mets (1,740,929, All-Star, replacing injured Matt Holliday)

It's good to see Chipper Jones back as the third base starter (.376, 18 HR, 51 RBI) after being replaced at third by Vinny Castilla in '02, going back two years later. Ramirez is deserving too, .285, 17 HR, 66 RBI. Wright only joined up when Holliday pulled out (he also lost the Final Vote), but all-around is very solid this season with double digit home runs and stolen bases. The best list of all.

1. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins (2,326,285, starting All-Star)
2. J.J. Hardy, Brewers (2,207,730)
3. Miguel Tejada, Astros (2,025,995, All-Star)
4. Ryan Theriot, Cubs (2,003,743)
Other shortstops in the All-Star Game: Christian Guzman, Nationals (not in top-5)

Talk about a close vote. The top four vote getters within 325,000 votes. Ramirez gets on with a .311, 23 HR, and 23 SB. Tejada (.275, 10 HR) has had a decent season and Guzman is on because the NL needs a National. Hardy (.283, 13 HR) has had a better season than Tejada, so for once the Brew Crew bias is helping, but it didn't land Hardy on the team.

I've never seen such a Brewers bias, and that along with Chicago fans are screwing up a lot of votes. But, the fact is the five starters are the correct starters.

So, all in all, not bad by the fans. But fan voting still has affected starters and if many had their way, we would never have the correct people in this game. How would you like it if you hit .325, 25 HR, and 75 RBI at the break and then got beat out by some Yankee or Red Sox player with much worse stats? Fan voting should be changed some how, it is not good for the game.

(Photo credit: Major League Baseball)

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