Every year, I sort of take it upon myself to help my intrepid readers with that most important summertime ritual: filling out your MLB All-Star ballots. What right do you have to tell us who to vote for? you might be asking yourself. Who died and made you Kennesaw Mountain Landis? To which I would say, “That’s a good point. But if the American public just had any clue what they were doing when it came to filling out these ballots, I wouldn’t HAVE to tell people how to vote.” I’m reminded of a dear friend of mine who once told me he thought people should have to pass an IQ test before they were allowed to vote at the national and/or local level. (I won’t reveal my friend’s identity, except to say that he/she is a reader of this blog. And an attorney. And a Braves fan. And we were once handcuffed together.) I feel something similar; you really should know the difference between John Franco and Julio Franco before they allow you fill out an All-Star ballot.
You know, it wasn’t always this way. Fans haven’t always had the luxury of voting on the All-Star starters. The fan-vote tradition didn’t begin until 1947; prior to this date, each league’s All-Star Game manager selected the players for his roster. But that changed in ’47. The fans were allowed to vote on the game’s eight starters until 1957, when the Cincinnati Reds stuffed the ballot box and elected seven starters to the All-Star Game. (St. Louis’ Stan Musial was the lone non-Reds starter elected.) According to Wikipedia, an investigation revealed a ballot stuffing conspiracy. The Cincinnati Enquirer printed up pre-marked ballots and distributed them in the local Sunday papers, making it easier for fans to vote for their hometown boys. Rumors circulated that surly bartenders in the greater Cincinnati area refused to serve alcohol to their patrons until they filled out an “all Reds” All-Star ballot. Thankfully, Commissioner Ford Frick intervened and appointed Willie Mays and Henry Aaron as starters over outfielders Wally Post and Gus Bell. The fan vote was thus revoked for more than a decade.
So, the point is, we don’t need to screw this up, folks. It’s important that we get this right, but it’s especially critical that we get the best players starting for the National League. Here are the reasons, in short order:
- The NL is my favorite, and…
- The AL has won every All-Star Game since 1997 (2002’s “tie” notwithstanding)
(Sidebar: Every All-Star Game since 1997. In 1997, I had just completed by sophomore year of college. No wife, no kids. I drove a Honda Accord. I could dunk a basketball. What were you doing in 1997? Sidebar complete.)
Anyway, here are the guys you should be voting for, based on their 2010 statistics, when you fill our your NL All-Star Ballot. And don’t forget to watch the MLB All-Star Game, July 13th on Fox.
First Base – Leading votes: Albert Pujols – Should start: Pujols
Do I really need to break this down for you? If so, read the title of this post. Kinda says it all.
Second Base – Leading votes: Chase Utley – Should start: Martin Prado
Chase Utley is a great player, a gamer, a World Champion. But he has no business starting this game. For one, dude is hurt. Take a day off, Chase. More importantly, Atlanta’s Martin Prado deserves to start. This former utility man is leading the league in hitting, he’s second in runs scored, and he’s been a catalyst at the top of the Braves lineup. I love rooting for gritty guys like this when they have a career year like this. I can only hope baseball fans out there will vote en masse for Prado over the broken down Utley. I know others will disagree, but for me, this is what the All-Star Game is about: recognizing guys who are having career years, even if they’re not “name brand” superstars.
Third Base – Leading votes: Placido Polanco – Should start: David Wright
Looks like Philly is taking a page from the Reds fans of yesteryear.
It’s a joke that Polanco is the leader at his position right now. He’s a nice little player and all, but come on. As of this writing, David Wright is leading the NL in RBI. He also bests Polanco in every significant offensive category other than batting average. A close second to Wright is the resurgent Scott Rolen (.303 avg, 15 HR, 46 RBI).
Shortstop – Leading votes: Hanley Ramirez – Should start: Ramirez
I really looked for somebody else to vote for here. Hanley’s total lack of hustle earlier this season (for video, click here) makes it so hard for me to cast a vote his way. But with Troy Tulowitzki on the shelf and Jimmy Rollins missing half the year already, there’s really no other choice. I don’t have to like it, but he’s the most deserving, at least on paper. But not in my heart. Can Ozzie Smith come out of retirement?
Catcher – Leading votes: Yadier Molina – Should start: Miguel Olivo
This is going to seem sacrilege to my fellow Cardinal fans, but Molina shouldn’t be starting this game. He’s a great defensive player, but that’s awfully hard to quantify. What’s not hard to quantify is a player’s offensive contribution to his club. In that regard, there’s really only one choice among NL catchers for the All-Star Game: Colorado’s Miguel Olivo. His 290 batting average is a full 45 points higher than Molina’s; his RBI total matches Molina, McCann and Rod Barajas; and his 9 homers and 4 steals are equal to or better than the rest of his competitors.
Outfield: Leading votes – Ryan Braun / Jason Heyward / Andre Ethier – Should start – Braun / Ethier / Corey Hart
Hard to argue with either Braun or Ethier. They’ve played their way into the lineup this season. In fact, Ethier was on a Triple Crown-esque tear before breaking his pinkie last month. But I disagree with the American public on the 3rd OF spot. Heyward has been very good for a rookie, no question. That bomb he hit on Opening Day off Carlos Zambrano still hasn’t come down. But the half season Corey Hart has put up is just too difficult to ignore. Hart leads the league in HR, he’s 3rd in RBI. He’s also put up a better batting average than Heyward. Heyward is a media darling the Messiah, so he’s sure to draw the start, but if I had my way, it’d be a different Brave in the starting lineup in Anaheim on July 13.