Well, I promised an AL All-Star review last week, but things have been crazy busy and I’m just now at a point where I can post again. Good thing, too; you now have approximately 24 hours to fill out your online ballot before voting closes tomorrow.
And you don’t have any excuses not to vote now…not with the US being eliminated from the World Cup last week. I’ve said it before, but now is as good a time as any to repeat: I simply don’t understand the obsession with soccer. I didn’t watch a single minute of the World Cup, but a buddy of mine — who isn’t a soccer aficionado — actually gave it a shot. Said he watched two ninety-minute games, both of which ended in a tie.
Say what you will about baseball, but at least somebody always wins.
Even if the Cardinals and Mets have to engage in some sort of Isner / Mahut 20-inning marathon, in baseball there’s always a winner.
Unless…ahem…you’re talking about the All-Star Game.
You see, way back in 2002 there was this little embarrassment re: baseball’s midsummer showcase. The game was played at Miller Park in Milwaukee with Bud Selig proudly seated on the front row. (You’ll remember Bud was partial owner of the Brew Crew before becoming the ninth commissioner in MLB history.) The game went into extra innings; eleven to be exact. And with both bullpens fairly well depleted and both managers hoping to avoid serious injury to any of their colleagues’ pitchers, the game ended in a tie.
As a result, Major League Baseball came up with the ridiculous idea of awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the winning league. Previously home field was awarded on an alternating schedule (AL one year; NL the next) or to the team with the best winning percentage. But now the league’s championship is decided by the outcome of a midseason spring training game. And why not let a spring training game determine the World Series home field advantage? At least half the guys in a spring training game are trying to make their club’s roster. Do you really think Billy Butler gives a rip about whether the Yankees or Red Sox will have home field in October when he makes his pinch hitting appearance in the 7th inning of a July exhibition game? Apparently Bud Selig does.
So does the All-Star Game matter? Well, it matters more than it should now. So if you’re interested, here are the players I’m voting for based on their season numbers so far in 2010:
First base: Leading votes – Justin Morneau – Should start: Miguel Cabrera
Truthfully, as long as either Morneau or Cabrera draws the start ahead of Mark Teixiera, I’m okay. But if I had to pick based on overall statistical production so far, I’d go with Cabrera. Miggy has bounced back in a big way following the turbulent end to his 2009 campaign. He’s driving the ball with authority, as evidenced by his MLB-leading HR and RBI totals. Morneau is a great player, too, but Cabrera edges him out slightly.
Second base: Leading votes – Robinson Cano – Should start: Cano
Cano is having an MVP-caliber season in the Bronx. He leads the majors in batting average, posting a .353 clip through 77 games. He has also responded to being moved up in the batting order, settling in nicely in the #5 spot behind Alex Rodriguez.
Third base: Leading votes – Evan Longoria – Should start: Adrian Beltre
Don’t get me wrong: Evan Longoria is a fabulous player. So is Alex Rodriguez. But neither of them has had an incredible first half. You want to know who has? Adrian Beltre. He has the same number of HR as Longoria, one more than Rodriguez; he has the same number of RBI as Longoria, one fewer than Rodriguez. But his batting average is a full 55 points higher than Longoria and 70 points higher than Rodriguez. And don’t even bring up defense; Beltre has always played Gold Glove-caliber defense, even in years when he’s not hitting. The Red Sox first half MVP deserves the nod here.
Shortstop: Leading votes – Derek Jeter – Should start: Jeter
You could probably make a lukewarm argument for Elvis Andrus here, but come on. Who are we kidding? This is Jeter’s spot and he’s earned it again this year. I’m no Yankee apologist, but I have absolutely no problem with my kid emulating Jeter.
Catcher: Leading votes – Joe Mauer – Should start: Victor Martinez
The ridonkulous power numbers from a year ago have proven to be a fluke, but Mauer remains a legitimate .300 hitter and a threat to win yet another batting title. I probably give the edge to V-Mart, simply because his numbers are better across the board. But I could live with it if Mauer draws the start, especially given Martinez’s health currently.
Outfield: Leading votes – Ichiro Suzuki / Josh Hamilton / Carl Crawford – Should start: Suzuki / Hamilton / Vernon Wells
Hamilton has been on an absolute tear this month and he’s reasserted himself as a force in the Junior Circuit OF picture. Ichiro is another deserving lock here, as he’s posting the 2nd highest batting average (behind Hamilton) among AL OFers. The 3rd spot is a toss up: I debated including David DeJesus, but he’s too much of a one trick pony; Crawford has certainly put up good average and speed numbers and he’d be a worthy starter; but instead, I’m casting my ballot in favor of Vernon Wells, the Toronto Blue Jays center fielder. I gave Wells some pretty serious grief in my AL East Preseason Review:
It says something when your cleanup hitter has a .400 slugging percentage…and he’s owed nearly $100 million over the next five seasons. Like I said, going nowhere…an apt description of both Vernon Wells and this team.
Well, I can certainly eat crow when apropos. Wells has proven us all wrong, slugging to a .564 clip with 19 HR and 47 RBI. So, to paraphrase one of my favorite lines from one of the coolest movies ever: “Vernon, I stand corrected. You’re an oak.”
Designated Hitter: Leading votes – Vladimir Guerrero – Should start: Guerrero
Speaking of eating crow, how crazy is it that Vladdy gets the chance to go back to Anaheim and show off these stats to his former club: a .330 average, 16 HR, 63 RBI…think the Angels wish they’d ponied up a little extra cash to re-sign Vlad now?