Wednesday, July 06, 2005

« All-Stars set: Jeter, Ensberg to watch on TV »

By Suss
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The teams are set.

And after years of fans getting booed by "smart" fans for selecting undeserving players to the starting lineup, fans did pretty well this year.

For the most part, at least.


Derrek Lee finally beat out Albert Pujols, although they are both having monster seasons and some argue that the second half of last season should count -- which favors Pujols.

Jeff Kent was the best second baseman by far. Clint Barmes was the best shortstop, but his injury took him out of the running, leaving it wide open, and whether Cesar Izturis, David Eckstein or another (I thought Omar Vizquel made a compelling case) was voted, it would have been a good decision.

While Scott Rolen was injured, all of the other third baseman had equally strong numbers (Aramis Ramirez, Troy Glaus, David Wright, Joe Randa and Morgan Ensberg each had a good case). But Rolen, who missed 33 games with a shoulder injury, got the benefit of the doubt, plus they recognized him from the previous three All Star games. Probably another person was more deserving this year -- Ensberg was my personal choice -- but I also voted a few times for Ramirez (better average) and Glaus (favorite team). Ramirez, to his credit, was voted in as a reserve, but Ensberg did not make the team, despite his 22 homers.

The starting outfield does not include either the top two position leader in batting average (Miguel Cabrera, Moises Alou), top four in RBI (Carlos Lee, Pat Burrell, Andruw Jones, Cabrera) or home runs (Jones, Lee, Adam Dunn, Cliff Floyd). But Bobby Abreu deserves the spot, as does Jim Edmonds, if not for his spectacular fielding. But Carlos Beltran, who has really slumped, got it for name recognition. He was not voted into the Midsummer Classic last year, primarily for switching leagues (but he did make the team as a reserve). Abreu, Cabrera and Lee are my picks for outfield, although Jose Guillen deserved consideration as well.

Piazza got the catcher spot -- surprise -- but he probably deserved it at least this time around. He has more homers and RBI than any other catcher, but Paul Lo Duca, who leads NL catchers in average -- made it this year. My sentimental pick was Yady Molina because he's thrown out 65 percent (20 of 31) of attempted basestealers this year, a much better average than the man who's most known for doing it all his career, Pudge Rodriguez.


Jason Varitek as catcher? He leads his competition in average and homers. He's the captain of the defending World Series champions. His team's in first. The next best catcher -- Pudge -- is a reserve. What's left to argue? Next.

Mark Teixeira has the most menacing stats of any AL first baseman, which is amazing considering he's better this year than Richie Sexson, Paul Konerko, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Tino Martinez and Mike Sweeney.

Brian Roberts and Miggy Tejada were both too good to make anyone else start in the middle infield, and nobody could top Alex Rodriguez's numbers. Also, David Ortiz was the only legit candidate for DH (Travis Hafner got hot too late).

The outfield, again, is a little shaky, but only because so many good AL outfielders exist. The three elected -- Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon and Vlad Guererro -- not only rank among the elite outfielders, but also coincidentally comprise a true left, center and right fielder. Garret Anderson, Ichiro and Hideki Matsui each could make arguments, and Gary Sheffield almost made it in the top three (bumped by Damon late in the voting), but overall the AL was right on the money.


The problem that kept Ensberg -- and many other deserving candidates -- off this list is the lopsidedness of outfielders on the list. But there were four teams -- Pirates, Diamondbacks, Giants and Brewers -- with one lone representative (Jason Bay, Luis Gonzalez, Moises Alou and Carlos Lee, respectively). Add Cabrera and Jones to the mix, and suddenly the team is more than 25 percent outfield. That will balance itself out as some of the OFers will DH. But Jose Guillen deserved to be on the team, not Alou. Cliff Floyd should be on the team, not Gonzalez. In fact, five players on pace to hit 35 homers are off the list (Floyd, Adam Dunn, Reggie Sanders, Guillen and Pat Burrell). It's probably a testament to how crowded the list is at the top, but somebody's gotta be off the list.

The infield reserves are missing Ensberg, but Ramirez is instead the reserve third baseman. Felipe Lopez is the lone Red at shortstop, only because Dunn couldn't be the tenth outfielder. Izturis joins him, which I can live with, but I'd rather see Vizquel. And Pujols is a first baseman, who will probably DH if not for the fact that there is no other first basemen, so Lee is playing the entire game.

I would have liked to see Chase Utley make the list, as his OPS is strangely .013 higher than Kent's despite 4 fewer home runs. Still, 11 is good for a second baseman. But I can't put Utley over Castillo, who gets on base over 43 percent of the time.


Pudge Rodriguez gets another All-Star appearance, and's Rob Neyer tags him as one of the five most undeserving All Star this year, but who else would you make the reserve catcher? Jorge Posada? He has more homers and RBI, but Pudge has a better average and is a better fielder. Plus they needed a Tiger, and it's going to be played in Detroit.

No one first baseman outside Teixeira is having a remarkable year. They either have great power numbers or a great average, but not both. Having said that, the Royals needed to send someone people have heard of, and Mike Sweeney is the benefactor. Sorry, Emil Brown fans.

Michael Young is having another great year, and I barely noticed. Then again, when you hit .269 in April, .310 in May and .389 in June, you'll sneak up on people. Add that to Tejada's monster year, and of course Young will be forgotten. Thankfully he made it, upon a closer look at his current numbers.


Good picks all around.

Chris Carpenter. Roger Clemens. Livan Hernandez. Dontrelle Willis. Any of these four could s tart the game.

Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz are both familiar to the game.

The first place Padres sent their best pitcher, Jake Peavy, as the only representative.

The Rockies sent their most consistent pitcher, Brian Fuentes. I've written about this guy, and a left-handed reliever is always handy, especially if he can close out games in Coors Field with a 3.00 ERA.

And finally, the lights out closing done by Chad Cordero, Jason Isringhausen and Brad Lidge will scare the AL.


While no White Sox were named as starters or picked by the players or managers, their top two pitchers -- Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland -- got their dues with All Star selections. Kenny Rogers, the subject of a mind-boggling incident involving shoving two cameramen, was voted by the players for his merits on the field, and Roy Halladay has been here before as well. Also, it's hard to believe Johan Santana has never been here before, but he will finally be on an All Star team.

The closers have a lot of new faces. While Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera and Bob Wickman have been around, Danys Baez, Justin Duchscherer and B.J. Ryan are all experiencing this for the first time. Baez and Duchscherer (pronounced "DUKE-sher," for some reason) are the lone reps from the D-Rays and A's, respectively.


Tuesday's voting closed for the 32 player, with Scott Podsednik of the American League and Roy Oswalt of the National League.

With Scotty Pods making the team, that means Derek Jeter won't be on the All Star team twice in the past three years. He's a six-time All Star, but Podsednik has never been there and people love base stealers (he has 41 so far).

Podsednik also beat out Hideki Matsui, Torii Hunter and Carl Crawford. My guess is that Matsui and Jeter, teammates, split the Yankee nation vote because Jeter is the fan favorite but Matsui has the numbers. Meanwhile, the rest of the nation stuffed the box with Podsednik. (I must have voted 50 times for him online).

And in the National League, pitchers were voted on for the first time. Roy Oswalt was the only logical choice for this spot, and he won it. Trevor Hoffman, perennial All Star, came in second, followed by Brandon Webb, Billy Wagner and Brett Myers.

Most All Star selections on current teams:
C Pudge Rodriguez: 12
C Mike Piazza: 12
P Roger Clemens: 11
OF Gary Sheffield: 9
P Mariano Rivera: 7
P Pedro Martinez: 7
P John Smoltz: 7

First timers:
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Brian Roberts
P Jon Garland
P Johan Santana
P Danys Baez
P Justin Duchscherer
P B.J. Ryan
1B Derrek Lee
SS David Eckstein
P Chris Carpenter
P Jake Peavy
P Chad Cordero
P Brian Fuentes
P Brad Lidge
3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Cesar Izturis
SS Felipe Lopez
OF Jason Bay
OF Carlos Lee