Wednesday

7-1-09: 2009 Sports Take All-Star Ballot

Hello again everybody...

We've made it to the middle of the week. A morning meeting yesterday screwed up my sleep schedule, so I'm still in recovery mode today. But the overtime pay mitigates the loss of sleep somewhat... somewhat.

Helping quite a bit is the weather we've been having here in the upper Midwest. I've heard one or two people complain about it being too cool for late June/early July. Personally, I couldn't disagree more. Some people are Solstice people. I'm an Equinox person. Particularly of the Autumnal variety. And that's what it feels like right now. My mind is subconsciously gearing up for a High School football game on Friday night. Needless to say, it's going to be slightly disappointed. But I'm enjoying the heck out of the free air conditioning anyway!

In a manner of speaking, that brings us to today's column. I know I promised a Peek at the Picks column for today, but that was before I realized that All-Star voting ends in two days. So PatP will get bumped to next week. And therefore, even with highs in the low 70's, today I bring you my selections for this year's Mid-Summer Classic!

No recounts in this election. Let's pull the lever and get to it!

"Since we cannot know all that there is to be known about anything, we ought to know a little about everything."
- Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662), French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher


As loathe as I am to trust the French, there is a certain Renaissance flavor to this quote that I like. The trick to knowing a little about everything is understanding that knowing a little about everything doesn't make you an authority on everything. It merely makes you conversant.

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Speaking of conversant, I'd like to think I know enough about baseball to have a fairly well thought out All-Star Ballot. Last year, I created a formula and based my votes strictly on it's results. But with this year's creation of the Sports Take Kelley Formula for my picks, I decided to bag the All-Star Ballot formula. That doesn't mean I can't back up my picks with facts. But there's at least some subjective selection involved.

So without further ado, I present to you the 2009 Sports Take All-Star Ballot:

American League

First Base:
Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
Honorable Mentions: Mark Teixeira, NY Yankees; Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays

Teixeira is going to be your starter, but it ought to be Morneau. Morneau's hitting 28 points higher than Tex and has 4 more RBI, while only trailing by 1 home run. Tex might have a slightly better glove, but Morneau is quietly one of the steadiest first basemen in the American League. Morneau will make the squad, and hopefully defend his Home Run Derby title (remember, Josh Hamilton actually got *beat* last year?). But he's going to get hosed on the starting spot. Sadly, the odd man out could be Pena. Boston's (whom I hate) Kevin Youklis will likely be the third first baseman chosen, even though Pena's numbers are better. I guess that run to the World Series last year doesn't quite carry the cache that Youk's two titles do.

Second Base: Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
Honorable Mentions: Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays; Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles

Kinsler's a kid who I've sort of watched grow into a big leaguer during the Spring Trainings I've seen down in Phoenix. And now it looks like he's finally made the leap. He's the obvious choice at second with 19 home runs, 51 RBI and 16 stolen bases. His batting average is a little low, but his OPS of .835 is above average enough to balance it out. Aaron Hill is actually close to nipping at Kinsler's heels. Toronto's had an unexpectedly good start and Hill is definitely deserving of a spot on the AL club. Roberts has been solid for years, and may be Baltimore's lone representative.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, NY Yankees
Honorable Mention: Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays; Alexi Ramirez, Chicago White Sox

I can hear people's teeth grinding as they read Jeter's name. But look at the numbers: .307 batting average, 9 home runs, 32 RBI, 7 stolen bases .832 OPS. If you can find another shortstop in the AL who can best those totals, then vote for him, but I can't.

If Bartlett hadn't gotten dinged up and missed some games, then he might've been the guy. Tampa's been on a tear lately and is threatening to get seriously involved in the AL East race. But Jeter's played more, so he gets the nod from me. Ramirez was my vote for last year's AL Rookie of the Year. And he's done nothing to tarnish that image in my mind so far this year.

Third Base: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers; Mike Lowell, Boston Red Sox (whom I hate)

Longoria won last year's AL Rookie of the Year and, like Ramirez, has done nothing to tarnish that accomplishment. I'd love to vote for Inge here. His career has been somewhat hampered by being moved from position to position. But now Detroit has finally committed to having him at third base, and he's begun to blossom. You have to love a story like that. But as good as that story is, he's still a clear second to Longoria. He'll get a ticket to St. Louis for sure. But Longoria will be your starter. I'd also love to mention anybody other than Lowell. Not because I think he's a bad guy. I just hate the Red Sox that much.

Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Honorable Mentions: Victor Martinez, Cleveland Indians; Mike Napoli, LAAAGOCRCUSPE

This one also took about 3 nanoseconds to decide. My man-crush on Mauer has been well documented over the season, and the numbers easily bear that out. You might ask why I punish Bartlett for being injured, but not Mauer. Simple. Mauer hit over .400 for a month and a half after he got back. Any questions? Didn't think so.

Martinez is probably the best catcher not named Mauer in the AL. I honestly thought he was cooked when I saw him this Spring. But he's turned out to be one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season for Cleveland. That ought to earn him a trip to St. Louis. Napoli was simply the only other guy I could find with decent numbers. Perhaps the AL will go with a two-catcher squad this year.

Outfield: Torii Hunter, LAAAGOCRCUSPE; Jason Bay, Boston Red Sox (whom I hate); Jermaine Dye, Chicago White Sox
Honorable Mentions: Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles; Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers; Bobby Abreu, LAAAGOCRCUSPE

Look, I don't blame the Twins for not paying Hunter the money that LAAAGOCRCUSPE came up with. I wouldn't want to shell out that cash for an outfielder on that side of 30 either. But it's still a little painful to watch him perform the way he does in an Angel uniform. He's as good as it gets and should get the start in center. Bay was the major piece the Red Sox (whom I hate) got in the Manny Ramirez trade, and while nobody could be expected to put up Manny-like numbers, Bay's no slouch. Jermaine Dye scares me every time I see him step to the plate, and I've never pitched in an actual game in my life. He might have the hardest swing this side of Gary Sheffield in the majors. And nowadays, he connects a hell of a lot more often than Sheff does.

National League

First Base:
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Honorable Mentions: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers; Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies

I'm a year or two away from naming this the Albert Pujols NL First Base All-Star Vote. He's so scary good, I don't know how anyone could take this starting spot away from him as long as he's healthy. What amazes me is that he ever gets a pitch to hit. If I was an opposing manager, he'd either get intentionally walked, or get 4 in the dirt every time he hit the plate. The guy who hits behind him is almost hitting 100 points less. Thanks Albert, here's your base. I'm pitching to the next guy.

Regular readers know I'm not terribly high on Fielder, but I can't argue with 20 home runs and 74 RBI. I still think Milwaukee would be well served to look at moving him. His value's never going to be higher than it is now, and it's not impossible that he'll go downhill in a hurry as he ages. Helton has been part of a Rockie Resurgence (I should copyright that, no?) after Colorado fired Clint Hurdle. Helton's the ultimate professional ballplayer, and I hope he gets an All-Star nod this year.

Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
Honorable Mentions: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati Reds; Orlando Hudson, L.A. Dodgers

This is the only defending champ I can vote for. Ryan Howard's putting up power numbers again at first, but his batting average is pitifully low. Utley is as solid as Howard is chaotic.

Phillips has similar numbers to Utley, other than the fact that he's hitting 30 points less. Cincinnati is on the cusp of scaring some people in the NL Central. I'm just not sure they have enough to get over the hump this year. Especially with Edinson Volquez on the DL. Hudson has been a great find for the Dodgers. Arizona fans, wouldn't you love to have this guy back? I'm still not sure why they couldn't get a deal done there.

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
Honorable Mentions: Yunel Escobar, Atlanta Braves; Miguel Tejada, Houston Astros

This one's a no-brainer. Ramirez is flat-out a stud. I know that Boston (whom I hate) doesn't regret the trade that brought them Josh Beckett. But watching Ramirez star in Florida is a lot like watching Tom Hanks in "Joe versus the Volcano". Someone with that much talent in a product that's that lousy is kind of sad. Don't get me wrong, the Marlins are trying to be competitive. But watching Hanley in that horrible excuse for a ballpark is annoying.

Escobar is a young up and comer. I'm not sure this will be his year, but it won't surprise me if he makes the squad. I'd rather not mention Tejada at all, with all the steroid speculation around him. But he hasn't gotten caught yet. And his numbers deserve consideration.

Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets
Honorable Mentions: Mark Reynolds, Arizona Diamondbacks; Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals

I almost voted for Reynolds here. But there are two problems. Number one, he's been playing some first base this year, so it's hard to peg him as a third baseman. Second, his defense is questionable at best. He'll make the occasional spectacular play, but he'll boot just as many routine ones. I can't vote for a guy like that.

Wright is as good as you can ask for. Mets fans who are kvetching over his lack of home runs need to shut up. The guy's leading the NL in hitting and is in the top 5 in RBI. He's not your problem New York, let me assure you.

Zimmerman may be the Nationals' lone representative. Lord knows there isn't anybody else who jumps off the page.

Catcher: Benji Molina, San Francisco Giants
Honorable Mentions: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves; Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals

If we could get Jose Molina of the Yankees a ticket to St. Louis, we might have all 3 Molina brothers in the game! That would have to be the first time that's happened right?

Benji is probably the best all-around catcher in the NL. And he's been a big part of San Francisco's success this year. McCann is solid, though the team around him hasn't been as good. Yadier might be a little better defensively than Benji, but he's a lot lighter with the stick. So Benji gets the nod here.

Outfield: Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia Phillies; Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers; Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies
Honorable Mention: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks; Matt Kemp, L.A. Dodgers; Carlos Lee, Houston Astros

There are a lot of pundits eating crow over Ibanez's signing in Philadelphia. He wasn't good enough defensively. He'd have trouble adjusting to National League pitching. He was flat-out over-rated. Woops. Not so much guys. I was all for Philly signing him, if for no other reason than to get him out of the AL. This guy killed the Twins on a regular basis. And he's doing the same to the National League. Have fun fellas. He's for real.

Braun still takes some awkward routes to fly balls, but his offensive prowess more than makes up for his sometimes-awkward defense. No question he belongs on this squad. Hawpe's numbers don't get talked about much, but he's been a big part of the Rockie Resurgence, perhaps even more so than the better-known Garret Atkins.

Arizona's made a big push to get Upton into the game. And he might sneak in there. But when your team's that awful, it's hard to get in more than one player. And there's no question that Dan Haren will be on the club. Kemp's been one of many bright spots on the Dodgers. And Lee is putting up large power numbers again. If he can stay healthy til the break (not an automatic), he's deserving of a nod.

So there you have them ladies and gents. The 2009 Sports Take All-Stars. Agree? Disagree? Attach a comment and say your piece!

And remember you can go to MLB.com and vote up to 25 times for your favorites. But get to it soon. Your time is almost up!

That's all for today. I'll be back on Friday with a holiday weekend version of the DFTU.

Until then, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to point out, that the Twins being 2 games over .500 today is the same (win percentage-wise) as when they were 1 game over .500 half a season ago.

    ReplyDelete