Hello again everybody...
Hope you had a fun and safe 4th of July. The conditions were near to perfect for fireworks celebrations here in the upper Midwest. Hopefully you all had a similar chance to celebrate freedom and democracy.
And that's probably as close as I'm ever going to get to discussing politics here at The Sports Take.
Unless it's the politics of sports. I'm not saying there were politics involved in the selections of the All-Star rosters. In fact, the fans, players and coaches got it pretty close to right. Today I'll run down the rosters and compare them to my ballot from last week. A little compare, a little contrast... that's just how we roll.
Lame slang phrases aside... let's do this!
"All things are difficult before they are easy."
- Dr. Thomas Fuller (1654 - 1734), British physician, preacher, and intellectual
The best sayings are the simple ones, right? A little hard work and a little doggedness go a long way.
Speaking of hard work and doggedness, it can fairly be said that the men who made the 2009 All-Star game did so through said traits. As I mentioned, the fans, players and coaches got it pretty close to correct.
First Base: Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
ST Pick: Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
Justin Morneau got hosed just as I expected. Yes, he still made the team. But he should've been the starter. Tex is having a nice season, and I certainly don't dispute his making the team. But Morneau has more RBI, is hitting 40 points higher and has a higher OPS than Teixeira does. Seems pretty clear to me who the starter should be. I'd also like to point out that I correctly predicted Carlos Pena getting hosed as well. Kevin Youklis was chosen to be the 3rd first baseman on the roster, even though Pena was far more deserving. Carlos still has a shot in the Final Vote, but I'm not optimistic about his chances.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (whom I hate)
ST Pick: Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers
This is the one that the folks putting together the rosters got most wrong. Yes, Pedroia was last year's MVP. But that shouldn't make him an All-Star this year. He's hitting .285. Not bad. But he has only 35 RBI, and his OPS is a very average .811. Kinsler on the other hand, has 19 home runs and 51 RBI, and he mainly hits lead off! Aaron Hill is the only backup so far on the AL squad. Kinsler still has a shot if the fans vote him in as the 33rd player. I don't have a problem with Hill making the squad. I listed him as an honorable mention. But Kinsler should be there too. Hopefully the fans will correct their mis-step and put Kinsler on the squad.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
ST Pick: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
There will be those that accuse Jeter of getting in on reputation (much like I just accused Pedroia), but this time, Jeter's numbers back his reputation up. His .308 average, 9 homers and 32 RBI are as good as it gets amongst shortstops that have played the full season. Why do I qualify it like that? Because one of my honorable mentions made it as his backup. Jason Bartlett of the Tampa Bay Rays (the real tragedy for Twins fans in that trade) has 100 less plate appearances than Jeter. But his numbers are still right there with Derek's. No complaints from me. These two guys should be there, and the right one is starting.
Third Base: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
ST Pick: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
No argument with the starter here either. Longoria's numbers clearly qualify him to be the starter. It's the back-up that makes me scratch my head. Michael Young of the Texas Rangers was selected as the back-up third baseman. On the one hand, I'm a fan of Young. He was asked for the second time in his career to change positions to make room for another talent. Initially, he moved from second to short to make room for Alfonso Soriano. Then this year he moved from short to third to make room for rookie Elvis Andrus. It's nice when a guy who's that selfless is rewarded. But other than having a higher average, I'm not sure what qualifies him to make the squad over Brandon Inge of the Tigers. Their OPS's are nearly even. But Inge has 9 more home runs and 19 more RBI. Inge is also on the Final Vote ballot, so he's got a shot to get in. But I think Kinsler's going to take that spot. Too bad for Brandon. He's certainly deserving.
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
ST Picks: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Mauer may not have been the leading vote-getter in the AL (that title went to Jeter), but he was as big a no-brainer as anyone on the squad. The Baby Jesus may not be hitting .400 anymore. But .390 isn't anything to sneeze at. Mauer's still 5 plate appearances short of the necessary number to qualify for the league leadership. It looks like he'll get there either immediately prior to, or shortly after the All-Star break. I've also got no problem with the back-up. Cleveland's Victor Martinez will be spelling Mauer sometime around the 5th or 6th inning. Martinez is the token Indian on the squad. I mean nothing racial by that, mind you. He's just the only Cleveland player on the club!
Outfield: Jason Bay, Boston Red Sox (whom I hate); Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners; Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
ST Picks: Torii Hunter, LAAAGOCRCUSPE; Jason Bay, Boston Red Sox (whom I hate); Jermaine Dye, Chicago White Sox
This is the second most screwed up spot. The only reason that second base was worse is because Kinsler wasn't put on the squad. Torii Hunter made the team, but the fact that he's not starting is a crime. I know people love what Josh Hamilton did in last year's Home Run Derby. But that's even a weaker reason to put him on the club than Pedroia's MVP. Thankfully, the fans were rewarded for their short-sightedness by learning that Hamilton won't be competing in this year's Derby thanks to the oblique injury that he's just coming back from. In fairness, I screwed this up too. I didn't have Ichiro on my ballot anywhere. The guy leading the league in hitting (at least until Mauer's PA's catch up)? Yeah, he belongs in the game.
Carl Crawford, TB; Curtis Granderson, Det; Adam Jones, Bal; and Ben Zobrist, TB, make up the rest of the outfield back-ups. No complaints there. At least none as large as Torii not starting. Come on people! How did you get that one wrong?!
Pitchers: Andrew Bailey, OAK; Josh Beckett, BOS; Mark Buehrle, CWS; Brian Fuentes, LAAAGOCRCUSPE; Zack Greinke, KC; Roy Halladay, TOR; Felix Hernandez, SEA; Edwin Jackson, DET; Joe Nathan, MIN; Jonathan Papelbon, BOS (whom I hate); Mariano Rivera, NYY; Justin Verlander, DET; Tim Wakefield, BOS (whom I hate)
I didn't make any picks on pitchers, because the fans don't get a vote. The only one that makes me scratch my head a bit is Felix Hernandez from Seattle. The numbers aren't bad: 8-3, 2.62. But I've seen him twice this year and I wasn't impressed either time. It's a minor complaint at most. If I was the skipper, Roy Halladay would get the start, though it won't surprise me if Joe Maddon gives Greinke the nod.
First Base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
ST Pick: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Pujols got more votes than any other player on either roster, and deservedly so. I told a colleague the other night that if I was any other first baseman in the NL, I'd make sure my All-Star bonus clause wasn't dependant on starting. As long as Pujols is healthy, he's the odds-on favorite to get the start. Pick a year, any year. But since this year's All-Star festivities are in St. Louis, this was a mortal lock.
Interestingly, the NL went with 3 first basemen as back-ups. Prince Fielder of Milwaukee was one of my honorable mentions, and deserves to make the squad. Adrian Gonzalez would seem to be the only Padre deserving (Heath Bell? Really?), so I get that one too. But I'm disappointed that they took Ryan Howard of Philadelphia over Todd Helton of Colorado. Helton has a higher average and OPS. And though he's got half as many homers as Howard, he only trails by 7 RBI. It's not that I'm against Howard making the team. I just think Helton's a touch more deserving.
Second Base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
ST Pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
No question this was the right call. Utley's the class of the second sackers in the NL. Again, one of my honorable mentions got squeezed for a back-up spot by a player who was put on the roster only because every team needs a representative. Orlando Hudson of the Dodgers absolutely deserved to make the squad. But Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates over Brandon Phillips of the Reds? Sanchez has a better average and OPS, but Phillips has 4 more homers and 20 more RBI. Numbers-wise Phillips has a slight edge. But since someone from the Pirates has to make the squad Sanchez gets the nod.
I've always been in favor of the "every club gets a representative" rule. The All-Star game is a celebration of baseball, and everybody should get to be involved. I just think that there should be some sort of allowance in a situation like this where the take a guy who's less deserving, so that someone from a bad team can make the squad. I'm not saying Sanchez shouldn't go. I just think they should add a spot so that Phillips can go too.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
ST Pick: Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
Excellent work by the fans here. Ramirez is the best player most people aren't familiar with. It would've been easy for fans to vote in the better-known Miguel Tejada, but they got it right picking Ramirez. This guy is flat-out a superstar. Make sure you check him out a week from Tuesday. You won't be sorry. Tejada makes the club as the sole back-up. Can't complain about that either.
Third Base: David Wright, New York Mets
ST Pick: David Wright, NY Mets
What's funny about this pick is that Wright probably got less support in New York than he did anywhere else in the country. Why Mets fans are bitching about his lack of power, I don't know. He's doing everything else they could want him to. But that's New York for you. Ryan Zimmerman from Washington is the lone back-up. My other honorable mention, Mark Reynolds of Arizona made the Final Vote ballot. I fear he'll get aced out by OF Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. But maybe L.A.'s lazy reputation will give him a shot.
Catcher: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
ST Pick: Benjie Molina, San Francisco Giants
At least they got the last name right. I guess I can't complain about Yadi getting the start. A second Cardinal starting in St. Louis seems appropriate. But to take Brian McCann (admittely a ST Honorable Mention) over Bengie Molina seems off to me. And worse, Bengie didn't even make the Final Vote ballot. I couldn't be that far off here, could I? It's close stats-wise. I won't complain too loudly.
Outfield: Carlos Beltran, NY Mets; Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers; Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia Phillies
ST Picks: Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia Phillies, Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers; Brad Hawpe, Colorado Rockies
As much as it galls me to quote Meatloaf, two out of three really ain't bad. And Hawpe did make it as a back-up. Beltran's another "reputation" guy. He got a lot of votes in New York. Maybe all the people who were pissed at Wright voted for Beltran instead. I don't know. But I'd have picked him as a last-resort back-up and no higher.
Hunter Pence of Houston, and Justin Upton of Arizona are your other two backups. Pence over Lee as far as Astros go? Eh, it's a coin flip. We've seen Lee before, so maybe it's not so bad that a new face gets in there. Upton was a pleasant surprise. Obviously I thought he was deserving enough to make Honorable Mention. I just figured Kemp would ace him out, especially given the two teams' relative records (those shouldn't be a factor, but if you think they're not, see Pedroia, Dustin).
Pitchers: Heath Bell, SD; Chad Billingsley, LAD; Jonathan Broxton, LAD; Matt Cain, SF; Francisco Cordero, CIN; Ryan Franklin, STL; Dan Haren, ARI; Josh Johnson, FLA; Ted Lilly, CHC; Tim Lincecum, SF; Jason Marquis, COL; Francisco Rodriguez, NYM; Johan Santana, NYM
Again, playing skipper, I'd love to see Dan Haren get the start here. But I imagine that Charlie Manuel will go with Tim Lincecum. I suppose Santana would make some sense as well. But I think the reigning Cy Young winner has pitched well enough to earn the honor.
So there are your 2009 All-Stars. Make sure you go to www.mlb.com and vote for your Final Vote selections.
Personally, I think Ian Kinsler and Mark Reynolds are the way to go. But vote for whoever you like. That's the fun of it!
That's all for me today. I'm back on Wednesday with the delayed but never denied Peek at the Picks column. Don't miss it!
Until then, thanks for reading!