Last week, as the voting drew to a close, I posted my preferred All-Star rosters for this year’s mid-summer classic at Yankee Stadium. Yesterday, the actual rosters were announced. My preferences are hardly the final word on the subject, but I thought that by comparing the two we might be able to glean some insight into the current selection process.
|MLB but not Me||Me but not MLB|
|Justin Morneau||1B||Jason Giambi||1B|
|Dustin Pedroia||2B||Brian Roberts||2B|
|Derek Jeter||SS||Johnny Damon||OF|
|Joe Crede||3B||Mike Lowell||3B|
|Ichiro Suzuki||OF||Jermaine Dye||OF|
|Dioner Navarro||C||Jorge Posada||C|
|Jason Varitek||C||Scott Downs||RP|
|David Ortiz||DH||Rich Harden||SP|
|Ervin Santana||SP||John Lackey||SP|
|Joe Saunders||SP||Shawn Marcum||SP|
|Jonathan Papelbon||RP||John Danks||SP|
|George Sherrill||RP||Felix Hernandez||SP|
David Ortiz, who was voted in as the starting DH by the fans, is on the DL and will be replaced by the winner of the Final Vote contest. The five Final Vote candidates include Giambi, Roberts, and Dye from my list, the Rays’ rookie third baseman Evan Longoria, who just missed my cut and has surpassed Mike Lowell in VORP since I posted my list less than a week ago, and the utterly undeserving Jose Guillen. The player I took the most heat in the comments section for omitting was Derek Jeter, the fans’ choice for starting shortstop. Since Johnny Damon is also on the DL, I’ll slip Jeter, a future Hall of Famer who is captain of the host team and has hit .300/.377/.415 since June 1, into my ballot and thus leave him out of this analysis.
Assuming the Final Vote results reinstate one of my preferred All-Stars, that would leave my AL All-Star team and the actual AL All-Star team differing in 10 different spots on a 32-man roster. Of those, two (Dustin Pedroia and Ichiro Suzuki) are the result of the fan vote. Of those two, Pedroia is somewhat excusable. He’s a slick fielding second baseman for the defending World Champions who is hitting .312/.355/.458 with nine steals in as many tries. That doesn’t measure up to Ian Kinsler’s dominant .332/.391/.545 and 23 steals in 24 tries or Roberts’ .295/.373/.493 and 24 steals at a 77 percent clip, but it’s not embarrassing. Pedroia is a close third among AL second baseman in VORP.
Suzuki is a bigger problem. He’s been having his worst year and his team has been awful, in part as a result of his own weak performance. He’s barely above league average (102 OPS+), and he’s ninth among AL outfielders in VORP, and would be tenth if you included designated hitter Milton Bradley, who was listed as an outfielder on the All-Star ballots.
Though those two selections are the only fan picks that I don’t believe deserve to be on the roster, the fan’s starting lineup differed from mine in five places in the AL (Ortiz, Jeter, and Manny Ramirez being the other three I either had on the bench or not at all). That’s a .444 winning percentage for the fans, with 22 percent of their picks being major issues.
You see, with Pedroia in the starting lineup, Kinsler was forced to the bench and Roberts was forced out of the top 31 spots. That forced Terry Francona to pick a Baltimore Oriole, and with two second basemen already in place, he went with closer George Sherrill, another bad pick which was likely forced in part by the presence of the undeserving Suzuki in the outfield where the second-best choice from the Orioles Nick Markakis (who along with Baltimore DH Aubrey Huff ranks ahead of Suzuki in VORP). Sherrill we’ll blame on Francona, but the fans get an assist.
Because the player vote now fills out most of the bench, Francona is only directly responsible for six players on the roster. Beyond Sherrill they are Carlos Guillen, Dioner Navarro, Justin Duchscherer, Joakim Soria, and Joe Nathan. Nathan, Soria, Duchscherer, and Guillen were all on my team. That gives Francona a .667 winning percentage. Sherrill we’ve discussed. Navarro isn’t the worst pick. He’s third among AL catchers in VORP behind All-Star starter A.J. Pierzynski and Joe Mauer. I took Jorge Posada (seventh in VORP due to his DL stay) on my team over Navarro and Pierzynski, but I can’t begrudge Francona taking Navarro’s .318/.370/.435 over A.J.’s .296/.333/.442, especially as Pierzynski’s slight lead in VORP is also due to playing time. Heck, give Francona a 5-for-6 on his picks, or .833.
So we blame the fans and Francona for just three of what I’ll now call nine mistakes (allowing Navarro for Posada). That leaves six blown calls by the players. The most egregious being the inclusion of Jason Varitek, who has been so bad this year he’s actually 35th in the 14-team league in VORP among catchers, trailing his own backup, the abysmal Kevin Cash, among others. Varitek is in the red at -2.4 VORP. Only three catchers in the American League (yes, Jose Molina is one of them) have done more damage to their team’s offenses. Varitek is far and away the least deserving All-Star in either league. Second to him is Joe Crede, who is eighth in the league in VORP among third baseman behind such luminaries as Casey Blake and Ramon Vazquez.
The players will take a lot of heat for those picks here and elsewhere, but of their 17 picks, 11 were on the money, giving them a .647 winning percentage, and “incorrect” picks like Justin Morneau, who is third in VORP at first base behind Final Vote candidate Giambi, Jonathan Papelbon, undeniably one of the game’s dominant closers (last night’s loss notwithstanding), or even Angel starters Joe Saunders (12-4, 3.04) and Ervin Santana (9-3, 3.28, 3.53 K/9, 1.09 WHIP), are hardly ludicrous suggestions. The problem is that ludicrous selections such as Varitek and Crede make those near misses a lot harder to swallow.
Here’s the breakdown for the NL:
|MLB but not Me||Me but not MLB|
|Ryan Braun||OF||Pat Burrell||OF|
|Kosuke Fukudome||OF||Jason Bay||OF|
|Alfonso Soriano||OF||Carlos Beltran||OF|
|Ryan Ludwick||OF||Brian Giles||OF|
|Miguel Tejada||SS||Jose Reyes||SS|
|Cristian Guzman||SS||David Wright||3B|
|Ryan Dempster||SP||Cole Hamels||SP|
|Aaron Cook||SP||Johan Santana||SP|
|Billy Wagner||RP||John Rauch||RP|
|Kerry Wood||RP||Carlos Marmol||RP|
|(Final Vote)||TBA||Heath Bell||RP|
David Wright and Pat Burrell are the only members of my team on the Final Vote ballot, which also includes outfielders Corey Hart, Carlos Lee, and Aaron Rowand. The Final Vote ballots are compiled by the manager, so already Clint Hurdle is looking worse off compared to Terry Francona. Adding another debit on Hurdle’s chart is his “incorrect” selection of Aaron Cook from his own team whereas Francona added no Red Sox to the AL roster. That said, beyond Cook and Carlos Zambrano, I’m not sure exactly which picks were Hurdle’s, but I assume that Cristian Guzman was one, as he’s the lone Nationals’ representative. He’s a borderline choice over my pick of Nats Rep, John Rauch (N-DC), but one I won’t complain about too much.
The fans did a good job in the infield, slipping only at catcher, though not so badly that they elected a player undeserving of the roster. The outfield is a different story. None of the three NL outfield starters elected by the fans made my ballot, and just one of my preferred outfield starters even made the All-Star team, with Jason Bay not even making the Final Vote ballot.
This is where we run into a problem. Overall the NL roster is stronger, though it differs from mine just as much as the AL roster. Nearly all of the “incorrect” players above were considered for my team. The biggest exceptions are fan-elected starters Fukudome and Soriano, both outfielders. Soriano has been limited by injuries, but otherwise his usual productive self (.283/.332/.547 with 15 homers and 7 steals in eight tries in just 51 games), so even there an argument can be made. Fukudome is another matter, however. The most problematic selection in the NL, Japanese import Fukudome, the Cubs’ rookie right fielder, is 22nd among NL outfielders in VORP, which means he wouldn’t even make the seventh string outfield on a All-VORP NL outfield team.
It seems clear that Fukudome and Suzuki are being helped by on-line voting from their home country. I realize the importance of these players to both their countrymen and to MLB’s attempts to expand the game’s international reach, but I don’t think it helps their popularity on this side of the Pacific to be inserted in the All-Star lineups when they’re so clearly undeserving. Heck, they haven’t even been the best Japanese players in the majors this season. Hideki Matsui would have earned a spot as the starting DH if not for his recent knee injury, and should have been voted in over the similarly injured Ortiz anyway, and Dodgers closer Takashi Saito, who is dominating for a third season and has been every bit as good as Wagner and Wood thus far. Of course, fans can’t vote for pitchers, which was my very first complaint about the All-Star balloting when I first picked up a ballot in the mid-80s and realized I couldn’t punch a hole for Dwight Gooden.
Just like the Hall of Fame selection process, the All-Star balloting is a confused mess that results in far too many mistakes and snubs. Of course, if it worked better, guys like me would be out of a (non-paying) job.
Also, be sure to check out the 1977 All-Star game on the YES Network tonight at 7:00 pm. The last All-Star game to be played at Yankee Stadium prior to this year’s, the 1977 game featured home town heroes Willie Randolph and Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup, Graig Nettles, Thurman Munson, and Sparky Lyle on the bench, Billy Martin managing the AL squad, and a host of future Yankees wearing other uniforms including Dave Winfield as a Padre, Goose Gossage as a Pirate (!), and Butch Wynegar as a sophomore catcher for the Twins, as well as current YES broadcaster and New York native Kenny Singleton during his glory days as a Baltimore Oriole.
All-Star games are rarely exciting, and this one fits that bill, but they give you the most bang for your buck in terms of seeing the stars of yesterday in action. Carew, Brett, Yaz, Reggie, Munson, Nettles, Fisk, Lynn, Rice, Palmer, Eck (as an Indian starter), and Sparky for the AL (with Nolan Ryan, Vida Blue, and Bird Fidrych among the unused pitchers) and Schmidt, Rose, Bench, Morgan, Foster, Concepcion, Garvey, Cey, Parker, Winfield, Simmons, Bull Luzinski, Seaver, Sutton, and Goose for the NL (with Griffey Sr., Lefty Carlton, Bruce Sutter and Joaquin Andujar as a sophomore with Houston among those unused by Sparky Anderson). For those keeping track, that’s 17 Hall of Famers in the house, 14 of whom got in the game. In this particular case, it’s also an opportunity to get a look at the remodeled Stadium in it’s sophomore season for those who don’t already own the 1977 World Series box set (in which this game would have made a nifty, if excessive, eighth disc).