[MLB] Riding the Pine…

I have many problems with the All Star voting; and one of them is not that all teams have to have a representative. First, I don’t like the fact that DHs can be voted into the first base position. They don’t play the field on a normal basis and they tend to keep true first basemen off the team. I don’t have a problem with them on the team; just be allowed to have the fans vote them in. That brings my second problem; fan voting. Most casual fans will vote for their home team; not an issue for the big market teams. The Yankees and the Red Sox had all their starters in the top 5 of infielders/catchers and all their outfielders in the top 15. These are 2 of the biggest markets, and it caused Mark Loretta to get voted in and Alex Gonzalez to be in the top 5 at shortstop. Factor in Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui both garnering tons of vote even though they had barely played this season. Finally, I don’t like the fact that the top 3 outfielders are taken; each outfield position needs to be voted on. Grady Sizemore lost out on starting this year so 2 right fielders could start.

My All Star Ballot:

American League
Catcher
My Pick: Joe Mauer, Minnesota.
Actual Pick: Ivan Rodriguez, Detroit.

While Pudge is the popular vote, he’s not the best catcher in the AL. Actually, Pudge and Mauer are at the opposite ends of the spectrum; Mauer is young and will be the best catcher of his time while Pudge is getting old and was the best catcher of his time.

First Base
My Pick: Justin Morneau, Minnesota.
Actual Pick: David Ortiz, Boston.

Here is my first problem: Morneau and Paul Konerko are having great seasons, but Ortiz is the big name (and from a big market), so he gets the start at first base. Morneau is showing that last season was a fluke and that he will hit for power and average. He will be the nucleus of a good, young Twins team.

Second Base
My Pick: Jose Lopez, Seattle.
Actual Pick: Mark Loretta, Boston.

I told my brother-in-law at a Mariner’s Spring Training game that Lopez was a player that would break out this year. Not only is he playing well, he is helping to carry a team to playoff contention, whereas Loretta (and Cano) are minor pieces on winning teams.

Third Base
My Pick: Alex Rodriguez, New York.
Actual Pick: Alex Rodriguez, New York.
Shortstop
My Pick: Derek Jeter, New York.
Actual Pick: Derek Jeter, New York.

While large market players get unjustified votes, A-Rod and Jeter both deserve to go. They are the heart of the Yankees. They are also the best players at their positions, even if A-Rod is not having an A-Rod season.

Outfield
My Picks: Manny Ramirez, Boston*; Grady Sizemore, Cleveland; Ichiro, Seattle.
Actual Picks: Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles; Manny Ramirez, Boston*; Ichiro, Seattle.

While 2 of the 3 are the same, Vlad was selected by name alone. He’s not having one of the best seasons, so Grady Sizemore is a better selection; he plays center and he is having a better year.

Pitchers
My Picks: Jose Contreras, Chicago; Roy Halladay, Toronto; Bobby Jenks, Chicago; Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay; Jonathan Papelbon, Boston; Mariano Rivera, New York; B.J. Ryan, Toronto; Johan Santana, Minnesota; Justin Verlander, Detroit; Francisco Liriano, Minnesota; Mike Mussina, New York; Curt Schilling, Boston.
Actual Picks: Mark Buehrle, Chicago; Jose Contreras, Chicago; Roy Halladay, Toronto; Bobby Jenks, Chicago; Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay; Jonathan Papelbon, Boston; Mark Redman, Kansas City; Mariano Rivera, New York; Kenny Rogers, Detroit; B.J. Ryan, Toronto; Johan Santana, Minnesota; Barry Zito, Oakland.

Most of the pitching selections weren’t bad, but there were 4 guys that didn’t deserve to be here: Buehrle, Redman, Rogers, and Zito. 3 of the 4 are having good seasons (Redman was the only selection for Kansas City, but I think David DeJesus was a better fit for the team), but not as good as Verlander, Liriano, Mussina, or Schilling. Verlander and Liriano were almost selected as the last player on the team by fan vote.

Bench
My Picks: Ramon Hernandez (C), Baltimore; David Ortiz (1B/DH), Boston; Travis Hafner (1B/DH); Jim Thome (1B/DH), Cleveland; Robinson Cano (2B), New York*; Troy Glaus (3B), Toronto; Miguel Tejada (SS), Baltimore; Michael Young (SS), Texas; David DeJesus (OF), Kansas City; Jermaine Dye (OF), Chicago; Vernon Wells (OF), Toronto; Nick Swisher (OF), Oakland.
Actual Picks: Joe Mauer (C), Minnesota; Paul Konerko (1B), Chicago; Jim Thome (1B), Chicago; Robinson Cano (2B), New York*; Troy Glaus (3B), Toronto; Miguel Tejada (SS), Baltimore; Michael Young (SS), Texas; Jermaine Dye (OF), Chicago; Grady Sizemore (OF), Cleveland; Vernon Wells (OF), Toronto; Alex Rios (OF), Toronto*.

My goal with the bench was to get at least 1 back up at each position, with another player that could play an additional position (Michael Young could play second or short if needed). Since I have Mauer starting, Ramon Hernandez was having the second best season at catcher. It killed me to leave Konerko off, but Ortiz, Hafner, and Thome are having better seasons and could fill in at first. As I mentioned above, DeJesus is a better fit for the team as KCs rep. Alex Rios is playing well, but I still don’t think he has proved himself and shaken the injury prone reputation. Nick Swisher is having a good season, and since I removed Zito, he was the one bright spot in their offense that could fit on the team.

*Injury Replacements
My Picks: Mark Loretta (2B), Boston; Vladimir Guerrero (OF), Los Angeles.
Actual Picks: Jose Lopez (2B), Seattle; Gary Matthews Jr (OF), Texas; Magglio Ordonez (OF), Detroit.

While I said they didn’t deserve to start, they have played well enough to get on the team as injury replacements.

MLB Vote In
Travis Hafner (1B/DH), Cleveland; Ramon Hernandez (C), Baltimore; Francisco Liriano (P), Minnesota; A.J. Pierzynski (C), Chicago; Justin Verlander (P), Detroit.

National League
Catcher
My Pick: Johnny Estrada, Arizona.
Actual Pick: Paul LoDuca, New York.

This is like the AL catcher situation, but not to the same degree. Estrada is playing like it was 2 seasons ago. While the catching situation is thin, I don’t even think LoDuca could crack the top 5 in the position.

First Base
My Pick: Albert Pujols, St. Louis.
Actual Pick: Albert Pujols, St. Louis.

Do I even need to explain this one?

Second Base
My Pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia.
Actual Pick: Chase Utley, Philadelphia.

He is, in my opinion, the top second baseman in baseball. He can hit and field. He should be an All Star for years to come. The fans picked this one correctly.

Third Base
My Pick: David Wright, New York.
Actual Pick: David Wright, New York.

Like Utley, Wright is become the top player at his position. Think Scott Rolen before the injury problems.

Shortstop
My Pick: Jose Reyes, New York.
Actual Pick: Jose Reyes, New York.

This is one of the best voting jobs I’ve seen on an All Star team. Reyes has the speed and could still be a good lead off hitter, but may not be playing since he has a cut finger. If they were to select someone else, I would probably pick Edgar Renteria or Hanley Ramirez.

Outfield
My Picks: Carlos Lee, Milwaukee; Carlos Beltran, New York; Bobby Abreu, Philadelphia.
Actual Picks: Jason Bay, Pittsburgh; Carlos Beltran, New York; Alfonso Soriano, Washington.

The fans selected 2 left fielders, and they weren’t even the right one. Lee is having the better season at the position, but not by much. Abreu is the best right fielder right now, so he gets the nod. Beltran is living up to New York expectations after a disappointing season.

Pitchers
My Picks: Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati; Chris Carpenter, St. Louis; Brian Fuentes, Colorado; Tom Glavine, New York; Tom Gordon, Philadelphia; Trevor Hoffman, San Diego; Pedro Martinez, New York*; Brad Penny, Los Angeles; Jason Schmidt, San Francisco; Billy Wagner, New York; Brandon Webb, Arizona; Chris Young, San Diego; Carlos Zambrano, Chicago.
Actual Picks: Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati; Chris Carpenter, St. Louis; Brian Fuentes, Colorado; Tom Glavine, New York; Tom Gordon, Philadelphia; Trevor Hoffman, San Diego; Pedro Martinez, New York*; Brad Penny, Los Angeles; Jason Schmidt, San Francisco; Derrick Turnbow, Milwaukee; Brandon Webb, Arizona; Carlos Zambrano, Chicago.

Most of the pitching selections were spot on, but Wagner is pitching much better than Turnbow. Wagner isn’t getting the save opportunities that he should, but that is due to the team scoring rather than playing for a bad team. I’d also add Chris Young with the final spot, since he is pitch like everyone thought when he was called up by the Rangers last year.

Bench
My Picks: Michael Barrett (C), Chicago; Lance Berkman (1B), Houston; Nomar Garciaparra (1B), Los Angeles; Dan Uggla (2B), Florida; Miguel Cabrera (3B), Marlins; Scott Rolen (3B), St. Louis; Jimmy Rollins (SS), Philadelphia; Matt Holliday (OF), Colorado; Jason Bay (OF), Pittsburgh; Andruw Jones (OF), Atlanta; Alfonso Soriano (OF), Washington.
Actual Picks: Brian McCann (C), Atlanta; Lance Berkman (1B), Houston; Ryan Howard, (1B), Philadelphia; Dan Uggla (2B), Florida; Miguel Cabrera (3B), Florida; Scott Rolen (3B), St. Louis; Freddy Sanchez (3B), Pittsburgh; Edgar Renteria (SS), Atlanta; Andruw Jones (OF), Atlanta; Matt Holliday (OF), Colorado; Carlos Lee (OF), Milwaukee.

McCann will be an All Star in the future, but his time isn’t now. Barrett is the second best catcher in the NL right now, so he should have made the team. As hard as it was to leave off Konerko off, it was harder to leave off Howard; Berkman is playing well (and the only Astro at this time) and Nomar is leading the league in batting. Freddy Sanchez is having his breakout season, but third base is already stacked with Cabrera and Rolen backing up Wright. Jimmy Rollins is a better overall player when compared to Renteria. The 2 outfielders I didn’t start would be on the team as reserves, along with the 2 backups that Phil Garner selected that I didn’t start.

*Injury Replacements
My Picks: Roy Oswalt, Houston.
Actual Picks: TBD.

At the time of writing, they hadn’t selected the replacement for Pedro. My pick would be Oswalt because, while his team is struggling to get him run support, he is still dominating hitters.

MLB Vote In
Bobby Abreu (OF), Philadelphia; Chris Capuano (P), Milwaukee; Nomar Garciaparra (1B), Los Angeles; Billy Wagner (P), New York; Chris Young (P), San Diego.

Finding the Pulse…
Patrick was supposed to call me and didn’t. Jerk.
Aaron is filling in this week.
Phil grades the NBA draft.
Nick does a different football column.
Omar has hockey news and notes.