Arguing over whether the AL is better than the NL and using the All-Star Game as a point is pretty dumb. The AL has won the last 10 that went to decisions. This is still short of the National League’s 11-year winning streak and not remotely close to the 19-1 stretch the NL enjoyed between 1963 and 1983. One might even think that such things could be, I don’t know, cyclical?
Let’s take a quick look
Catcher: Geovany Soto vs. Joe Mauer – Soto has more power. Mauer has better OBP. I’m going with power in this situation. If I’m considering the bench reserves at this position, too (since I’ll assume that each catcher will get three innings and an at-bat, we have Soto/Brian McCann/Russel Martin vs. Mauer/The Inexplicable Jason Varitek/Dioner Navarro. Point: NL.
1B: Kevin Youkilis vs. Lance Berkman – Berkman hits a lot. Youkilis gets in fights with his teammates and yells about stuff… but he’s a gamer. Point: NL.
2b: Chase Utley vs. Dustin Pedroia – I was glad to see Dustin Pedroia find success in Boston. It allowed them to keep up their quota of having at least one sports hero in the city who looks like the Celtics logo. Pedroia is a tad over-rated by the Fenway Faithful. They did a good job finding in him a guy designed to hit well in Fenway Park. He swings from his heels and mashes balls into the Green Monster that turn into doubles. It’s not a huge surprise that his home/away splits are 113/88 OPS+. He’s a league average hitter everywhere but Fenway. Utley, on the other hand, has better defense and hits well everywhere (even though his numbers are obviously inflated due to playing at that softball field in Philly. Point: NL.
3b: A-Rod vs. Chipper Jones – Chipper’s having a fantastic year, but A-Rod’s A-Rod. Point: AL.
SS: Derek Jeter vs. Hanley Ramirez – I was thinking it was kind of a joke that Jeter was elected to the All-Star game this season… then realized there weren’t too many better options. I guess you could make the argument that Michael Young should have been put in before Jeter, but it’s not like it was so mind-numbingly bad as to get upset over. Hanley, however, is a beast. Point: NL.
LF: Manny Ramirez vs. Ryan Braun – Full disclosure, I didn’t believe Manny would actually play in the game whether he was voted in or not. He’s listed on the reported line-up, so I guess he’s in. Point: AL.
CF: Josh Hamilton vs. Kosuke Fukudome – The odds-on favorite AL MVP vs. the third best (maybe) center fielder in the NL. Good job, Chicago. Point: AL.
RF: Ichiro Suzuki vs. Matt Holliday – The best right-fielder in the AL vs. the best right-fielder in Coors Field. Point: AL.
Fake position that was added as an attendance booster but has inexplicably stuck around that people now argue is how the game should be played: Albert Pujols vs. Milton Bradley – In fairness, this is one situation where the DH should exist as it gets more guys at-bats and no pitcher is going to bat in this thing any way. I’m kind of sad/surprised Griffey didn’t get brought in to be the DH for the NL, but if I have to “settle” for Albert Pujols, I’m OK with that. Maybe, if we’re lucky, Clint Hurdle will decide to use Albert Pujols instead of leaving him sitting on the bench with two-outs in the bottom of the ninth. Point: NL.
Closers: Mariano Rivera/K-Rod/Jonathan Papelbon/Joe Nathan vs. Billy Wagner/Brad Lidge/Kerry Wood – Yoof. Point: AL.
Starters: Ben Sheets/Tim Lincecum/Edinson Volquez/Brandon Webb/others vs. Cliff Lee/Scott Kazmir/Roy Halladay/others – If I’m Clint Hurdle, I’m seriously considering letting these starters go two each and just forgoing my corps of “closers”. Point: NL.
Bench: Dioner Navarro/Jason Varitek/Justin Morneau/Ian Kinsler/Michael Young/Joe Crede/Carlos Guillen/Evan Longoria/J.D. Drew/Carlos Quentin/Grady Sizemore vs. Russel Martin/Brian McCann/Adrian Gonzales/Dan Uggla/Aramis Ramirez/David Wright/Christian Guzman/Miguel Tejada/Corey Hart/Matt Holliday/Ryan Luwick/Nate McLouth – Coming off the bench, Jason Varitek. Point: NL.
Total points: NL – 7, AL – 5.
The NL has been very good at beating themselves the last two years. In 2006, someone decided it would be a good idea to but Trevor Hoffman in to a big spot where he proceeded to blow the game to nobody’s surprise. Last year, down one, two out, bases loaded, bottom ninth — and managing genius Tony La Russa decided to leave Albert Pujols on the bench down by 1 run with the bases loaded with two-out in the bottom of the ninth.
Of course, the problem with this is that the NL really only has five innings to get a lead.