I think it's a terrible idea that they begin balloting for the All-Star Game so early in the season, and they definitely need to rethink how early they print these things up. Alex Rios isn't listed among the AL outfielders, and that's a travesty. I understand why Jim Thome isn't on the ballot (he's a DH, and the game is at an NL park), but why then is David Ortiz down as the Boston "first baseman?" These are major questions. However...bringing home a copy of the All-Star Ballots I fill out each year and comparing who I picked off the top of my head to the dudes who actually deserve to go are such easy posts to write that you're probably going to have to deal with them until the big day in Pittsburgh itself. SI's John Donovan has his picks for the NL and AL up if you prefer baseball columns that have little pictures of the writers at the top.
I heard on the radio this morning that with the exception of Vlad Guerrero, all of the leading vote-getters at each position in the American League are either Yankees or Red Sox. This is so singularly unsurprising that I can't even think of a joke in response.
First base. I voted for David Ortiz (14.4 VORP), without really having looked at his stats very closely in some time, because, well, among current major league ballplayers, who would you most like to see on a wacky fish-out-of-water sitcom where a hulking, lovable former ballplayer becomes nanny to some spoiled but emotionally neglected upper-class white kids? They could call it "Papi and the Brats," "Papi in Charge," or "Who's Your Papi?" Who wouldn't watch that show? If we're counting designated hitters, and I guess we are since there's several on the ballot, then Jim Thome (29.8) deserves your support. Has Thome played a single inning in the field this season? No. Neither has Travis Hafner (28.9), who unlike Thome is on the ballot. The most qualified actual first baseman would be either Jason Giambi (22.7) or Paul Konerko (18.4), depending on your definitions of "qualfied," "actual," and "first baseman." Next time I will vote for Konerko, since the Giambi and the Yankees certainly don't need any more help. Thome, I imagine, will find his way on to the team somehow.
Second base. Apparently Ozzie Guillen's neverending blarney campaign has affected me more than I realized, because after some hemming and hawing I punched the circle next to Tadahito Iguchi (8.3). There aren't a lot of obvious breakout candidates at this position but there are some better choices than Iguchi, although who knows whether they do The Little Things That Don't Show Up in the Box Score as well. Brian Roberts (13.6) is the AL leader at the position but he has been hurt and might not stay there. Seattle's Jose Lopez (13.2) has been a real pleasant surprise for a bad team and would be a nice sleeper starter but I don't think he has a chance to win the fan vote in a million billion years. If you're one of the apparent hundreds of thousands who have voted for Robinson Cano (2.7, 91st among AL regulars), you are a poor excuse for a baseball fan.
Shortstop. I voted for Miguel Tejada (27.2), because I don't like Derek Jeter (27.4) and I was about to vote for Alex Rodriguez at third anyway. If Jeter winds up being the leading vote-getter in the American League, so be it, there are certainly more undeserving choices. Tejada is pretty close in VORP, however, and he's the superior defender by a wide margin, and also he doesn't play for the Yankees. I will vote for him again. The difference in strength at this position between the American League and the National is huge. The next couple of guys, the Carlos Guillens and Michael Youngs, would be runaway starters in the NL.
Third base. It's funny...I'm pretty indifferent about the Phillies, except for loving Bobby Abreu, who most Philadelphia fans seem to loathe. I hate the Yankees, but I don't feel bad about voting for Alex Rodriguez (19.0), who most New York diehards seem to want to run out of town on a rail. Is he "clutch?" I don't know. I don't care. I can't bring myself to vote for Mike Lowell (16.2) or Troy Glaus (16.6) over A-Rod, who may be Mr. March but is still a real-deal superstar in my book. Whatever. As a baseball fan I'd like to see the best shortstop in the majors playing in the All-Star Game...even if it is at third base.
Catcher. Like second base, I really had no idea here. I opted for Victor Martinez (10.7) of Cleveland more or less at random. Not a terrible choice, but Joe Mauer (21.3) of the Twins would have been a much less terrible one. The right one, in fact.
Outfield. After writing in Rios (25.1) I went for one classic name, Vlad Guerrero (17.7), and one kind of wacky choice, Johnny Gomes (15.2) of Tampa Bay. Gomes got off to a very hot start and I hadn't looked at his numbers in a while. For the most part, he's kept it up. Hopefully the Rays won't be restricted to their usual one All-Star representative, because both Gomes and Scott Kazmir deserve to go to Pittsburgh. The top three outfielders in the AL by VORP are Vernon Wells (26.8), Grady Sizemore (25.8), and Rios. Excuse me if I don't just keep voting for Gomes and maybe Nick Swisher (24.9) a few times as well. Man, I can't freaking believe Alex Rios isn't on the ballot.
First base. Albert Pujols (39.9). Next position.
Second base. Chase Utley (21.8). The gap between Utley and the next most qualified second baseman is even bigger than the gap between Pujols and his nearest competition. Well, that's not actually true. Not strictly statistically speaking, at least. But the next two first basemen are Nick Johnson and Nomar Garciaparra, and the next second baseman is Dan Uggla. No fooling.
Shortstop. After being singularly unimpressed by the selection of names on the NL ballot I skewed young and chose Hanley Ramirez (20.4). As it turned out, he's the right guy. If you wanted to express your distaste for the Marlins organization by voting for Omar Vizquel (19.9), that would be defensible. Forget Barry -- the way the Giants' other old guys have defied age is amazing. If that team had any offensive talent in its farm system at all, any, they'd be ripping the National League West a new one right about now.
Third base. He's not the league leader in VORP at the position, but I voted for David Wright (20.7), who's still in the top ten overall and has Star Power coming out of every available orifice. Miguel Cabrera (32.6) is having an amazing season but it would be wrong for Florida to have two starters on the All-Star Team. Way wrong. The choice of Wright over Cabrera makes more sense to me than Vizquel over Ramirez, but you're welcome to fill out your ballot in your own way.
Catcher. Since he's an all-time great whose career was said to be over, I gave Mike Piazza (6.6) more credit than he perhaps deserves for going to San Diego and playing okay. Atlanta's Brian McCann (15.8) is the NL position leader. Catcher is another spot where the NL really trails the AL in talent. The second-highest VORP in the league belongs to Piazza's San Diego teammate Josh Bard, who just came over from Boston a couple of weeks ago and has a scant 48 plate appearances. Michael Barrett (9.0) would have felt like an okay All-Star but his suspension probably scuttles his case. I guess McCann is the guy, unless you can construct some sort of metabaseball argument for the likes of Damian Miller, Brad Ausmus, Paul Lo Duca, or Johnny Estrada. Hell, you can vote for Danny Ardoin if you want to. He's on the ballot! Danny Ardoin is on the ballot, and Alex Rios and Jim Thome aren't. What a country!
Outfield. I haven't been watching the stats real closely, I guess, because I was a bit off here. I went for Brad Hawpe (18.8), my only homer pick, Alfonso Soriano (20.5) as a sort of mea culpa after predicting him to crash in burn in Washington before the season began, and J.D. Drew (9.7) as a reward for his remaining fully ambulatory this late into the campaign. The stats suggest that Jason Bay (25.9), Carlos Beltran (21.7), and Soriano are the deserving starters. Colorado's Matt Holliday (20.0) slightly outpaces Hawpe. Personally, I think Holliday and Hawpe should both start, but that ain't gonna happen. Realistically, since All-Star voting is a popularity contest and not any kind of rigorous statistical process, I think the best group we could actually see on the field would be Beltran, Soriano, and Andruw Jones (18.4). I really hope both of the Rockies guys make it as reserves, though. And Brian Fuentes should be in the bullpen for sure.