June 9, 2003
The Mid-Summer Classic
I have to tell you the truth, I really couldn't care less about the all-star game. I mean, I'll probably watch it this year, just like I did last year, but I watch a lot of stuff that I really don't care about.
Every year, for about 2 days before the game and 2 days after the game, the all-star game and everything surrounding it is a story. For the other 360 days a year, no one cares at all. I mean, I remember last year it was a big deal that Shea Hillenbrand was the American League's starting third baseman and it was a big deal that Bob Brenly chose his own catcher, Damian Miller, for the National League roster. And now? Exactly.
While I don't care much about the game itself or even the player selections as they relate to the current season, I do have some interest in the handing out of "all-star" to players that occurs every year, as it relates to their place in baseball history. That might sound a little melodramatic and it probably is, but Shea Hillenbrand being on the team last year doesn't really matter now, but in 50 years someone is going to look at Shea Hillenbrand's career and see that, yes, he was an all-star player. Just like they are going to look at Tim Salmon's career and say, "How good could this guy have been, he was never even on an all-star team in his whole career?!"
While I don't really believe "the game is for the fans" 100%, I do think that "we" should be allowed to vote for the starters. So, I don't have a problem with "the people" picking Jason Giambi over Carlos Delgado this year (if that happens), even though Delgado has been the best player in the AL this season and Jason Giambi is having an "off" year. What I generally do have a problem with is the AL manager doing something like choosing Paul Quantrill over Mike Mussina in 2001, completely on the basis of 45 good innings to start the year.
Because, what inevitably happens is that Paul Quantrill goes back to being Paul Quantrill at some point and then what you end up with is a relief pitcher with 83 innings pitched and a 3.04 ERA being selected as a "2001 all-star" over a starting pitcher with 229 innings pitched, 17 wins and a 3.15 ERA. There are so many dozens of examples of selections like Quantrill in 2001 that it makes me sick or, more accurately, makes me completely uninterested in the selections, as they happen.
Look at last year. Not only was Hillenbrand the starting third baseman while players like Eric Chavez and Troy Glaus didn't even make the team, but Paul Konerko made the squad on the basis of 2 good months while Jim Thome, John Olerud, Rafael Palmeiro and Carlos Delgado were all left off the AL roster. Meanwhile, after his hot 200 at bat start, Konerko went back to being Paul Konerko. Being Paul Konerko isn't a bad thing, after all he's usually one of the top 5-10 first basemen in the AL. But in a league with Thome, Olerud, Palmeiro, Delgado, Giambi and Mike Sweeney, he's no more an all-star than...well, Paul Quantrill was in 2001. And Quantrill and Konerko are far from the only examples.
Every year there are several players that get off to hot starts, get branded as all-stars for the rest of their lives, and then go back to being thoroughly mediocre for the rest of the season. And, every year, there are several established stars that are off to slow starts, get snubbed in favor of someone with a .310 batting average in 210 at bats and then go back to being great players for the rest of the year.
All of which is why my general feeling on all-star selections is basically to choose players that are a) having a good season and b) have the best chance of not making you feel dumb for picking them as an all-star 2 months later.
If I had to break it down into a formula, I would say:
75% past performance
25% current season
So, if you've got Jim Thome and Paul Konerko at the 2002 all-star break and you need to decide who the last first baseman on the AL all-star team is, you take note of the following:
2002, through AS break...
Konerko - .328/.379/.571
Thome - .278/.417/.604
Prior to 2002...
Konerko - .282/.345/.479 in 522 games
Thome - .285/.411/.555 in 1,230 games
Setting aside the fact that Thome was actually having a better 1st half than Konerko was in 2002, the larger issue is that Jim Thome has shown himself to be one of the elite hitters in all of baseball over more than 1,200 games before the 2002 first half, while Paul Konerko has shown himself to be an average hitting first baseman for fewer than half as many games.
Even if Konerko had a slight edge in 2002 first half production, shouldn't Thome and his superior play over thousands of at bats be given just a little more credit than a nice 200 at bat start to a season? That's not to say a player that doesn't have a long history of great play but is having a great first half should never be chosen. Just that his great first half better be really great and it better be a whole lot better than the first halves being had by players who have established themselves are yearly "all-star level" players.
Because of my 75/25 rule, I don't really feel the need to wait until we are closer to the all-star game (or least July 6th, the last day to vote) before I make my selections. What someone does over the next few weeks will have almost no effect on whether or not I think they should be a 2003 all-star.
With all that in mind, here are my 2003 all-star selections for the AL and NL...
Things to keep in mind:
1) All-star rosters have recently been expanded to 32 players and there must be at least 11 pitches on each team.
2) All 30 MLB teams must have at least one all-star representative.
3) This is not a prediction of which players I think will make the teams, it is who I believe should make the teams.
4) My pick for "starter" is in bold.
First Base / Designated Hitter -
First base is always a tough position to pick just a few guys, since tons of first basemen put up great numbers every year. This year, I like Delgado as the starter and Sweeney as the backup, with Edgar serving as DH (the game is in an AL park) and Big Frank backing him up. Rafael Palmeiro, Kevin Millar and even Jason Giambi (remember my 75/25 rule) all have good cases, but at some point you have to take guys from other positions too. The Big Hurt is very quietly putting up an awesome season, mostly because Chicago stinks and no one is on base for him to drive in (on pace for 78 RBIs)
Second base -
Before all you Yankee fans start emailing me, just look at the numbers. Bret Boone is way better than Soriano so far this year (especially with defense and home ballpark thrown in) and Boone has now been a very good second basemen for the last three years or so, after years of being "pretty good." I chose only two 2B for the team, although Michael Young and D'Angelo Jimenez have a good case if you are picking your guys on basis of a good 2 months, which I'm not.
Shortstop in the AL is usually one of the biggest logjams, but this year it's pretty clear who the top guys are. Jeter has been hurt, Tejada has stunk and the rest of the AL guys are a definite step below ARod and Nomar. I normally would take 3 shortstops, but I don't think Carlos Guillen has been all that great and the AL has deserving guys at other positions.
Third Base -
Troy Glaus (.302/.390/.590)
Hank Blalock (.353/.410/.575)
Troy Glaus gets the start because he has been great this year and in the past too. Hank Blalock gets on the team because he has been awesome this year and I don't think he has a chance to go Paul Quantrill/Shea Hillenbrand on us, simply because he is one of the best young hitters in baseball and is at the start of a very long and successful career.
Manny Ramirez (.320/.406/.553)
Mike Cameron (.279/.386/.492)
Vernon Wells (.290/.332/.544)
Aubrey Huff (.296/.362/.567)
Dmitri Young (.275/.343/.509)
Melvin Mora (.365/.465/.597)
Garret Anderson (.315/.340/.577)
Just like first base, the outfield is always full of deserving candidates and it's tough to limit selections to less than a dozen or so guys. Manny gets the start in LF because he has been great this year and even better in the past. Cameron and Wells get the starts in CF and RF, with Cameron getting the nod in center because he is the best defensive CF in the world. Huff, Young and Mora all pretty much make it simply because of the "one player per team" rule. All 3 are having great years, but I don't think I'd be voting for them without the rule. Because of the crappy-team-trio, guys like Carl Everett, Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, Raul Mondesi, Ichiro!, Trot Nixon and basically a cast of thousands are off the team.
Posada is head and shoulders above the rest of the league and has been a great player for years now, so he's the obvious starter. Varitek and Pierzynski are both having very good years and have proven to be top 5 catchers in years past. The only real "snub" here is to the fabulous Greg Myers/Tom Wilson platoon in Toronto. Together they are producing more than any catcher in baseball and, if I was picking solely on first half numbers, Myers would be on the team because of his awesome .364/.442/.574 start. That said, he hasn't been that much better than Varitek and Pierzynski and I think they have shown themselves to be better players over the long haul and are both pretty likely to end the season with better numbers than Myers.
I took 3 catchers because they are all having good years and, more importantly, who is going to want to catch more than 3 innings in an exhibition game?
Starting Pitcher -
Barry Zito (89 IP, 2.94 ERA)
Mark Mulder (94 IP, 3.27 ERA)
Pedro Martinez (60 IP, 2.83 ERA)
Mike Mussina (84 IP, 3.09 ERA)
Tim Hudson (90 IP, 3.29 ERA)
Jamie Moyer (80 IP, 2.93 ERA)
David Wells (86 IP, 3.36 ERA)
C.C. Sabathia (75 IP, 3.58 ERA)
I took 20 position players which limits me to only 12 pitches and, because there have to be a few relievers, a lot of SPs get left out in the cold. Sabathia is on the team simply because the Indians needed someone. I left Esteban Loaiza, who has actually been great, off the team because Loaiza's ERA will be above 4.00 again real soon. C.C.'s inclusion leaves out guys like Jarrod Washburn, Kyle Lohse and many others, but you have to draw the line somewhere. I give Zito the start, although, if he's healthy, Pedro is the guy for the job.
Relief Pitcher -
Only one closer, how shocking! Maybe this is my Twins bias showing through, but Johan has been awesome in the pen and as a starter and I think he deserves a spot and, if you are gonna pick a closer, Eddie G is the guy so far. Donnelly is the kind of guy I normally leave off the team, but a 0.28 ERA speaks louder than any 75/25 rule. And Rhodes is always awesome.
First Base -
Todd Helton gets the start at first base in what is a surprisingly weak year at the position in the National League. Sexson gets the nod as the Brewers' lone rep and a guy like Jim Thome is out because of the one-player-per-team rule for the Mets, Padres, Reds and Diamondbacks, which is also why Klesko makes the team.
Second Base -
Second base is as strong this year as first base is weak. Ray Durham gets left off with a .429 OBP because there are 3 guys having awesome years and he has also missed a lot of time. Kent gets the nod as the starter because of his track record and Giles gets on the team despite the 75/25 rule, because he's going to be a stud for years to come. Vidro gets in because he can flat out hit.
Furcal gets the nod over Renteria as the starter because I think he's been the NL's best player up to this point. Orlando Cabrera wouldn't have been a bad choice either.
Third Base -
Rolen's the best 3B in baseball right now, so he gets the start. Lowell is the backup because you can't leave a guy slugging .600 and leading the league in homers off the team, plus he's been a good player in the past too.
Barry Bonds (.311/.496/.652)
Gary Sheffield (.357/.440/.676)
Albert Pujols (.389/.448/.720)
Andruw Jones (.300/.368/.561
Jim Edmonds (.300/.401/.632)
Austin Kearns (.283/.387/.498)
Luis Gonzalez (.307/.375/.544)
Bonds, Sheffield and Pujols are the starting OFs, but, because one of them would have to play CF and someone is going to DH for the NL this year anway, I'll slide Superman to the DH spot (gotta save those legs!) and let Andruw patroll CF between Albert and Gary. The rest of the NL OFs are very tough to pick, because the NL outfield is more packed than the first base or outfield situation in the AL. Austin Kearns gets the nod here because the Reds need someone and Luis Gonzalez gets the nods because of the same reason and because of past good deeds. So many guys were deserving in the outfield that I'm not going to name the ones that didn't make the cut.
Look, Javy Lopez has been bad in the past few years, but he's slugging .736 right now and that makes him the NL starter at catcher, 75/25 rule, 90/10 rule, whatever. LoDuca and Kendall get the nods as backups, mostly because Piazza is hurt and Benito Santiago is like 100 years old and simply not this good. Plus, the Pirates needed someone on the team. Pudge Rodriguez comes close because of the 75/25 rule, but misses out because it is a strong group of Cs in the NL this year.
Starting Pitchers -
Kevin Brown (87 IP, 2.06 ERA)
Woody Williams (86 IP, 1.99 ERA)
Matt Morris (103 IP, 3.06 ERA)
Jason Schmidt (85 IP, 2.44 ERA)
Kevin Millwood (89 IP, 3.05 ERA)
Mark Prior (91 IP, 2.88 ERA)
Kerry Wood (85 IP, 2.96 ERA)
Hideo Nomo (95 IP, 2.84 ERA)
Kevin Brown gets the start over Woody Williams because he has the better track record, long-term. Which brings up something I have been wondering: Who or what has taken over the body and right arm of Woody Williams the last 2+ years? Look at his career numbers and tell me how this is happening.
Relief Pitchers -
Easy picks here, as these guys are the cream of the crop in the NL for sure. I wanted to take Octavio Dotel over Benitez, but the Mets needed someone.
So there you have it, my 2003 AL and NL all-stars. See how easy that was? 🙂
Milwaukee (Sheets) -110 over Florida (Redman)
Toronto (Lidle) -155 over Pittsburgh (Benson)
Detroit (Knotts) +180 over Los Angeles (Nomo)
Arizona (Dessens) +120 over Kansas City (Snyder)
Colorado (Jennings) +150 over Minnesota (Radke)
Total to date: + $1,315
W/L record: 122-118 (Only one game yesterday and I won it for +135)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****