Early All Star returns show questionable balloting

After a while, my mantra makes me sound like a broken record.

Fix the voting, I squawk, much like a parrot stuck on his favorite phrase or an old LP stuck in a scratched groove. Fix the voting.

When the American League All-Star Voting results were announced on Tuesday, I wasn’t too disappointed. The fans, at least, got most of it right, and the ones they got wrong were excusable. The lineup, had voting ended on May 31, would have looked like this:

C Jason Varitek
1B Tino Martinez
2B Brian Roberts
SS Miguel Tejada
3B Alex Rodriguez
OF Manny Ramirez
OF Vladimir Guerrero

OF Ichiro Suzuki
DH David Ortiz

The ones that do not deserve to be there, in my mind, were Tino Martinez and Manny Ramirez. Tino’s All Star balloting appearance was propelled by his homer streak and the adoration of the Yankee fans. His power is good this year. In fact, his ISO (Slugging – Batting Average) is nearly .300. But he is hitting just .245 with a .341 OBP, 12 home runs and 30 RBIs.

Instead of Tino, I submit for your consideration the current American League first baseman in fourth place: Mark Teixeira. Down in Texas, the Rangers’ first baseman is slugging his team into contention. He is hitting .295/.349/.539 with 13 home runs and 38 RBIs. Teixeira has also created 30 years compared to Tino’s 27.

Like Tino, Manny Ramirez was propelled to the top of the ballot box by devoted fans and easy name recognition. He is hitting just .257/.352/.492 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI. Considering that Manny usually tears up the league in April and May, I don’t think his subpar season merits All Star consideration.

Instead, let me present Manny’s teammate, Johnny Damon. Playing for a new contract, Damon is hitting .350/.401/.453. He has just one home run – a significant decrease over last year – but 26 RBIs from the leadoff spot. He has created 40 runs to Manny’s 36. At this point, Damon is more deserving of the All Star spot than Manny is.

Two “wrong” picks are not the end of the world. I thought maybe the fans could really pick out the most deserving players to play in the Mid-Summer Classic. (Hey, this time it counts, right?) But then the National League balloting results were announced, and half the lineup was out of place. I was distraught!

C Mike Piazza
1B Albert Pujols

2B Jeff Kent
SS Nomar Garciaparra
3B Scott Rolen
OF Carlos Beltran
OF Jim Edmonds
OF Ken Griffey, Jr.

As someone who wants to see the American League get home-field advantage in the World Series, I liked it. As a baseball fan, I hate it. Mike Piazza? The Mike Piazza of the .312 on-base percentage and .244 average? Ken Griffey, Jr and no sign of Bobby Abreu? Scott Rolen over Troy Glaus? (Even Chipper Jones managed more votes than Troy Glaus. Ken Griffey over Miguel Cabrera? Cabrera, the new kid in town, is a great player, and he’s fun to watch. But hey, you never know when Griffey’s hamstring might pop. And how about Jim Edmonds over someone more deserving such as Cliff Floyd?

Then, there is the upset of the voting. Albert Pujols is outpolling Derrek Lee by a two-to-one margin. Derrek Lee is currently the Triple Crown leader in the NL. He has led the charge as the Cubs have climbed to within 5.5 of the complacent Cards. While Pujols is off to his usually stellar start, what does a first baseman in Chicago have to do to get his just recognition?

Finally, we come at least to Nomar. I can’t wait to see Nomar hobble out to short during the All Star game. Is that part of his rehab plan? Did the voters forget that, before tearing his groin, Nomar had gotten a grand total of one extra base hit in his 51 at bats this year? Did they forget that he hasn’t played a game since April 20?

Just what is the All Star game about? I know I’ve said this before. If it’s about putting forward the league’s best players to win a game, it’s time to take voting out of the hands of the fan. If it’s about giving the audience what they want to see, then the game shouldn’t count, not when the truly deserving All Stars don’t get to start.

Fix the voting.

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