Selecting MLB's Fan-Favorites All-Star Team
MLB fans develop unique criteria for determining their favorite ballplayers, but certain current stars meet everyone's standards.
Players' personal characteristics and on-field accomplishments resonate with a large chunk of the baseball-loving population, earning these athletes recognition on the following team.
How do we quantity admiration?
By recent All-Star voting results? Jersey and merchandise sales? Anecdotes of selflessness?
All of the above, plus gritty and athletic styles of play, generally keep us captivated.
Here then are those individual players who have mass appeal, both on the mound and in their everyday roles.
C Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants)
Buster Posey set a National League record in 2012, garnering more than 7.62 million votes from fans who wanted him start behind the plate in the MLB All-Star Game.
He's on a great pace again in 2013.
While Evan "El Oso Blanco" Gattis is the better underdog story, championships really resonate with fans. Posey's only full, healthy major league seasons—2010 and 2012—both culminated in World Series victories for San Francisco.
Fellow catchers J.P. Arencibia, Russell Martin and Yadier Molina all have more followers on Twitter. However, only a few thousand votes account for those differences, which doesn't mean much when you're talking about six-figure totals. Actually, it's a testament to Posey's appeal that he's so close to them despite sending out updates much less frequently.
This past January, MLB.com followed Posey when he spent time with perhaps the most popular catcher in league history, Yogi Berra. That can only boost his fan appeal.
1B Nick Swisher (Cleveland Indians)
Plenty of New York Yankees fans harbor some disdain towards Nick Swisher considering his past postseason struggles in the Bronx.
His infectious enthusiasm for life, however, more than makes up for that. From 2009-12, Swisher's hilarious antics during Yankee Stadium's roll call made the tradition more prominent than ever. He even got a standing ovation from the Bronx crowd as an opposing player.
Those who doubt Swisher's sincerity need only look at his off-the-field work. He recorded a 12-song children's album in 2011 to raise funds for his charity, "Swish's Wishes," according to Deadspin.
The non-profit organization was "designed to help all children in need with vital medical care, education and recreational activities and other essential programs that will make a difference in a child's life, while also helping to raise self-esteem," which is awesome.
Swisher is a titan on Twitter with nearly 1.7 million followers, far and away the largest total of any active MLB player.
The longtime outfielder has been primarily playing first base in 2013, thus snubbing Mark Teixeira, Joey Votto and other well-liked sluggers in the All-Star balloting.
2B Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati Reds)
Brandon Phillips is a happy guy who has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that several fortunate fans get in the same mood.
ESPN.com's Amy K. Nelson chronicles the adventures of a few of his Twitter contest winners. Phillips flew a middle-aged couple to spring training and hung out with them for guessing his favorite drink. He also flew some teenagers to the West Coast because they answered another silly trivia question.
The second baseman is honest, entertaining and patient, a rare combination of traits. It's no coincidence that he's generating tons of fan support in voting for the All-Star Game once again.
Aside from being a dynamic offensive player, Phillips brings the "razzle dazzle" out into the field, as noted by MLB.com.
SS Derek Jeter (New York Yankees)
Fans instinctively latch onto super-competitive position players with rooms full of individual awards. Long tenures with a particular team, multiple World Series appearances and 3,000-plus career hits contribute to bandwagon expansion too.
Then again, Ty Cobb and Pete Rose met all those criteria, and they were widely viewed with disdain.
Meanwhile, Derek Jeter's conduct on the field and comments in the clubhouse have seldom caused controversy.
Jeter has done so much right over such a long period of time that as of June 15, some 670,000 All-Star ballots had his name punched. That's the fifth-highest total among AL shortstops, even though he has missed the entire 2013 season with an ankle injury.
His skills have sharply declined over the past decade-plus. Nonetheless, Jeter's No. 2 jersey sold more than any other between the 2012 All-Star break and season's end, according to ESPN.com's Darren Rovell. The New York Yankees captain topped the same list during the 2011 calendar year, reports Mark Newman of MLB.com.
Bleacher Report's Josh Benjamin calls Jeter the second-most beloved player in New York baseball history. Moreover, a Harris Interactive poll of more than 2,000 American adults released in July 2011 named him "America's favorite sports star."
As if his athletic success wasn't enough, Jeter has reached fair-weather fans through the years with funny commercials and cameos in feature films.
3B Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
Commercially, the Miguel Cabrera brand doesn't rival David Wright's or Evan Longoria's. Peter Keating of ESPN The Magazine has a fascinating feature about how "many companies believe American fans (white or black) are reluctant to identify with Latin stars."
Fans don't buy Miggy-scented cologne or Miggy-inspired cleats, but the baseball-watching population absolutely adores him.
So what if he doesn't have the catchy "Kung Fu Panda" nickname or much defensive skill?
Cabrera became the first MVP-winning third baseman since Alex Rodriguez in 2007, and the first "PED-clean" MVP third baseman since Chipper Jones in 1999. Clinching the AL Triple Crown in the process really wowed those of us too young to have witnessed Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Despite stiff competition from the handful of extraordinary AL players at his position, the Venezuelan native is thus far the top vote-getter in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game balloting, according to MLB.com.
Earlier in his tenure with the Detroit Tigers, Cabrera suffered from alcoholism that clearly deterred many fans. However, he's now more than two years removed from his last alcohol-related legal incident.
OF Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
There's plenty of overlap between MLB 13: The Show players and MLB fans in general, so Andrew McCutchen landing on the cover of the former has some significance.
The other cover candidates included CC Sabathia, Matt Kemp, Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey, Bryce Harper and Ryan Braun. McCutchen won handily after a five-day voting period during which fans voiced their opinions on MLB.com and Twitter. In an MLB Network interview, he hesitated to give himself credit for the successful campaign.
That genuine humility attracts many people to McCutchen. In reading what he had to say to Lisa Olson of SportingNews.com we see even more of that:
Ask McCutchen to envision his future—surely he’ll mention an elusive trip to the postseason, more All-Star games, a heap of batting titles, maybe even someday a Triple Crown—and his answer knocks you back.
In the place of personal goals he instead talks of a desire to be the sort of player who never tosses his bat or helmet in anger, who can’t pass up the chance to speak to a wide-eyed child, a player who laughs often and remains positive even through struggles.
The 26-year-old outfielder has soared in popularity because he's unquestionably the top player on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Also, the franchise's progression from cellar dweller to postseason threat has coincided with his individual growth.
In March 2012, following his first All-Star season, McCutchen agreed to a long-term contract of six years and $51.5 million with a $14.75 million team option for 2018.
Those were considered very team-friendly terms that reinforced his reputation as a selfless player. Had he instead opted for the arbitration process, the Bucs would have had more difficulty affording key veterans like A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Russell Martin and Wandy Rodriguez.
OF Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays)
Jose Bautista wooed plenty of women into his fan club with his nude posing for ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue" in 2012. Despite lacking the chiseled physical features of juiced-up, turn-of-the-century sluggers, Bautista definitely seems comfortable in his own skin.
In this era of dominant pitching, the right fielder launches tape-measure home runs that we've sorely been missing. Actually, since establishing himself as an everyday player on the Toronto Blue Jays toward the end of 2009, he leads Major League Baseball in total round-trippers.
Fans expressed their gratitude by casting 7,454,753 votes for him to start the 2011 All-Star Game, according to MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm. At the time, that total shattered the record set by Ken Griffey Jr., the quintessential "fan favorite" player of the past several decades.
Bautista's unorthodox career arc is a testament to perseverance, as a handful of major league teams gave up on him before the Blue Jays gave him an opportunity. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! details the odyssey from "a piece cast off by the sport's dregs, into the most dangerous hitter on the planet."
What an inspiration.
OF Shane Victorino (Boston Red Sox)
The Boston Red Sox had a lot more questions than answers about their corner outfielders coming off a miserable 2012 season. Despite a few durability issues, Shane Victorino's performance isn't far off what you'd expect to get from a player earning $13 million per year.
Even dating back to his initial major league struggles in 2003, Victorino's blazing speed and aggressiveness made him a thrill to watch. Per FanGraphs, he's 10th in total stolen bases and third in triples among all MLB players since 2007, when he became a full-time starter.
The "Flyin' Hawaiian" nickname—perhaps the catchiest of any in the sport today—is both appropriate and a way for fans to feel more intimately connected with Victorino.
More importantly than any of that, however, the three-time Gold Glove winner has used his influence as an athlete to fight beautiful causes.
Victorino was honored with the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award in 2008 for his commitment to ALS research and promotion of volunteerism in schools. Three years later, he humbly accepted the Branch Rickey Award after using funding from his foundation to construct a new Boys and Girls Club in his home state.
Victorino received an outpouring of support in 2009 as the runaway National League winner of the All-Star Game Final Vote. Regardless of statistics, it's hard to imagine him losing if he ever finds himself in the same situation again.
DH David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox)
David Ortiz epitomizes clutch play with his numerous huge postseason moments on his resume and a 1.013 OPS in eight World Series games—all Boston Red Sox wins.
He takes tremendous pride in the team he plays for and the city stitched across his chest. In 2011, Big Papi initiated a brawl when he felt Kevin Gregg of the Baltimore Orioles was intentionally targeting his teammates. Following the Boston Marathon bombings, the veteran designated hitter made it (expletive) clear that lifting the spirits of a city was well worth any FCC discipline, wrote Bleacher Report's Andrew Martin.
Bitter as New York Yankees fans might feel about his Herculean feats against them, they cannot help but respect him.
With his drawn-out home run trots and elaborate handshakes, Ortiz truly enhances the baseball-viewing experience.
And yeah, he's looking out for kids too.
SP Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)
Career-wise, Justin Verlander hasn't taken many—if any—false steps.
He's barely 30 years old and already an AL Rookie of the Year from 2006, an AL Cy Young Award-winner and MVP winner (2011) and recipient of the largest pitching contract in league history. Every adolescent male in the U.S.—passionate baseball fan or otherwise—must be in awe of Verlander for spending some quality time with super model Kate Upton, per Us Weekly.
The right-hander doesn't take himself too seriously and his antics make following Major League Baseball more enjoyable for fans.
It's understandably more difficult for non-position players to make an impression considering that they don't perform on the field every day, but Verlander gets under people's skin—in a good way.
RP Mariano Rivera (New York Yankees)
Across nearly every profession, consistency breeds success. That's why Mariano Rivera is such an outstanding role model.
He has been doing the same brilliant job with the same untouchable pitch at the major league level for nearly two decades. The Sandman isn't perfect, but his career has been pretty darn close.
While the task of preserving leads in the ninth inning tends to overwhelm many talented pitchers, he has mastered the psychological element. Rivera shakes off demoralizing failures like the rest of us would remove a tiny pebble that slipped into our shoe.
The mere sight of him entering from the bullpen brings peace of mind to New York Yankees fans.
Rivera is unwilling to brag despite revolutionizing a historically volatile role, writes Lisa Miller of New York.
Everything I have and everything I became is because of the strength of the Lord and through him I have accomplished everything.
Whether or not you buy into the whole "God" thing, it's refreshing to see someone so accomplished who refuses to rub his accomplishments in our faces.
Through his "Farewell Tour," Daniel Barbarisi of The Wall Street Journal explains how Rivera is doing just the opposite. Instead of expecting fans to bow before him and kiss his championship rings, the 43-year-old is holding face-to-face meetings to express his gratitude for their support.