Scott Miller's 2014 MLB Anti-All-Star Team, Position by Position
It’s easy to pick an All-Star team. Anybody can do it. Who wouldn’t name Derek Jeter, the Yankee Doodle Dandy himself? Who wouldn’t want to see Yasiel Puig and Giancarlo Stanton take target practice at Target Field on Tuesday night?
Who isn’t head over heels in puppy love with Mike Trout?
But see, here’s the thing: This time of year, just behind the optimism of Opening Day and just ahead of the Kibbles ‘n Bits of the dog days, so many others need love—or at least a pat on the head—too. You just wouldn’t know it, because they’re buried under a mountain of strikeouts, an avalanche of outs or a tsunami of antisocial behavior.
Which is where my annual Anti-All-Star team comes in. Think of it as a soup kitchen for those waging daily war with the Mendoza Line, or a warm bed and a solid can of food for the strays. Criteria? My choice, and I’m a sucker for outlandish conduct, sitcom-like underachievement and good, old-fashioned lunacy.
You won’t see these most of these guys anywhere near the Land of 10,000 Lakes next week (though, the way some of them are going, you might see one of them on one of those frozen lakes in an ice hut in January, no doubt still without a nibble).
But that doesn’t mean we can’t close our eyes and picture them next week beside the Mary Tyler Moore statue, in mid-cap toss, their world lit up by the smiles of being named to my annual Anti-All-Star team, the 2014 edition.
Catcher: Miguel Olivo, Released by Dodgers
What could possibly go through a player’s head between innings when, during a heated dugout altercation with a teammate, he chomps off a third of that teammate’s ear? In the strangest but truest moment of the year, Miguel Olivo actually did this to shortstop Alex Guerrero at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Is there a food shortage in Albuquerque? A protein shortage? Did Olivo misinterpret the meaning of “Isotope,” the club’s nickname? Did Olivo think he was ordering off the starter section of Salt Lake City’s Smith Park menu?
Just when Dodgers president Stan Kasten had moved the Dodgers past the Banana Republic fiasco of the Frank McCourt era, there he was in May, explaining the intricacies of reattaching an ear as if he was Evander Holyfield’s cut man.
“It was the whole upper part of the ear,” Kasten explained, via Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. “This is plastic surgery to reattach a portion of the ear and to regrow skin over it. It’s quite complicated.”
What wasn’t complicated in the Dodgers’ investigation of the dugout dustup was ascertaining who was at fault.
“Fault?” Kasten said, angrily. “It’s not a question of fault. As I said, the action of removing a part of someone’s ear was unforgivable. Fault is not an issue here.”
Olivo wound up signing with the Mexican League’s Tijuana Toros in June. We ear they have terrific concessions.
First Base: Joe Mauer, Twins
The entire point of moving Joe Mauer from behind the plate to first base was to keep Minnesota’s $23 million-a-year man healthy. So how did that work out? Well, he landed on the disabled list July 2 with a right oblique strain.
So while he should be the Mayor of All-Starville in his hometown next week, he instead will be unable to play, and every bit as ornamental as T.C. Bear, the Phillie Phanatic, Slider and every other club mascot who reports for duty.
Meanwhile, no truth to the rumor that there will be a special panel discussion at FanFest revolving around how, with just two homers in 339 plate appearances and the lowest on-base percentage of his career (.342), Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million deal now is being hoisted in place only by the air pressure that once held up the old Metrodome’s roof.
Second Base: Dan Uggla, Braves
Poor guy. A three-time All-Star (you can look it up), now all Dan Uggla does is sit around the Braves dugout looking for things to do to fill his time. The Braves have moved from the Anybody But Uggla plan at second base to Tommy La Stella, who was in an 0-for-23 streak through June 28 but still kept Uggla chained to the bench. La Stella is swinging way better now.
Uggla? He has just 14 plate appearances since June 7, a span now of 33 days (and counting). At .162/.241/.231 with just two homers and 10 RBI, one question has been answered: Yes, he remains the same player the Braves left off their playoff roster last October.
At $13 million this year and in 2015 before his five-year, $62 million deal ends, it might not be long before someone asks him to sweep up the postgame sunflower seeds in the dugout since he'll have so much time on his hands. Oh well, it’s still got to be better for Uggla than when he was in Miami, stuck seeing Jeffrey Loria every day.
Shortstop: Stephen Drew, Red Sox
That long, drawn-out holdout, the one that was even more interminable than a Tom Cruise interview, was for this? He doesn’t sign until May 21, and, seven weeks later…Stephen Drew is hitting .128/.185/.233 in 27 games…and the Red Sox are in last place?
Maybe he’ll still turn things around. Maybe sometime in the second half he’ll earn a promotion from “embattled” to “rebounding.” Until then, there’s a place for him here in our pound for sheltered shortstops. In fact, there was talk of putting him in a kennel with A.J. Pierzynski, but we just didn’t have room for A.J. Catcher is a tough spot this year. Unless you bit somebody’s ear off, there’s just no space.
Third Base: Manny Machado, Orioles
It isn’t simply for his exquisite chutzpah when he was totally backing away from Josh Donaldson yet still accused Donaldson of tagging him too hard on a play at third during Machado’s Lost (His Head) Weekend in early June that Manny Machado earns a place on this team.
It isn’t simply for his lack of remorse when he smoked A’s catcher Derek Norris with his backswing. And it isn’t simply for the fact that he so brazenly threw his bat, Bert Campaneris-like, down the third-base line.
It is for all of that that Machado unanimously earns his way onto the Anti-All-Stars. Last time we saw an extended hissy fit that immature on the diamond, juice boxes, dandelions, an A&W drive-in and a flock of 12-year-olds were involved. Don’t ask.
Left Field: Ryan Braun, Brewers
Who swings their bat in the dugout? Isn’t that one of the first things you learn not to do in T-ball? Yet there was Ryan Braun in late April, swinging away right there in the Brewers dugout as if nobody else existed in the baseball universe, and next thing anybody knew, he had barreled up shortstop Jean Segura’s face.
A plastic surgeon, stitches and pain were involved, but fortunately, Segura avoided major surgery.
Say one thing for Braun: When he was serving his hard-time, 65-game suspension last summer for gobbling performance-enhancing drugs like potato chips, blatantly lying about it to the entire world for years and, at the same time, doing his best to toss a poor urine collector’s life into the garbage can...at least nobody in the Brewers dugout was hit in the face with a bat.
Center Field: Chris Young, Mets
Follow the bouncing ball here (and if you close your eyes, feel free to picture it as Mr. Met’s head): The Mets, with a recent history of embarrassing production from their outfield, signed Chris Young last winter for one year, agreeing to pay him $7 million to help reverse that lack of production.
Now, saddled with a slash line of .195/.277/.337, he’s not playing and is teeing off Mets fans at what a waste he’s been. Early, he was playing…and he was teeing off Mets fans because of his non-production and because he was blocking the way of Juan Lagares. Pick your poison. Playing or not playing, Young, who once had a bright future in Arizona, is useless either way.
The Mets, acutely aware of their outfield issues, signed him early attempting to address that. Had they not been so eager, they could have waited and signed Nelson Cruz. As you might have heard, Cruz has slugged 28 homers for the Orioles and is headed to the All-Star Game on Tuesday.
Mets fans were angry with Young for not being Cruz early, and then for blocking Lagares later. Ah, only one tiny letter separates “Mets” from “Mess.”
Right Field: Carlos Quentin, Padres
To address your first question, no, Carlos Quentin can’t play right field. On those precious few occasions he’s willing to creak his way into the Padres lineup, he’s in left field. But here’s the rub: He can’t play there, either, so what the hell? Truthfully, he’s overqualified for the Anti-All-Star team, so he's blatantly stealing from the Padres’ fish taco fund. So either corner outfield slot works.
When the Padres gave him a three-year, $27 million extension with a full no-trade clause in July of 2012, it was easy to wonder whether they had plumb lost their minds. Two years later, it’s easy to wonder if the Padres should be committed.
Did then “owner” Jeff Moorad authorize this deal because of Quentin’s bat? The guy has played in as many as 130 games only twice in nine seasons, and he gets hurt if the gentle breeze from Coronado blows just a wee bit too much.
Was it because Quentin is from San Diego and could be a hometown hero? This guy is so antisocial that he has refused so many postgame interviews on both the Padres’ flagship radio and television stations that neither even bother to ask anymore.
Piece of work, this guy.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Red Sox
An upset pick this summer, I am delighted to welcome David Ortiz, one of my favorite players, to the Anti-All-Star team. He clinched his spot as soon as he unloaded on the Red Sox's official scorer in a game in May…after he armchair-quarterbacked the official scorer in Texas the night Yu Darvish nearly no-hit the Red Sox.
MLB ended up reversing the scorer’s call, awarding Ortiz a seventh-inning hit on a ball that fell into shallow right field. As for his second complaint about a June call, when the Fenway Park scorer angered Ortiz by calling an error on Twins first baseman Joe Mauer instead of a hit, well, let’s just say MLB had enough.
MLB vice president Joe Torre released a statement that read in part, “Official scorers have a job to do, and by their very nature, their decisions don’t make everyone happy. But everyone in our game deserves respect. I hope that David will meet that standard going forward, because I don’t share the same views that he expressed.”
Let them do their jobs, Big Papi, and you do yours. Before MLB is forced to start an anti-bullying campaign for the poor, beleaguered scorers.
Starting Pitcher: Michael Pineda, Yankees
One pitching coach told me this year that he estimates 80 percent of pitchers use something to help them better grip the ball. Another listened when I told him that, raised his eyebrows and said his guess would be upward of 80 percent.
The point is, it happens, and most pitchers are subtle about it. Michael Pineda taking the mound in April with a splash of pine tar the size of Rhode Island on his neck? That picture isn’t worth 1,000 words; it’s worth 100,000 words. One of the most embarrassing episodes in the history of the Yankees.
Closer: Sergio Romo, Giants
Plenty of candidates here. Do you prefer the Tigers’ Joe Nathan? The Athletics’ Jim Johnson? The list could swell to nine or 10. Sergio Romo’s our guy, for greasing the track on the Giants’ luge run south over the past month.
Before the temperamental and overly excitable Romo lost his grip, the Giants held a nice 9.5-game lead in the NL West on June 8. Three weeks later, even without the benefit of a 42-8 run like last year, the Dodgers passed them like a Ferrari blowing past a Yugo.
At the time of his ouster, Romo had blown five save opportunities in 33 appearances this year after blowing five in 65 in 2013. The final straw was Romo’s third blown save in five opportunities. With an ERA of 5.19, he’s hung so many sliders, you could dry several loads of wash on them.
Manager: Bryce Harper, Nationals
Who knew that at 21, Bryce Harper would be serving an apprenticeship for his future role as John McGraw or Sparky Anderson? Or for his present role as…Matt Williams?
Yet there Harper was, barely off of the disabled list a couple of weeks ago, explaining to reporters how you want your best offensive lineup on the field. For the Nationals, that involves Anthony Rendon playing third base and Ryan Zimmerman playing left. Which would mean Harper in center and Jayson Werth in right. Which would mean…Denard Span from center field to the bench.
“I think that’s what should be happening,” Harper said, via USA Today.
Did the Nationals make a mistake by going outside the organization to replace Davey Johnson? Instead of Williams, they had Harper sitting right there the entire time. So far, there are no blank lineup cards in his locker, but stay tuned. Maybe the Nationals (and Williams) can break him in by designating Harper as the guy to ask umpires to go to instant replay after controversial calls.
It’s such a natural move: Harper could tell the ump, “Clown call, bro. Call New York,” while preparing to ascend to his rightful place as the game’s next Earl Weaver.
Front Office: Houston Astros
Oh, the irony: Houston, easily the most computer-oriented front office in the game, gets hacked and suffers the humiliation of having internal memos involving trade talks and player evaluations published online, right there in cyberspace with the mad ravings of delusional bloggers, conspiracy theorists and porn stars.
Asking for Xander Bogaerts from Boston for Bud Norris? Nice try, but in what world does a supermodel like Kate Upton agree to go out with a starting pitcher who gets lit up more often than not?
Wait, so you’re saying there’s a chance, Justin Verlander?
Enjoy the All-Star Game, and happy midseason break. And maybe by the time we convene for the second half, the Astros will have had those geniuses at Apple build them a better firewall.