Did you ever think you would see such a title? It's Alex Rodriguez, the game’s best 3B since moving there in 2004, the shoe-in at the corner to start in the midsummer classic each year. Could it be that he has been snubbed from this year’s all-star festivities? The argument could be made, and in researching, it’s a pretty valid case. But before I begin, here's a couple disclaimers.
Evan Longoria has been the best third baseman in baseball this year, and deserves to be starting in this year's game.
A-Rod missed the first month of the season, therefore hurting his chances of being picked up as a reserve (most reserves have not missed significant time due to injury).
Yes, there is the whole PED’s (Performance Enhancing Drugs) issue; but honestly, how can we hold only his feet to the fire? Just ask Manny Ramirez how he’s doing in Mannywood.
The two, and possibly three third-basemen who are all-stars this year have all had solid seasons. The aforementioned Longoria is batting .290 with 16 HR and 64 RBI. He’s projected out to have 32 HR and 129 RBI, and also has a .914 OPS (On-base + Slugging Percentage, the new “it” stat in baseball).
Michael Young, who moved over from SS this year (as A-Rod did in ‘04), is batting .315 with 10 HR and 33 RBI. This translates to roughly 20 HR and 67 RBI, with an OPS of .872.
Then there is Brandon Inge, having a career year already with 19 HR and 54 RBI (previous season highs are 27 HR and 83 RBI, both in 2006), while batting .266 with a .867 OPS. Inge is projected for 38 HR and 107 RBI this season.
Now to the man with 567 career HR. Rodriguez, who’s played 26 games fewer than Longoria and Young, and 29 fewer than Inge, is batting .244 so far, well below his career average of .305, but also has 14 HR and 43 RBI. Projecting out the rest of the season, A-Rod ends up with 36 HR and 109 RBI, and it is safe to assume the batting average will rise. The man isn’t a lifetime .305 hitter for nothing.
Also factoring in his OPS for this season, A-Rod leads all AL third basemen in OPS, and trails only San Fransisco’s Pablo Sandoval (.954 OPS) in all of baseball. Comparing Rodriguez’s numbers this season to his two worst previous seasons, he still hits 36 HR (he hit 23 in ‘97, his second full MLB season, and 36 in ‘04, his first season in NY), and drives in more runs than ‘97 (84) and ‘04 (106).
The simple fact is that even when A-Rod is at his worst, he is still among baseball’s best. We are witnessing greatness every night when he takes the field. Yes, Bud Selig is likely breathing a huge sigh of relief for not having Rodriguez at the game this year answering all the questions, and having all the other players be asked all the questions about Rodriguez and his use of PED’s.
Yes, this may be the year in which Inge, a career utility man who caught more games at catcher in 2008 (60), than he played at 3B (51). It’s a great story, but, in the theme of keeping interest in the game (i.e. Ratings), ask yourself this: Who would you want to see come up to bat in the eighth inning with the AL trailing by one, Rodriguez, Inge, or Young?
I should point out that Inge is currently in the running for MLB’s Final Vote, in which fans vote for the final All-Star. Inge is running against Ian Kinsler, Chone Figgins, Adam Lind, and Carlos Pena.