Debate never ends when it comes to All-Star rosters.
It's become tradition to dispute certain additions or subtractions from the teams and almost trendy to bash the way MLB decides who starts.
I can get with that; I've done it in the past.
But that isn't what the All-Star game is about. Of course, for the past few years, the All-Star game suddenly means something, so that's altered the way some managers have decided to select players.
Everyone has their own meaning though. Some believe the game should be to see who you want to see, not just to reward the players who deserve the recognition.
I myself like to put together a team based on who deserves it. This is this year's best of the best for the first half of baseball. I also put together a Non-Star team to extend the recognition, because ultimately, someone gets snubbed.
So I filled out my full roster, and I've proven that one man can select an All-Star team way better than a combined effort by players, managers, and fans could.
A few notes to remember while you are reading my teams.
I don't satisfy the rule that every team needs a representative. I fill out fewer positions than the real All-Star team does, a full starting lineup with a backup for each number of starting spot, plus two extra spots.
There are eight starters and five relief pitchers, the same number of pitchers on the real All-Star team.
American League Catchers
Joe Mauer, Minnesota* and Victor Martinez, Cleveland
Can you pick two other catchers and make a strong case against either one of these guys?
It would be pretty tough, especially with the way Mauer has pretty much put together just as productive a season as Martinez has with one less month of work.
These two are pretty much No. 1 and 1-A when it comes to the choices at the AL Catcher spot, and I don't think I even have to bring up the numbers.
American League Infielders
1B Justin Morneau, Minnesota*; 2B Aaron Hill, Toronto*; SS Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay*; 3B Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay*
1B Mark Teixeira, New York; 2B Ian Kinsler, Texas; SS Derek Jeter, New York; 3B Michael Young, Texas
My first baseman was a tough choice that ultimately had me taking just two in order to get deserving players at other positions in. Morneau has pretty much been business as usual, and the move to New York hasn't affected Mark Teixeira.
Carlos Pena just misses out despite being one of the top home run hitters in the entire major leagues. But home runs don't put you on my All-Star team—completeness does.
Ian Kinsler and Aaron Hill have been the two best second basemen in the AL this year. Dustin Pedroia is the reigning MVP, but that was last year. You can't argue with the year Hill has put up, and Kinsler's All-Star snub is probably one of the biggest surprises of the actual rosters.
Jason Bartlett missed some time, but he's been the best hitting shortstop in the AL. Mix that in with the fact that he's probably one of, if not the best, fielders at his position. Derek Jeter is putting together a season that gives him a nod over several other players, but his numbers are worthy enough this year.
Michael Young has been such a professional with his move to third. He was an All-Star and Gold Glove shortstop, and now he's at third base doing the same things. Evan Longoria put on a stretch of baseball that made you turn your head and wonder if the future superstar at that position has arrived.
A few notables that were left off include Ben Zobrist and Brandon Inge. While they've put up All-Star caliber seasons, I've got a place for them elsewhere. Their versatility is a plus, but it's not enough for me to reward them with this honor.
American League Outfielders
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle*; Jason Bay, Boston*; Torii Hunter, Los Angeles*
Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland; Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay; Adam Lind, Toronto
What can you say about Ichiro? The guy is a mainstay on this list because at some point in the season, he goes on a rip that puts him up near the top of American League hitters.
Jason Bay has made the transition to the American League just fine, as he is one of the top run producers in the entire game. With David Ortiz's struggles and Manny Ramirez gone, Bay has been huge for Boston.
I used to think Torii Hunter just made the game every year based on his defense, regardless of his offensive output. This year, though, his offensive numbers are worthy of the nod.
Combine that with his defense, and he's a slam dunk to start the game. He might not be playing his year due to injury, but I appreciate defenders like Hunter, even more when they can do what Hunter has done offensively.
Shin-Soo Choo and Adam Lind got left off the real AL roster, but at least one of them should have made it in my eyes. My team has them both, as they've been ultimate run-producers for their teams.
Carl Crawford has stolen more bases in the first half of this season than I would steal in five lifetimes. I need him on this team.
American League Last Spots
1B Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay and OF Nick Markakis, Baltimore
My last spots went to two hitters that provide different aspects of the trade. Carlos Pena is a slugger that can get on base at a high rate. Meanwhile, Nick Markakis is just a professional hitter that produces runs.
Again, I've snubbed a few players, but their glory has yet to come.
American League Starting Pitchers
Zack Greinke, Kansas City*; Roy Halladay, Toronto; Felix Hernandez, Seattle; Jarrod Washburn, Seattle; Edwin Jackson, Detroit; Nick Blackburn, Minnesota; Josh Beckett, Boston; Jered Weaver, Los Angeles
My starter is going to be Zack Greinke, who's been the best starting pitcher the American League has to offer. He's got the worst run support in the American League among major league pitchers in the top-40 of ERA. Halladay is a close second and probably would have gotten the nod had he not been hurt and gotten derailed for a bit.
Felix Hernandez took a huge step towards becoming Seattle's bona fide ace and one of the best young pitchers the game has to offer.
Real All-Stars Justin Verlander, Mark Buehrle, and Tim Wakefield were left off in favor of Jarrod Washburn, Jered Weaver, and Nick Blackburn.
The point is, those three mentioned second to me have put together the better body of work.
Verlander has been great. I actually had him on at the last second until Josh Beckett went out and won game 11 with a complete game shutout.
Blackburn, Weaver, and Washburn haven't won a boatload of games like most pitchers, but they've been just as good if not better. They just don't have the luck or run support someone like Wakefield does.
While I love to see Wakefield make his first All-Star game ever, I can't in good conscious say he's been better than each of the starting pitchers I've selected. Apologies to him, but that's how my team works.
American League Bullpen
Joe Nathan, Minnesota; Jonathan Papelbon, Boston; David Aardsma, Seattle; Mariano Rivera, New York, Matt Guerrier; Minnesota
So we've got the same old, same old with Papelbon, Nathan, and Rivera. What can you say about these guys other than their continued success?
Now you might be looking at the names David Aardsma and Matt Guerrier and be wondering what I'm doing.
Well, remember, I've got no team restrictions, and I'm not exactly enamored with taking five closers.
Aardsma was a good setup man and has been an even better closer for Seattle this year. His combined numbers are enough for me to give him this recognition.
Guerrier is one of the best setup men in the game, and for that, he deserves to be on this team. Don't call a closer to do a setup man's job.
National League Catchers
Brian McCann, Atlanta* and Yadier Molina, St. Louis
I felt like the Molina parents having to pick between their two sons.
Brian McCann is a no-brainer; he's the best offensive catcher the National League has to offer.
So why do I take Yadier over brother Bengie?
Bengie is better with run production, but Yadier has been having a good season swinging the bat.
Combined with his superior defensive abilities, that gives me enough of a reason to pick him over his brother.
National League Infielders
1B Albert Pujols, St. Louis*; 2B Chase Utley, Philadelphia*; SS Hanley Ramirez, Florida*; 3B Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco*
1B Prince Fielder, Milwaukee; 1B Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego; SS Miguel Tejada, Houston; 3B David Wright, New York
I'm not going to lie; putting Albert Pujols on this team was so hard to do.
I'm sure that's a joke that is overused.
Chase Utley remains the best second baseman around, and my exclusion of another natural second baseman should tell you that no one was really close.
Hanley Ramirez is just very good.
Prince Fielder and Adrian Gonzalez have both been too good to leave off, despite the fact that we'll have three first basemen. If Charlie Manuel can have four, I can have three.
Miguel Tejada is silently having a fantastic hitting season, and I cannot possibly leave him off.
Then of course, the real starter at third base, David Wright, will be my last infield reserve. It was a tough choice between him and Mark Reynolds, but Wright is better overall.
Finally, my starting third baseman is probably the biggest All-Star snub this year in Pablo Sandoval.
How is Sandoval not on the team in the first place? Freddy Sanchez's representation of the Pirates has probably forced him out, but Sandoval has hit better than just about any other player that has manned the hot corner this year.
National League Outfielders
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee*; Raul Ibanez, Philadelphia*; Brad Hawpe, Colorado*
Carlos Beltran, New York; Justin Upton, Arizona; Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
I just want to say right now that Ryan Braun is probably one of the least talked about superstars this sport has. Maybe he is talked about, but Braun’s numbers have been ridiculous since he's come into the league, and I don't think people have realized it.
Raul Ibanez probably deserves this more than anyone. He's been so good for so long, but it seems like the majority of his good play always comes in the second half of a season. It's good Ibanez finally got it all done in the first half so people can take notice.
Brad Hawpe has quietly put together a season that is scary good—so good that he is a starter on my All-Star team.
Both Justin Upton and Carlos Beltran made the team, and both deserve to be on my team. Beltran will miss the real game, but he's put up numbers that are very worthy.
Finally, we have Matt Kemp, one of the bigger snubs in my eyes. Without Manny, the Dodgers didn't skip much of a beat, and Kemp was a huge reason why. Not to mention, his defense and stellar arm save runs on top of the ones he knocks in.
National League Last Spots
2B Orlando Hudson, Los Angeles and OF Adam Dunn, Washington
I needed a second baseman to round out the team, and Orlando Hudson has been one of the best out there for the Dodgers. Not to mention, he made the real All-Star team.
I actually had a strong dislike for Adam Dunn in the past. But lately I find myself gravitating to his numbers, despite his dismal strikeout numbers.
Dunn has been a monster run producer for the lowly Nationals, and I'll take his power off the bench.
National League Starting Pitchers
Dan Haren, Arizona*; Tim Lincecum, San Francisco; Matt Cain, San Francisco; Adam Wainwright, St. Louis; Josh Johnson, Florida; Johan Santana, New York; Javier Vazquez, Atlanta; Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta
You can't really go wrong with naming a starter, so I'm not going to split hairs over Haren being my pick over the real starter, Tim Lincecum. But let's take note of the dominant season Danny Haren is having.
Now that you've done that, Matt Cain and Josh Johnson are the other slam dunks on the team, and the rest of the group was a bit of a revolving door up until the final games.
Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vazquez, the two Braves starters, both bring different seasons to the table. Jurrjens might not have the wins, but he's been consistently good this year with a lower ERA. Vazquez is just as deserving with the way he's helped turn the Braves rotation around.
Then we've got Johan Santana and Adam Wainwright, who I had off at one time. Their years were always worthy; it just was a matter of me picking someone else. I ultimately opted for Santana when I realized his run support has been garbage.
National League Bullpen
Heath Bell, San Diego; Ryan Franklin, St. Louis; Jonathan Broxton, Los Angeles; Francisco Rodriguez, New York; Francisco Cordero, Cincinnati
The National League bullpen didn't give me a fair shot to pick a non-closer. I could have even selected two more.
Heath Bell has taken over for Trevor Hoffman as well as you can—Hoffman was one of those snubs—and Jonathan Broxton has been everything and more you could ask for in the closer's role.
Francisco Rodriguez has fit in with the Mets, doing just as well as he did last year, and the other Francisco, Cordero, just continues to be one of the less-talked about closers in the game.
Then we have Ryan Franklin, who is one guy that I just am proud to put on this list. He just has had that season as someone who didn't come in as a closer that makes you say, "Now he is why we have an All-Star game."