This week, MLB.com released the current All-Star vote leaders for the American League and National League.
The National League seems to be right on in terms of vote leaders. Lance Berkman, Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, Chipper Jones, and Geovany Soto are all leading their positions—and deservedly so.
The NL outfield is curious, with Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Ken Griffey Jr. leading the balloting. I can understand Fukudome, and Soriano probably garnered a lot of votes with his incredible home stand last week in which he got more hits than there are drunk fans at Wrigley Field—and there are a lot of drunk fans at Wrigley.
Griffey is on there because he's Ken Griffey Jr., and is the only player leading the balloting right now because of who he is.
It's not the NL that I have an issue with—I couldn't believe that Hanley Ramirez, who toils in relative obscurity with the Florida Marlins (despite leading the team to first in the NL East), was beating out big-name NL shortstops such as Jose Reyes, Miguel Tejada, and Jimmy Rollins.
It's the American League that I have a huge problem with.
Let's start with catcher.
Here are my best three offensive catchers in the AL right now:
1. Joe Mauer, MIN: .329 BA, .414 OBP, .816 OPS, 20 RBI
2. Jason Varitek, BOS: .268 BA, .350 OBP, .822 OPS, 6 HR, 19 RBI
3. AJ Pierzynski, CWS: .293 BA, .348 OBP, .793 OPS, 3 HR, 17 RBI
Mauer is third in the balloting, Pierzynski is not in the top five, and Varitek is leading the voting. If Varitek starts the All-Star game, it won't be the biggest travesty of the year, but he's leading a lot on name and team recognition.
So, let's move on to first base. My best three offensive first basemen:
1. Justin Morneau, MIN: .313 BA, .384 OBP, .874 OPS, 8 HR, 39 RBI
2. Kevin Youkilis, BOS: .306 BA, .369 OBP, .918 OPS, 9 HR, 35 RBI
3. Casey Kotchman, LAA: .310 BA, .362 OBP, .835 OPS, 6 HR, 28 RBI
Morneau is second, but is over 200,000 votes behind the leader, Youkilis. Kotchman is nowhere to be seen in the top five. Like at catcher, there is definitely a valid argument for the Red Sox first baseman to start, but 200,000 votes ahead of Morneau? It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that one out.
My top-three offensive second basemen:
1. Ian Kinsler, TEX: .294 BA, .347 OBP, .801 OPS, 7 HR, 32 RBI, 15 SB, 0 CS
2. Brian Roberts, BAL: .262 BA, .352 OPB, .769 OPS, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 13 SB, 4 CS
3. Dustin Pedroia, BOS: .289 BA, .331 OBP, .730 OPS, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 6 SB, 0 CS
This one's no contest. Kinsler is the only second baseman with an OPS over .800; he leads second baseman in home runs, RBI, and steals; and is second in batting average. And, yet, he is exactly 282,354 votes behind the leader, Pedroia. Second in voting is Robinson Cano, he of the magical .276 OBP. Roberts is fourth in the voting.
Now, for third base. Here's my top three:
1. Alex Rodriguez, NYY: .286 BA, .361 OBP, .899 OPS, 7 HR, 17 HR
2. Joe Crede, CWS: .269 BA, .337 OBP, .810 OPS, 8 HR, 28 RBI
3. Alex Gordon, KC: .281 BA, .361 OBP, .786 OPS, 5 HR, 20 RBI
Of course, Rodriguez is leading the voting—deservedly so. He has name recognition not only because he plays for the Yankees, but because he's the best player in the game today—quite possibly the best player since Willie Mays retired.
There's never a problem with A-Rod starting at the hot corner in the All-Star game, especially on his home turf. Crede is fourth in the voting and Gordon is not in the top five.
In second? Mike Lowell, of course. Yes, he won the 2007 World Series MVP, but his OBP is .315 right now.
At shortstop, a disclaimer: Derek Jeter should be starting this game. It's the All-Star game in Yankee Stadium's final year, and Jeter is the consummate Yankee. Also, Jeter has the best offensive stats of any shortstop in the AL right now.
I also don't have a problem with DH—David Ortiz has the best stats of any designated hitter, a "position" that actually hasn't put up great numbers across the board in the American League. However, he's likely leading more on name recognition than his 12 home runs, 40 RBI, and .838 OPS.
So, let's move on to the outfield. Along with second base, this is where the real problem is. The top three offensive outfielders:
1. Josh Hamilton, TEX: .329 BA, .371 OBP, .974 OPS, 13 HR, 58 RBI
2. Carlos Quentin, CWS: .296 BA, .402 OBP, .988 OPS, 14 HR, 47 RBI
3. Milton Bradley, TEX: .329 BA, .438 OBP, 1.007 OPS, 8 HR, 28 RBI
So, who's leading the balloting? You'd be crazy to think any of these players are in the top three, let alone top five. Manny Ramirez, Ichiro, and Vladimir Guerrero would be starting the All-Star game if the voting stays the same.
Ichiro narrowly missed my top three (mainly because I was so impressed with Bradley's OPS) and would be a fine starter for the AL. However, Ramirez and Guerrero over Hamilton and Quentin?
Ramirez is having himself a fine season with nine home runs, 35 RBI, a .376 OBP, and an .881 OPS. However, when compared to Hamilton's stats, Ramirez looks more like Roger Cedeno.
Guerrero is having a down year, with seven home runs, 28 RBI, a .321 OBP and a .764 OPS. Now, glance back up at Quentin's stats. If you were guilty of voting for Guerrero, shame on you.
Granted, Quentin isn't even on the ballot—another problem I have with it. MLB doesn't revise the All-Star ballots. You can vote Jacque Jones into the All-Star game for the American League despite the fact that he's currently with the Florida Marlins, and Jerry Owens could become the first player to ever make the Midsummer Classic without getting an at-bat at the MLB level.
However, even if Quentin got on the ballot, he probably couldn't beat out the establishment of Guerrero/Ramirez/Ichiro.
If Hamilton isn't starting the All-Star game, it would be a huge point for people who want the vote taken away from the fans—like me.
It's no coincidence that the NL will be starting the best players.
There isn't a team like the Red Sox or Yankees in the NL that gets the kind of attention that those teams do—and, if the Mets do get that kind of attention, it's pretty negative right now.
If MLB really wants the All-Star game to "count," they can't seriously give the vote to fans who will just see "NYY" or "BOS" and punch their ballots for them. If the game should count, then only the best players should be playing and starting in the game. Seven of the AL's starters likely will be from either Boston or New York.
Just because they play in overexposed markets doesn't mean they're the best players.
I think I speak for a lot of baseball fans who live west of the Hudson when I say that I don't want to watch a team of mostly Yankees and Red Sox taking on the National League. I want to watch the young, exciting hitters, guys who maybe haven't been to an All-Star game before, guys who are in awe of the whole event play.
But, as long as ESPN keeps focusing on the Yankees and Red Sox, we won't see that.
And, because of that, we'll be seeing Josh Hamilton riding the pine for most of the 2008 All-Star game.
That's just not right.