Every season, because of fan voting, deserving players are left off of the MLB All-Star teams, in favor of the more popular, and perhaps less-productive and deserving, players.
Here are the guys that should be on the American League roster as the starters.
Catcher: Current Vote Leader: Jason Varitek-BOS
Deserving Starter: Joe Mauer-MIN
As of July 1, Mauer leads all AL catchers in batting average (.323) and on-base percentage (.410). His other significant numbers (3 HR, 34 RBI) aren't astounding, but none of the other candidates really stand out either. Varitek's numbers are quite bad in comparison, hitting just .222 with a terrible .304 OBP. Several other catchers including Victor Martinez have also had sub-par seasons to this point, making Mauer the default leader.
First Baseman: Current Vote Leader: Kevin Youkilis-BOS
Deserving Starter: Youkilis or Justin Morneau-MIN
The two most-likely candidates once again come from the Red Sox and Twins. Like catcher, it is a sub-par year for lots of AL first basemen. Youkilis it currently hitting .312 with 13 HR and 50 RBI, while Morneau is hitting .308 with 12 HR and 63 RBI. Morneau has committed two errors at first base, where Youkilis has made just one. This one is basically a toss-up, as both players are likely to make the team.
Second Baseman: Current Vote Leader: Dustin Pedroia-BOS
Deserving Starter: Ian Kinsler-TEX
Pedroia is having a very nice season, especially for a second baseman, but this one really shouldn't be close. Pedroia is hitting .303 with a .347 OBP, while Kinsler is hitting .323 with a .375 OBP, 13 HR and 50 RBI, most of which coming while batting leadoff for the Rangers. Kinsler also has 20 stolen bases compared to Pedroia's nine. One area that Pedroia has the edge is in the field, where he has made just five errors compared to 14 for Kinsler. However, the overall edge goes to Ian Kinsler in my opinion.
Third Baseman: Current Vote Leader: Alex Rodriguez-NYY
Deserving Starter: Rodriguez
A case could be made for another Red Sox player, Mike Lowell, but A-Rod's numbers are too good to pass up on. He's missed time with injury, yet is still hitting .322 with 16 HR and 44 RBI. He is the best player in the game today, and he's proving it yet again this season.
Shortstop: Current Vote Leader: Derek Jeter-NYY
Deserving Starter: Jeter or Michael Young-TEX
It seems fitting for Derek Jeter to start the final All-Star game in Yankee Stadium history, and he will, as he is currently leading Young by about 700,000 votes with little time remaining. The numbers for the players are comparable, with Jeter hitting .280 with four home runs and 35 RBI, and Young hitting .285 with 7 HR and 43 RBI. Young does have the edge defensively, but a legitimate case can be made for either player.
Outfielder 1: Current Vote Leader: Manny Ramirez-BOS
Deserving Starter: Milton Bradley-TEX
Yet another Texas-Boston battle here. Ramirez's numbers are decent so far, with 15 HR and 52 RBI, but Bradley leads the American League in batting average (tie), on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. With the glut of outfielders in the AL, it seems likely that Bradley may get snubbed from the team completely.
Outfielder 2: Current Vote Leader: Josh Hamilton-TEX
Deserving Starter: Hamilton
There's no debate here at all, as Hamilton has been absolutely tearing up the AL since opening day. He's hitting .312 with 19 HR and 80 RBI. His 80 RBI leads all of Major League Baseball, with Ryan Howard's 68 a distant second. Apparently he's also broken the record for "Most Times Described as the Feel-Good Story of the Year".
Outfielder 3: Current Vote Leader: Ichiro-SEA
Deserving Starter: JD Drew-BOS
Never thought I would write that JD Drew is being snubbed from the All-Star team, but 2008 is different. In June alone, Drew has as many home runs (11), as he did for the entire 2007 season. Overall, he's hitting .303 with 15 HR and 49 RBI, not to mention a .414 OBP. Ichiro is having a nice season of his own, but Drew actually deserves the start.
Designated Hitter: Current Vote Leader-David Ortiz-BOS
Deserving Starter: Ortiz or Hideki Matsui-NYY
No DH is having a great season to this point. Matsui is among the American League batting leaders, but is lacking in his usual power and run production to this point (7 HR, 34 RBI). Ortiz has better power numbers, but is hitting just .252 compared to Matsui's .323. Also, Ortiz has been on the disabled list with a wrist issue, and is expected to miss the game. Expect Matsui to get the start.
Starting Pitcher: Deserving Starter: Cliff Lee-CLE
Cliff Lee has come out of nowhere to have a resurgent 2008 season, going 11-1 with a 2.34 ERA to this point. The ERA is astounding, especially considering he pitches in the American League, commonly known as the tougher league to pitch in due to the DH. This may be helped by the fact that most of the DH's flat-out stink this year, but that's not relevant. Lee has had the best season to this point, with Oakland's Justin Duchscherer earning honorable mention with an 8-5 record, but a miniscule 1.91 ERA.
Expect a bunch of Yankees and Red Sox to dominate the starting lineups. If fan voting wasn't in place, several Texas Rangers players would be getting the recognition that they deserve, despite playing for a team barely above .500.