Mock the Vote, Part One: Rigging the MLB All-Star Game so the AL Wins
Are you a Red Sox or Rays fan who wants to ensure that your team will have the home field advantage if they make the World Series?
Do you want to see the National League go home empty-handed at the Midsummer Classic for the 14th year in a row?
Are you a sadistic sociopath who likes messing with people for the pure schadenfreude?
If you answered "yes" to any of those questions, you might want to reconsider how you fill out your All-Star ballot.
If you truly want to see the best players in baseball duke it out on July 13, then by all means vote for the superstars. But if you want to see the Junior Circuit emerge victorious, you might want to think twice about naming Albert Pujols or Chase Utley on your ballot.
This slideshow features the NL player at each position who has the greatest potential to screw up his league's All-Star team, based on both relative ineptitude and current rank in the voting (if the player you vote for has no chance of winning, it doesn't matter who you choose).
Injured players have been excluded, because if one of them is voted in, he can be replaced with a substitute of the manager's choice.
Let this be your guide in your unsportsmanlike attempt to tamper with the biggest night of the baseball season!
First Base: Ryan Howard, Phillies
Current voting rank: 2nd (761,852 votes)
Fresh off a five year, $125 million contract extension, the 2006 NL MVP is on pace for the worst full season of his career.
The beefy left-hander, who averaged 50 homers and a .967 OPS over the last four years, has a relatively meager .817 OPS and is on pace for just 28 long balls in 2010—solid numbers, but not particularly intimidating.
There's no question that Howard is a talented hitter. But I'm much less scared of his swing than I am of Albert Pujols' or Joey Votto's.
Second Base: Rickie Weeks, Brewers
Current voting rank: 4th (336,543 votes)
Aside from the conspicuous omission of Kelly Johnson, the top five vote-getters at second base seem relatively reasonable. The odd man out at the keystone is the Brewers' Rickie Weeks.
Coming off an injury-plagued 2009 campaign, many have looked to Weeks' 10 homers and .778 OPS though 58 games and declared this year to be a comeback.
However, he actually played better in limited time last year, posting an .857 OPS and hitting only one less homer in 21 fewer games.
And, of course, he's a liability in the field. According to UZR, he's been the second-worst defensive second baseman in the Senior Circuit this year, and his sloppy D will cost Milwaukee 15 runs over 150 games.
Third Base: Placido Polanco, Phillies
Current voting rank: 1st (726,324 votes)
You wannabe sabotagers are a little late to the party; Phillies fans are already doing your job for you.
Polanco is far from the worst candidate at the hot corner. So far in 2010, he's showcased his sterling glove and posted an .802 OPS.
It might seem kind of odd to give him the nod over fourth-place finisher Chipper Jones, who has been decidedly inferior. But to me, that just seems greedy.
Polanco has nearly double the votes of fifth-place finisher Ryan Zimmerman, who has not only been the NL's best third baseman, but arguably the league's best position player. He's beating superior hitters David Wright and Casey McGehee, while the more deserving Scott Rolen and David Freese don't even crack the top five.
He might not be the Senior Circuit's worst option, but given that he's already in first place, I think this would be a good place to compromise.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes, Mets
Current voting rank: 5th (357,502 votes)
It wasn't too long ago that Reyes was considered the best shortstop in the game. My, how things have changed.
Like Weeks, Reyes is coming off an injury-shortened 2009 season, and while he's supposedly healthy now, his numbers are worse this year (on pace for six homers, 42 steals, .650 OPS) than last season (on pace for nine homers, 50 steals, .750 OPS).
Reyes is far from the most undeserving shortstop in the NL.
At least he's played the majority of his team's games, which is more than can be said for Jimmy Rollins (2nd in the voting) or Rafael Furcal (4th). But remember what happens when an All-Star gets injured?
Catcher: Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Current voting rank: 1st (762,875 votes)
Like Polanco, Molina is a pragmatic choice; he isn't the worst catcher in the league, but he's winning and you could do a lot better.
He's been an above-average offensive catcher the last couple seasons, posting a .749 OPS last year with more walks (50) than strikeouts (39), and he has a reputation for having one of the best arms in the game.
But he's taken a big step back as a hitter this year; his .660 OPS is his worst since he was 23, and his power (.081 ISO) is at a career low.
He won't bring shame to the Senior Circuit, but he's much less deserving than Miguel Olivo or Geovany Soto (neither of whom are among top five vote-getters).
Outfielder No. 1: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
Current voting rank: 7th (590,582 votes)
Heading into the 2010 season, Kemp had established himself as a legitimate five-tool stud and the anchor of the Dodgers' intimidating lineup.
His offensive game has looked a little subdued so far this year, but he's still a comfortably above average hitter.
Unfortunately, his awful defense has canceled out whatever good he's done with his bat.
The reigning NL Gold Glove winner has been the worst fielder in the game this year, according to UZR (-15.7) He's on pace to cost his team more than four wins with his glove over a full season.
Even with his solid hitting, his glove is so bad that he has exactly 0.0 WAR, making him literally a replacement-level player. Does that sound like someone you'd want in your All-Star lineup?
Outfielder No. 2: Raul Ibañez, Philies
Current voting rank: 8th (561,509 votes)
The Phillies looked pretty darn smart last season for letting eventual bust Pat Burrell leave for Tampa Bay while signing the seasoned Ibañez, who had a career year at age 37.
The success hasn't carried over to 2010, but apparently the public perception of his performance has.
He's hit just three homers with 24 RBI and 16 extra-base hits so far. His .246 average, .339 OBP, and .383 SLG are all the lowest he's managed in a decade.
And while his defense hasn't plummeted to Kemp levels, his glove certainly isn't something to be proud of. All in all, he'd look completely overmatched next to the best players in the game.
Outfielder No. 3: Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
Current voting rank: 9th (518,506 votes)
There was a time when Manny Ramirez was among the game's elite sluggers; a time when he not only commanded more than $20 million a year, but wound up being worth his keep.
Unfortunately, those days are over.
His .281 average and .363 slugging percentage are the worst since his 22-game stint as a rookie in 1993. He's on pace for just 13 homers, which would be the fewest he's ever put up in a full season.
And, of course, he's a poor fielder. Sad as it sounds, his -9.9 UZR/150 is actually the second-best he's posted in the last seven years.
Manny would be likely to put on a show for a national television audience. But there's no question that he'd be fun for AL fans to watch.