Today is June 30, 2011. To many, all that means is it's time to flip the calendar or balance the checkbook, but to baseball fans, the date has a much greater significance.
It's the last chance to vote for the All-Star Game.
Voting ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. EDT. If you are reading this, that means you have less than 24 hours to cast your ballots.
Or, in other words, we have less than 24 hours to try and fix the horrible mess we fans have made of the voting.
Of the 17 positions on the ballot, seven were still relatively up for grabs as of the latest results update. Assuming you want the best players possible to make the team and you're not interested in sabotaging the other league's lineup, here's who you need to pick as the voting comes down to the final hours.
Hurry up and cast your ballots! Time is running out.
This is the 250th article I have written for Bleacher Report. Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last two years!
Key Stats: .292/.342/.495, 13 HR, 46 RBI, 12 SB, 139 wRC+, 3.0 WAR
The Competition: Derek Jeter, (New York Yankees) .260/.324/.324, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 7 SB, 83 wRC+, 0.5 WAR
Maybe this is the Yankee hater/Indians fan in me talking, but to me the AL shortstop vote is the most screwed-up of any position is on this list.
You can say the All-Star Game is a spectacle and the most crowd-pleasing players should start, but that doesn't really fly now that home-field advantage is on the line.
And with the new rational imperative that fans of AL teams vote for the best players possible, picking Jeter this year is downright indefensible.
Cabrera, who always seems to come up with the big hit for the most surprising team of the 2011 season, is the best choice. Making up a half-million-vote deficit won't be easy, but we've got to try.
Key Stats: .306/.425/.608, 21 HR, 68 RBI, 181 wRC+, 3.8 WAR
The Competition: Joey Votto, (Cincinnati Reds) .316/.440/.503, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 159 wRC+, 3.5 WAR
Votto's having a great year. The reigning NL MVP is an easy pick for an All-Star reserve role, and he definitely deserves at least an at-bat or two off the bench in the Midsummer Classic.
But as a starter? Not a chance.
Defensive inferiority aside, Fielder has been better than Votto by a mile in 2011. With Albert Pujols struggling, he's the best first baseman in the National League, and he deserves to be recognized as such.
Key Stats: .303/.373/.541, 10 HR, 45 RBI, 149 wRC+, 2.6 WAR
The Competition: Russell Martin (New York Yankees) .229/.333/.393, 9 HR, 31 RBI, 108 wRC+, 1.6 WAR
One of the big reasons for Detroit's current first-place standing is Avila, who's come out of nowhere to emerge as one of the best hitting catchers in the game. He's a no-questions-asked starter in the All-Star game.
Apparently most other voters don't seem to think so, because Martin currently holds nearly a half-million-vote advantage over his more deserving peer.
Looking at their numbers, it's hard to see why.
There's an argument to be made that Avila is getting lucky,—his BABIP is 130 points higher than Martin's, despite having only a nine-point advantage in xBABIP—but I think Martin's edge has more to do with standard Yankee bias than a growth in acceptance of the sabermetric concept of the randomness of batted balls falling for hits.
Key Stats: .290/.358/.495, 14 HR, 137 wRC+, 3.6 WAR
The Competition: Brandon Phillips, (Cincinnati Reds) .298/.351/.416, 6 HR, 110 wRC+, 2.7 WAR
Phillips' power has all but disappeared this year, but apparently his star power is holding steady. How else could he be within 100,000 votes of a starting spot on the NL squad?
He'd make a defensible choice as a second-string pick, but he's not even the second-best second baseman in the league right now—that would be Danny Espinosa. Heck, even Chase Utley's played better when he's made it out to the field.
Weeks has cut down on the strikeouts this season and it's showed—the five-tool stud is having a career year. He should be rewarded by keeping his All-Star spot.
Key Stats: .299/.361/.455, 9 HR, 25 SB, 5.8 UZR, 3.5 WAR
The Competition: Josh Hamilton (Texas Rangers) .297/.354/.529, 8 HR, 4 SB, -1.2 UZR, 1.4 WAR
A flashy Red Sox player not getting enough support for the All-Star Game? I never thought I'd see the day when that would happen, but on the last day of voting, that's exactly the position in which we find ourselves.
In fairness to Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP has hit better than Ellsbury when he's been in the lineup (he missed most of April and May). But his advantage isn't as big as you might think, and it pales in comparison to the edge Ellsbury has in the field, on the basepaths and actual games played—half of success is showing up.
Normally the citizens of Red Sox Nation can handle this kind of situation on their own, but this year they've been slacking. Let's help them out.
However, Ellsbury isn't the best outfielder who's currently projected to miss a starting job. That honor (if you can call it that) goes to...
Key Stats: .332/.417/.630, 22 HR, 21 SB, 192 wRC+, 4.5 WAR
The Competition: Matt Holliday, (St. Louis Cardinals) .332/.432/.565, 10 HR, 0 SB, 177 wRC+, 3.2 WAR
Holliday has been great, absolutely phenomenal. In a vacuum I'd have no problem with him getting a starting spot—he's been one of the best outfielders in the league when he's been healthy enough to take the field.
However, the best outfielder in the league is less than 200,000 votes behind him, and if one of them has to get snubbed, there's no question it should be Holliday.
Look at Kemp's numbers and try to find a single reason why he shouldn't start the All-Star game. He's OPS'ing nearly 1.050, and he's on pace to join to 40/40 club this year. If not for his questionable defense, he'd be my pick for NL MVP so far.
But before you get too worked up about Kemp, there's an even better player who's currently on the outside looking in...
Key Stats: .349/.394/.528, 29 SB, 162 wRC+, 5.1 WAR
The Competition: Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies) .272/.336/.482, 14 HR, 115 wRC+, 3.1 WAR
Tulowitzki is one of my favorite players. He's a five-tool stud, a future Hall of Famer (you heard it here first!) and a very deserving choice for this year's NL All-Star team.
Unfortunately, one of Tulo's peers is much, much, much more worthy of the starting shortstop gig.
Reyes has been absolutely phenomenal this year, and with apologies to Roy Halladay, he has to be the favorite to take home NL MVP honors at the end of the season.
The best player in the senior circuit this year is within a quarter-million votes of a starting job.