2011 MLB All-Star Game: 7 Players Who Deserve to Start but Won't
With every All-Star Game, it seems like we pay more attention to those who won't be in the starting lineups than those who will be. It's somewhat ironic, really—after all, the fans are the ones who vote for the starters. Why should they be unhappy with the results when they have direct say in determining them?
Still, the stars-versus-snubs debate is part of what makes the Mid-Summer Classic one of the shining moments of the baseball season. But why wait until the actual results are revealed?
The voting closes at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, so the latest tally of votes should provide a fairly good indication as to who will be suiting up in Phoenix on July 12. Or, it should tell us who will be left out of the first inning roll call, despite having worthy credentials.
Here are seven players who will likely be riding the bench at the beginning of the All-Star Game (or possibly stuck sitting at home) even though they deserve to start.
American League vote totals are as of June 28, 2011. National League vote totals are as of June 27, 2011. All vote totals are courtesy of MLB.com
1. National League 1B: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
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First base is one of those premier positions in sports; you could probably make a case for at least three guys in each league to start every year. But with default answer (and current vote leader) Albert Pujols on the shelf with a broken arm, the National League first base spot is up for grabs between two worthy contenders: Prince Fielder and Joey Votto.
I'm going to assume Fielder will finish in second and therefore get to start over Prince Albert. But, to be fair, the voting is very close, with Votto only trailing the Brewers slugger by 70,000 votes as of this past Monday.
Fielder is having a superb year (.306, 21 HR, 69 RBI), but so is Votto (.319, 11 HR, 50 RBI). This is not one of those cases where a snub deserves to start because the guy chosen is a slouch; rather, this is just a matter of having one spot for two qualified candidates. Perhaps the defending NL MVP will be able to sneak in as the starting designated hitter for the National League.
2. National League OF: Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies
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Shane Victorino has quietly had a really nice year for the Phillies, hitting .291 with nine home runs, 50 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. More than that, he's meant a lot to this Philadelphia ballclub, which has struggled offensively all year.
That brings up an interesting point: Should a player's importance to his team be considered in his All-Star credentials? If that question sounds familiar, it should. It always comes up when discussing the MVP race at the end of the season.
Regardless, Victorino's numbers on their face seem All-Star worthy, though he has some fairly stiff competition. The St. Louis Cardinals duo of Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday and overall NL vote leader Ryan Braun are currently entrenched in the top three spots, while Victorino is seventh in the outfield race.
3. National League OF: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks
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This almost seems like too obvious a choice. Justin Upton is one of the brightest up-and-coming stars Major League Baseball has to offer. He's having a terrific year, hitting .304 with 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases. And he plays for arguably the biggest surprise team of the season, the Arizona Diamondbacks—who also happen to be hosting this year's All-Star festivities.
And yet, Upton sits in...13th place among National League outfielders?
Sigh. At the very least, Arizona fans should be disappointed. Everybody loves a hometown hero.
4. American League C: Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers
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Now, I may bleed pinstripe blue, but I know when a New York Yankee is receiving unjust recognition simply for being, well, a New York Yankee.
Russell Martin should not be starting the All-Star Game for the American League.
Granted, the field is thin this year, with preseason favorite Joe Mauer ravaged by injuries in 2011 and preseason runner-up Carlos Santana hitting .226. Still, although Martin got off to a blazing start for the Bronx Bombers, the best choice is Alex Avila.
From a pure statistical standpoint, Avila is besting Martin in almost every major category: .303 batting average to .230, 28 runs scored to 25 and 46 RBI to 34. The two are tied in home runs with 10 and Martin has four more stolen bases than Avila.
Apparently, Tigers fans are giving their backstop a final hopeful push—but will it be enough? As of Tuesday, Martin had a healthy 400,000-vote lead.
5. American League SS: Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians
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I'm trying to type this so the words read as softly as possible: Derek Jeter shouldn't even be sniffing the leaderboard for American League shortstop voting.
But, then again, you might know that already, if you don't happen to worship the man like millions of people around the country—understandably—do.
Jeter isn't having a terrible season—though, by his standards, he is—but it's not All-Star-caliber. And, what's more, there's a clear candidate who should be starting in Phoenix over The Captain.
Asdrubal Cabrera is having a breakout year. He's putting up numbers as a shortstop that an outfielder would be happy with: .296 batting average, 13 home runs, 52 runs scored, 47 RBI and 12 stolen bases. He's led the Indians further than anyone had predicted, as they only sit a half-game out of first place.
Nevertheless, he was 500,000 votes behind Jeter—who sports a .260/2/20 batting line—as of the last tally.
(I need a 20-minute break after this slide. I feel like I just committed treason.)
6. American League OF: Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays
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Two of the top three American League vote-getters in the outfield are spot-on choices: Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson. The rest of the top 10, minus speedsters Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, is a joke.
Josh Hamilton (currently the third starting outfielder) has put up respectable numbers, but he missed six weeks of the season due to a broken arm. Carl Crawford (No. 5) frustrated Boston fans (and fantasy owners...grrr) with pitiful play during the first two months of the season, and is now on the disabled list himself.
Nelson Cruz (No. 6) is hitting .237; Ichiro Suzuki (No. 7) is batting an un-Ichiro-like .275. Nick Swisher (No. 8) only recently remembered how to swing a baseball bat. And J.D. Drew (No. 10) is hitting .234 and looking about as excited as a nine-year old celebrating his grandmother's 92nd birthday.
Meanwhile, Matt Joyce, having a very nice year with a .308/10/38 batting line, is 11th in voting.
Now, I'm not saying those numbers would normally be All-Star-worthy. But in a year when so many AL outfielders are having disappointing seasons, why shouldn't a fresh name get a shot? Hamilton shouldn't be there, and he'd probably tell you that himself. Really, the third spot right now should go to Ellsbury, (who's hitting .300 with 25 stolen bases and 55 runs scored), but after the previous two slides, I need to remember where my allegiances lie.
7. American League DH: Michael Young, Texas Rangers
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I really don't understand the rule change when it comes to the designated hitter in the All-Star Game.
First of all, why do we now have a DH in every game, no matter what league is playing host? Is it to protect the pitchers? Is it to promote more offense? Were there just too many double-switches for Joe Buck and Tim McCarver to keep track of when the games were in National League ballparks?
But, more importantly, why can't we vote for a National League DH? It doesn't make sense. I know the NL teams don't actually have specific designated hitters, but look at the list for the American League. Victor Martinez has played over a third of his games this year in the field. Bobby Abreu comes close to that number as well. Michael Young has played almost half of his games in the field.
The fact is, not every AL team has a regular DH anymore; it's used often as a way to give starting position players a "half-day off" or something of the sort. Why give the National League manager the choice of DH when the fans can do it? Or, better yet, why not take the NL player with the highest number of votes to have not won the starter's job at his position and give him the DH spot (the "All-Star wild-card," if you will)?
Young deserves the American League DH spot over David Ortiz, and not because of my obvious bias. (Okay, not just because of that.) Ortiz has slightly better power numbers (a 10-home run lead over Young but five fewer RBI), while Young has a better batting average (.318 to .305).
What's more, Young is coming off a tumultuous offseason, in which he allegedly asked for a trade after being misled by the Rangers' front office. He's been moved around the infield more often than warm-up groundballs. He's the heart and soul of this Texas ballclub (sorry, Josh Hamilton) that currently sits in first place. And he's hitting the hell out of the baseball.
He deserves to start in Arizona, despite being over two million votes behind Ortiz.