Philadelphia Phillies: Placido Polanco Not Worthy of All-Star Start

Victor FiloromoCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2011

Someone is going to have to help me figure this one out.

Placido Polanco will get the starting nod at third base for the National League when the All-Star Game commences next Tuesday. He’ll do so after being overwhelmingly elected by the fans, who I assume we are supposed to trust, right?

Another story for another day, I suppose, as to whether or not fan balloting should essentially help determine who gets home field advantage in the World Series. The story here is that Polanco may become, statistically, the worst starting third baseman in the history of the All-Star Game.

As of the completion of last night's game in Florida, Polanco is hitting .274, with a .331 on-base percentage and .346 slugging percentage. Yes, that’s right, a man with a .676 OPS is going to start in the All-Star Game. What a wondrous world we live in.

They always said it’s good to have friends in high places. The popular Polanco may have benefited from voters in St. Louis and Detroit, two places Polanco called home in his Major League career. Not to mention the 30-some-odd times Citizens Bank Park opened its doors to All-Star voting this year.

So here we are, with a player hitting just over the Mendoza line since the first of May starting the All-Star Game. It’s hard to agree with the fans on this one. They were wrong, terribly wrong about a player who seems to avoid criticism in some way, shape or form in the city of Brotherly Love.

Yet to put a hit on the board in July, the reports are now coming out that Polanco is dealing with a sore back. It's always interesting to see how the excuses come out when somebody is in a slump. If he's injured, then maybe he shouldn't be playing.

While Raul Ibanez was putting up a .569 OPS in June, Polanco was putting up a .545 OPS. Two men struggling, but only one taking criticism. Meanwhile, Polanco starts in the All-Star Game next Tuesday.

It seems like Philadelphia fans have forgotten the "what have you done for me lately" motto with Polanco, who simply put, is not producing. Yet Ibanez takes criticism and Polanco is above it. Riddle me that.

Polanco did nothing wrong here. He is not boisterous or loud, not clamoring for All-Star votes like his life depends on it. This one is on the fans, and as long as they have control, they will make mistakes now and again. They’ve made one here. Rewarding a player for having one good month seems to be the description of an All-Star in this situation.

Heck, if you could combine Polanco’s April with Ibanez’s May, maybe you’d have an All-Star player on your hands. This was not a cream of the crop type year for third basemen in the National League, that’s for sure.

It’s been a bit of a strange year, with severe injuries knocking guys like David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman out of the lineup for long periods of time. Pablo Sandoval has also suffered from the injury bug, and a guy like Casey McGehee has been unable to follow up his outstanding 2010.

The pickings were certainly slim, but Polanco made things a no-contest with his April. However, Polanco's April is not his May and June, and he coasted to an easy All-Star victory despite not producing much since the first of May. 

As much as it may pain Phillies fans to read this, Chipper Jones has had a better year at the plate than the Phillies’ third baseman. Chase Headley has put together a strong season in San Diego, but with little name recognition, the Padres’ third-sacker had little chance. That is despite posting a .306/.394/.405 season thus far.

Even Aramis Ramirez in Chicago has a stronger case than Polanco.

Polanco may become the weakest third base All-Star starter since Scott Cooper of the Boston Red Sox in 1993 and 1994.

One thing Polanco does have going for him? He has had an above-average year at third defensively, and could be on his way to winning his first ever Gold Glove at third. (He has two at second base.)

Polanco’s advanced defensive numbers are well above his career norms, and it doesn’t take much to see that he has been in position and fielding well. But, is that worthy of an All-Star bid? Not necessarily.

That said, his WAR of 1.9 is not far off of Headley’s 2.0, which suggests one thing: it’s been an awful year for third basemen in the National League. In fact, it could be one of the worst on record.

Next Tuesday, Polanco can count his lucky stars that he had a little bit of name recognition, some friends in high places, and a whole lot of votes to push him to Arizona for the Midsummer Classic. Did he deserve it? Probably not.

In a weak year for third basemen, Polanco essentially took advantage of one thing: the fans voting him in on the Internet and at the ballpark.

And this time around, fan balloting reared its ugly head and sent a man to the All-Star Game who didn't truly deserve it.


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