MLB All-Star Game 2011: Handicapping Paul Konerko and Others on Last Vote Ballot
With the 2011 MLB All-Star game just a week away, the players have been selected and snubs have been discussed. The only thing that's left to determine is who will win the annual Last Vote.
For those that don't know, five players in each league who were not selected by the fans, players or manager are put on a final ballot, and it's up to the fans to vote in the final player to be put on the prestigious squad.
This year, the American League's nominees are first baseman Paul Konerko, catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez, outfielder Alex Gordon, outfielder Adam Jones and second baseman Ben Zobrist.
The National League's nominees are pitcher Ian Kennedy, first baseman Michael Morse, first baseman Todd Helton, outfielder Andre Ethier and outfielder Shane Victorino.
Usually in this situation, the most deserving player doesn't always win, but rather teams who have a player on the ballot will implore their fans to vote for them as much as possible during the week fans are able to vote.
Taking that into account, here's a guess as to how the voting will play out. I'll be doing the National League first, then the American League.
5. Michael Morse, Washington
Season: .299 BA, 15 HR, 46 RBI, .349 OBP, .538 SLG, .887 OPS
Not bad numbers for a rookie, right? Michael Morse has been a bright spot for the semi-surprising Washington Nationals, who are currently .500 at 43-43.
However, rookies rarely make an All-Star team simply because they've yet to develop much of a following unlike the established veterans. Considering the Nationals aren't that popular of a franchise, and I expect Morse to finish in the basement, not because of his numbers, but because of his lack of popularity.
4. Ian Kennedy, Arizona
Season: 8-3, 103 K, 122 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Ian Kennedy has been a big surprise for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He leads the club in ERA and strikeouts.
Again, because Kennedy is pretty unknown amongst common fans, he's not likely to get many votes. He does have the D-Backs success in his favor, so he's got a shot. Being the sole pitcher on the ballot may also help his case for fans who prefer pitching over hitting.
Still, his best shot was being selected by the players or manager. Since he didn't, don't expect his name to be on top when the results come in.
3. Andre Ethier, Los Angeles
Season: .317 BA, 99 H, 23 2B, 7 HR, 41 RBI, .385 OBP, .458 SLG, .843 OPS
Andre Ethier has been one of the few productive players for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. The Dodgers ownership problems have been well-publicized, while their struggles on the field have been pushed to the back burner.
Because of this, Ethier's solid first half has gone unnoticed. His teammate, Matt Kemp, has been the talk of the Dodgers with his MVP-like numbers.
I think that with Dodger fans having to deal with the off-the-field issues, they may not be as concerned with getting Ethier on the ballot as opposed to a year in which there were no ownership ordeals.
2. Todd Helton, Colorado
Season: .319 BA, 9 HR, 39 RBI, .392 OBP, .488 SLG, .881 OPS
For Todd Helton, these are pretty pedestrian numbers. In the 2000's, Helton was one of the most feared hitters in the National League. Now, at 37, Helton has come back down to earth, yet his numbers are still pretty impressive.
Helton is definitely the most well known player on this ballot because of his past accomplishments. If he's chosen, it's likely based on the same reasoning a guy like Derek Jeter was voted in to the All-Star game: name recognition and a reward for being so great during their primes.
Ask me who I vote for, and it's Helton because of that, and the fact that there isn't a guy on the ballot whose numbers are far and away better than everyone else's.
1. Shane Victorino, Philadelphia
Season: .303 BA, 9 3B, 9 HR, 34 RBI, 13 SB, .376 OBP, .524 SLG, .900 OPS
Shane Victorino is playing for the best team in the National League, Philadelphia, and is having a stellar season so far, leading the Phillies in batting average.
He's on pace for a potential 20-20-20 season in triples, homers and steals. Few players have done accomplished such a feat.
Victorino is an established veteran, and playing for a team with such a devout following as Philly fans (especially when they don't hate the player) is something no other player on the ballot has at their disposal.
Victorino is the favorite to get the NL spot, so don't be shocked if he ends up winning.
5. Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay
Season: .256 BA, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 27 SB, .342 OBP, .455 SLG, .797 OPS
Moving to the American League, we start with Ben Zobrist, a utility man who's developed into a quality player for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Zobrist would be the best fit to make a contribution for the team, as he can play almost anywhere on the field.
However, we've seen how most Rays fans are indifferent towards their players. They're consistently ranked at the bottom of the attendance figures, ranking last in the AL this year despite their success.
So, unless Rays fans just hate coming to Tropicana Field and prefer watching on TV (not out of the realm of possibility considering that stadium doesn't look very nice), I don't expect Zobrist to have much of a chance.
4. Adam Jones, Baltimore
Season: .283 BA, 13 HR, 46 RBI, .325 OBP, .460 SLG, .785 OPS
Adam Jones has been one of the few bright spots for a struggling Baltimore Orioles squad. His numbers aren't eye-popping, but for a center fielder that's got some speed, being on pace to hit 25 homers is pretty impressive.
Like the Rays, the Orioles' attendance is near the bottom of the league, though at least it's semi-understandable, as it's been many years since the Orioles were contending for a playoff spot.
Still, there is a solid fan base in Baltimore, and Jones should get some support, but I don't see it being enough.
3. Victor Martinez, Detroit
Season: .328 BA, 21 2B, 6 HR, 46 RBI, .375 OBP, .479 SLG, .854 OPS
The Detroit Tigers have been surging back to the top of the AL Central in the past month, and Victor Martinez has been one of those reasons for it.
The Tigers have a solid following of fans and will be looking to bring another member of their team onto the prestigious team, but I don't think they'll have enough support.
2. Alex Gordon, Kansas City
Season: .298 BA, 98 H, 24 2B, 10 HR, 46 RBI, .367 OBP, .486 SLG, .853 OPS
Shocked a guy on the Kansas City Royals is this high? Hear me out.
When was the last time a guy on the Royals was in the Last Vote? I don't remember there ever being one. This is a bright spot in what has been yet another sub-standard season.
Gordon has been a highly regarded prospect since he was drafted, and after being hurt the past couple seasons, it appears he's finally starting to live up to the hype.
If KC pushes the issue, getting a second player on the roster would be a pretty nice accomplishment and a show of support for a young guy who's having a pretty impressive season.
1. Paul Konerko
Season: .319 BA, 97 H, 21 HR, 62 RBI, .390 OBP, .569 SLG, .959 OPS
Let's be honest, if Paul Konerko doesn't make the All-Star Game, something is clearly wrong. His numbers are far and away better than anyone else on the ballot.
Konerko is in the top five of each Triple Crown category and also slugging percentage and OPS.
It doesn't matter that there are many good first basemen in the American League; Konerko's a potential MVP candidate. He deserves to be on the team as much as anyone.
He's a proven veteran that has been one of the better hitters in the AL for the past decade or so, and White Sox fans should be hell bent on getting him on the roster.
This appears to be a similar situation to that of Joey Votto last year. He was voted onto the team, and so should Konerko.