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All-Stars Losing Battle

Posted By Christopher Rowe On Jul 5 2011 @ 5:50 pm In MLB | 4 Comments

Most of the press these days regarding All-Star selection has to do with the snubs – or the littany of exclusions – especially from writers and fans of  teams only sending one representative to the Midseason Classic. Starting lineups and reserves were unveiled Sunday for the July 12 All-Star Game at Phoenix’s Chase Field and while rosters are not completed, two concepts were made very clear:

      1. The balloting process is bigger and more popular than ever
      2. Turnover from one year to the next can be quite significant

 

 

[1]In general fans hit the National League pretty solidly on the sweet spot while they whiffed pretty badly on some of the American League starters. Batting .500 isn’t bad but it would have been so much easier to simply vote for the best players at each position rather than pad the Madison Avenue brand of… well… branding.

Is it an honor to be named? Deinitely.

Is it an imperfect system? Yes

Does fan voting make it a popularity contest? Sure it does.

 

[2]Is it really all that important to draw that line at 25 players, 30 players or 35 players per league? Contract bonuses and fan voting not withstanding, the answer would be not really. The players and their agents are not the ones who are publicly voicing their dissent. At the end of the day, the only question the network have is will we watch? NBA All-Stars all show up for a great party weekend and play most of the game. NHL players understand the honor of celebrating their sport in whatever host city is chosen. NFL has trouble getting players to come to Hawaii in February and it seems that MLB All-Star game has gone the way of the dodo. Will we watch the All-Star Game over reruns of last season’s reality shows? This is not the 1970s when there were three networks. Battle of the Network Stars and The Laugh-Olympics won’t fly anymore. The answer may not surprise you but it would surprise Major League Baseball.

[3]Plenty of iconic stalwarts will comprise the American League and National League starting lineups in the 82nd annual Midsummer Classic - including Alex Rodriguez (14th), Derek Jeter (12), David Ortiz (7), Brian McCann (6 straight), Lance Berkman (6), Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Hamilton and Ryan Braun (four straight each). However, of the 17 starters announced via the MLB All-Star Selection Show only four — Jeter, Braun, Hamilton and Robinson Cano — started the 2010 game (and of those four, only two deserve to start in 2011). Seven — Gonzalez, McCann, Curtis Granderson, Alex Avila, Matt Kemp, Rickie Weeks and Jose Bautista — are starting for the first time, while last year’s voting leaders — Albert Pujols and Joe Mauerare both notably absent. Reserves appointed by managers and Final Vote (this week) may change that in time.

[4]For the clearest glimpse of the sudden emergence of star power, look no further than the new record-holder for All-Star votes Jose Bautista (7,454,753 eclipsing Ken Griffey, Jr. who in 1994 set the record with 6,069,688 – shortly before the labor strife which would cancel the second half of the season, World [5]Series and delay the start of 1995 Spring Training). In a year that saw professional sports’ most extensive All-Star Game balloting system establish a new record with 32.5 million ballots, should the players consider this a mandate from the people or simply ballot box stuffing? At this time last year, we were still learning about the sudden emergence of a late-blooming Jose Bautista while debating between Pujols and Fielder as best player in the game. Now, after following a 54 HR campaign in 2010 with a Herculean 2011 first half (leads the Majors with 26 HR and a 1.150 OPS) the Blue Jays slugger has seemingly outdone himself and stepped full force into the limelight.

[6]This year’s voting numbers weren’t up solely due to Bautista. Three other AL starters – Robinson Cano, David Ortiz and Curtis Granderson — joined Bautista surpassing Griffey’s former record total. Ryan Braun — who injured his leg on Saturday (currently day to day) established a new NL record with 5,928,004 votes. The combined vote total topped the previous high from ’09 by about 9 million so it would seem interest in the game (or ballot process) is significantly increased.

[7]The Commissioner’s office might have us believe that the All-Star Game “counts” because it determines home field advantage for the World Series or they may bring up an increased interest in baseball despite attendance declines across the board. Debatable as that may be it is intriguing.

AMERICAN LEAGUE ALL-STAR STARTERS (by fan voting):

  Pos. Player  

Team
  C Alex Avila [8]  

Tigers
  1B Adrian Gonzalez [9]  

Red Sox
  2B Robinson Cano Yankees
  3B Alex Rodriguez [10] Yankees
  SS Derek Jeter [10] Yankees
  OF Jose Bautista [11]  

Blue Jays
  OF Curtis Granderson [10]  

Yankees
  OF Josh Hamilton [12] Rangers
  DH David Ortiz [9] Red Sox

[13]This year, the first that will have the designated hitter deployed in a National League park. Fans selected 17 total starting position players, while the other 49 players were chosen via a combination of the Player Ballot, the two All-Star Game managers and MLB. Hamilton and Jeter are questionable as both have missed serious playing time in 2011. Hamilton may have been the 2010 MVP and Jeter is a perennial All Star but both have seen serious decline in their production and should not be rewarded as starters.

[14]The AL Pitching Staff consists of: starters Josh Beckett (Red Sox), Gio Gonzalez (Athletics), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), David Price (Rays), James Shields (Rays), Justin Verlander (Tigers), Jered Weaver (Angels) and C.J. Wilson (Rangers); and RP Aaron Crow (Royals), Brandon League (Mariners), Chris Perez (Indians), Mariano Rivera (Yankees) and Jose Valverde (Tigers).

[15]AL Reserve position players are: C Russell Martin (Yankees) and Matt Wieters (Orioles); INF Adrian Beltre (Rangers), Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) and Howard Kendrick (Angels); OF Michael Cuddyer (Twins), Jacoby Ellsbury (Red Sox), Matt Joyce (Rays) and Carlos Quentin (White Sox); plus DH Michael Young (Rangers). Cabrera deserves to start over Jeter as does Ellsbury over Hamilton. Avila trailed Martin and was within 450,000 votes as of Tuesday. Tigers fans rewarded the [16]24-year-old Avila, who came into Sunday leading AL catchers in batting average (.299) and RBIs (46). Despite a down year Derek Jeter (.260 with 2 HR) is an All-Star Game starter for the sixth straight year. By the time the game occurs, Jeter (returned from rehabbing a calf strain in the Minors), should be very close to being the 28th member of the 3,000-hit club. At press time he is within 4 hits of the mark.

NATIONAL LEAGUE ALL-STAR STARTERS (by fan voting):

C Brian McCann Braves
1B Prince Fielder Brewers
2B Rickie Weeks Brewers
3B Placido Polanco Phillies
SS Jose Reyes [17] Mets
OF Ryan Braun Brewers
OF Lance Berkman Cardinals
OF Matt Kemp Dodgers

 

[18] [19]The NL pitching staff consists of: starters Matt Cain (Giants), Roy Halladay (Phillies), Cole Hamels (Phillies), Jair Jurrjens (Braves), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Cliff Lee (Phillies), Tim Lincecum (Giants) and Ryan Vogelsong (Giants); along with RP Heath Bell (Padres), Tyler Clippard (Nationals), Joel Hanrahan (Pirates), Jonny Venters (Braves) and Brian Wilson (Giants).

[20] [21]The NL’s bench will include: C Yadier Molina (Cardinals); INF Starlin Castro (Cubs), Chipper Jones (Braves), Brandon Phillips (Reds), Gaby Sanchez (Marlins), Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies) and Joey Votto (Reds); with OF Carlos Beltran (Mets), Jay Bruce (Reds), Matt Holliday (Cardinals), Hunter Pence (Astros) and Justin Upton (D-backs). Rickie Weeks (.276 with 14 HR and 33 RBI) edged out Brandon Phillips at second base. Matt Kemp (.327 BA, 22 HR, 64 RBI, and 22 SB) sneaked past Matt Holliday.

Another tight race was NL shortstop.  Jose Reyes trailed Troy Tulowitzki by 244,832 on Monday, then beat him by nearly 800,000 votes. Heading into Sunday’s action, Reyes led MLB in BA (.354), hits (124) and triples (15), ranking second in stolen bases (30) while being a ray of light for an otherwise moribund Mets team. Now the question is whether the hamstring tightness that forced Reyes out of action this weekend will hinder his All-Star Game availability next week.

[22]Albert Pujols is very likely to be held out of the game due to injury, though he may return with a week to spare. A wrist injury has sidelined “The Machine” these past couple of weeks to set the stage for Prince Fielder, who edged out 2010 MVP Joey Votto and start his second All-Star Game.  As recently as Monday, Fielder and Votto were separated by just 70,727 votes, both trailing the injured Pujols by 450,000. Fielder passed Pujols over the final week of balloting, garnering 4,864,523 votes — 610,218 more than Votto and 693,429 more than the third-place Pujols. Fielder had 21 HR, a .299 batting average and an NL-leading 69 RBIs heading into Sunday. A case could be made that all three first basemen belong in the game.

[23] [24]Skippers Ron Washington (AL) and Bruce Bochy (NL) — in conjunction with MLB — each picked five omitted players to make up the All-Star Game Final Vote, which fans will be able to vote on from now until 4 p.m. ET on Thursday. Final Vote aside, six Yankees, four members of the Braves, Giants, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox and Tigers and 24 first-time All-Stars are headed to Arizona for the Midsummer Classic.

[25] [26]A few things must still be decided, such as who will start on the mound. That decision lies in the hands of the skippers. Under MLB rules, no pitcher who starts the Sunday prior to the game will be eligible to start the All-Star Game. That “rule” has been circumvented – usually by curtailing the duration of that starting pitcher to one or two innings instead of the ceremonial three as established custom. Most pitchers don’t expect to throw more than one or two innings anyway so the honor of starting is titular at best.

[27]Final Vote, which determines the final member of each league’s squad will come down to Alex Gordon of the Royals, Adam Jones of the Orioles, Paul Konerko of the White Sox, Victor Martinez of the Tigers and Ben Zobrist of the Rays in the AL. NL Final Vote will draw from a pool of Andre Ethier (LAD), Todd Helton (COL), Ian Kennedy (host D-backs), Michael Morse (WAS) and Shane Victorino (PHI).

Final Vote winners will be announced shortly after Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.

[28]The All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports (and around the world by MLB International), with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage. Will you watch?

RELATED ARTICLES: 

[29]2011 MLB All-Star discussion hot topic http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/06/30/whos-on-your-all-star-team/ [30]

MLB All-Star Game – World’s Fair to Historical Footnote?  

http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2010/07/20/mlb-all-star-game-worlds-fair-to-zzzzzzz/ [31]

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[7] Image: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/psb/uploads/2011/07/asg-2011-logo-21.jpg

[8] Alex Avila: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110703&content_id=21341154&vkey=allstar2011

[9] Adrian Gonzalez: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110703&content_id=21339702&vkey=allstar2011

[10] Alex Rodriguez: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110703&content_id=21342394&vkey=allstar2011

[11] Jose Bautista: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110703&content_id=21339402&vkey=allstar2011

[12] Josh Hamilton: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110703&content_id=21341338&vkey=allstar2011

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[17] Jose Reyes: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110703&content_id=21343306&vkey=allstar2011

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[30] http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/06/30/whos-on-your-all-star-team/: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/06/30/whos-on-your-all-star-team/

[31] http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2010/07/20/mlb-all-star-game-worlds-fair-to-zzzzzzz/: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2010/07/20/mlb-all-star-game-worlds-fair-to-zzzzzzz/

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