Friday, June 29, 2007

All Stars

I haven't followed the daily drama of the 2007 major league baseball very closely this year, but I figured I'd fill out an All Star ballot, as I usually do.

In voting for All Stars, I don't give a lot of weight to the current season. The real stars of the game are the guys who have good track records over a period of years. If a young player is tearing up the league through the end of June, that could mean that he's stepping up into All Star status. But if it's a veteran just having a hot streak, let it go.

So, here are the selections I made this year. I made these picks with only a general sense of this year's statistics. Like I said, I was more interested in identifying the guys who are truly the best players in the game, as shown by a period of sustained success.

AL Catcher: Joe Mauer
Ivan Rodriguez has dominated this position for a long time, and would be a good pick this year, but I think Mauer has passed him.

AL Firstbase: David Ortiz
This is a strong position, with Travis Hafner, Mark Texeira, Justin Morneau, etc. Ortiz is more of a designated hitter than a firstbaseman, but this is where he's listed, and he's been a better hitter than almost anyone else for the last 4 or 5 years.

AL Secondbase: Placido Polanco
This is a weak crop. Polanco gets noticed when he puts up a good batting average, but he does a lot of things well no matter what he hits. He's one of the best defensive players in baseball, and has been a big part of the Tigers' turnaround.

AL Thirdbase: Alex Rodriguez
A no-brainer.

AL Shortstop: Derek Jeter
Carlos Guillen and Miguel Tejada are close.

AL Outfield: Manny Ramirez, Grady Sizemore, Vladimir Guerrero
I try to pick at least one guy who can actually play centerfield. Ichiro! is probably as deserving as Sizemore, but he's already at or past his peak, and Sizemore is still on the way up. Ramirez and Guerrero aren't having particularly good years, but they've been two of the very best hitters in baseball for a decade or more. It will take a lot to dislodge them. Magglio Ordonez is having an unbelievable year, and was good before that, but is probably just an example of a decent player having a hot streak. Jermaine Dye has been good for the last few years, too, but I can't see picking him over Guerrero.

NL Catcher: Brian McCann
Not much to choose from here. The jury's still out on McCann, but most of the other guys on the ballot have already proven they're not All Stars. Russell Martin would be a good pick, too.

NL Firstbase: Albert Pujols
This is almost as easy a call as A-Rod at AL 3B, even with Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder in the league.

NL Secondbase: Chase Utley
Way ahead of anyone else.

NL Thirdbase: Miguel Cabrera
There are some good players here, including Chipper Jones (still going strong), Scott Rolen and David Wright, but Cabrera is the only hitter who is a threat to the dominance of Pujols over the next 10 years.

NL Shortstop: Jose Reyes
There are some promising young shortstops in the NL, but it's still hard to be sure that any of them are really as good as advertised. Reyes has played a little better for a little longer than guys like J.J. Hardy and Hanley Ramirez. Phillies fans want Jimmy Rollins to make it, but he's proven that he's not at this level. Edgar Renteria looks good sometimes, but the young guys look better.

NL Outfield: Barry Bonds, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay
Bonds is an obvious choice, but after that, it gets surprisingly thin. Beltran has been the best all-around centerfielder for the last few years, although he's not too far ahead of Andruw Jones. The former crop of slugging corner outfielders has mostly either been traded to the AL or gotten old, so I'll go with Bay for his overall excellence over the past few years. Most of the other candidates (Adam Dunn?) have significant holes in their games.

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