We did it last year...so we'll do it this year!
To me, the All-Star game is more of a status symbol than it is a fun game to watch. I know it stems from Selig and the team managers agreeing to call it a tie game--at which point baseball pulled a 180 and in a desperate attempt at "No, No! It really matters, it really, really, totally counts!" decided to give an exhibition game some actual merit by granting home field advantage to the league that won the contest. It went from fun...to flat-out meaningless...to an oxymoron.
But just because the league made a pair of bad decisions, it doens't mean we should punish the players. Election to the starting lineup of the All-Star game is still an honor and a symbol of status and respect; exactly as it should be. With that, I present my All-Star selections.
|2008 - Joe Mauer||75||269||50||87||22||1||3||34||42||22||0||1||.323||.410||.446|
No big surprise here. Mauer has been the best offensive catcher in the American League and, arguably, the best defensive catcher as well. He's on pace for nearly 40 doubles, walks twice as often as he strikes out and controls the strike zone like few others in all of baseball. He's a suberb player in every sense of the word, not to mention a great guy, and he deserves this opportunity to represent the best of his league.
Runner-Up: Dioner Navarro, Tampa Bay Rays
|2008 - Kevin Youkilis||77||289||48||89||22||2||13||50||28||57||3||2||.308||.375||.533|
I tried to justify going with Morneau over Youkilis, but in all good conscience couldn't do it. Youkilis has a significant lead in slugging and extra-base hits, and even though Justin walks more and strikes out less, I couldn't award the position to Justin just because I wanted him to have it. Youkilis is a fantastic player on both sides of the ball and deserves this nomination. More than anything he's a great hitter, and any lineup would be happy to have him in it. Besides, what pitcher isn't afraid of Leonidas?
Runner-Up: Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
|2008 - Ian Kinsler||82||349||73||113||27||4||13||50||30||47||23||1||.324||.380||.536|
It's tough to deny a guy who's on pace for 90 extra-base hits. After finishing seventh in Rookie of the Year voting in '06, Kinsler turned in a solid year in '07. Neither of those seasons has compared to how he's belting in '08. He's matched career highs in stolen bases and doubles already, as will likely smash career marks for hits, walks, home runs and RBI as well. Kinsler provides the full package for a second baseman from the offensive side, and he's adequate in the field as well. Do you think Arizona would have liked him to sign with them on one of the two seperate occasions where they drafted him? Probably. Luckily for Texas, he didn't.
Runner-Up: Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles
|2008 - Alex Rodriguez||64||237||45||75||17||0||16||44||30||48||11||1||.316||.399||.591|
When you talk about the best players of all time, Rodriguez has to be in the conversation. Any time a guy hits .316/.399/.591 and it's run of the mill, you've got something special. He turns 33 later this month but, luckily for fans of spectacle, greatness and baseball in general, he's showing no signs of slowing down. Alex deserves all the credit he gets and then some. His similar batter comps include Ken Griffey Jr., Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Manny Ramirez and Frank Robinson. When you get an opportunity to watch a player the caliber of A-Rod, even if you hate the Yankees, you have to appreciate the skill.
Runner-Up: Mike Lowell, Boston Red Sox
|2008 - Michael Young||81||345||57||99||22||1||7||44||28||52||5||0||.287||.339||.417|
Young, having a down year, is the benefactor of the circumstances surrounding the position of shortstop throughout the American League: all shortstops are having down years. Peralta in Cleveland, Jeter in New York, Eckstein, Bartlett, Lugo...if they don't have glaring weaknesses they've missed time, and all-in-all it makes for a situation that we're not used to in the AL. For years it was impossible to pick the one best shortstop, just like this year, but usually it was because there were too many options. This season there aren't enough. Young is the best of a weak list of finalists.
Runner-Up: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
|2008 - Josh Hamilton||82||331||52||102||19||3||19||80||30||59||4||0||.308||.361||.556|
I don't know what happened to Josh Hamilton from 2003-2005, and part of me doesn't want to know. I'd like to think he returned home to the planet Krypton, developed super powers, and then returned to earth to better mankind through baseball. Actually, it was suspension due to violating baseball's drug policy, which makes his transformation intriguing to say the least: prior to 11 games at triple-A Louiseville last summer, he'd had no success past high-A ball. At any rate, the Rangers made a stellar pickup in the off-season with Hamilton, and now he's hit his way into my All-Star lineup. Also, I'm sticking with the Krypton story. Hamilton is the third, but not the final, Ranger to make my list.
|2008 - Grady Sizemore||81||322||51||84||18||3||19||45||48||64||19||3||.261||.366||.512|
Nice headshot, Sizemore you freak. Think the Expos/Nationals would like to reverse this trade? In June of '02, the Expos sent Sizemore (stud), Cliff Lee (having a stellar year in Cleveland), Brandon Phillips (serviceable with the Reds) and Lee Stevens (out of baseball) to the Indians for Bartolo Colon (on the DL with the Red Sox) and Tim Drew (failed pitching prospect, last heard from last season with the Independent League). At any rate, Sizemore is an absolute stud. He hits for power, gets on base, steals bases and is an extra-base machine. In addition he's a superior defender, and took home a Gold Glove award last year. As far as center field candidates are concerned, Sizemore is head and shoulders above the competition. Even hitting an mediocre .261, he's still productive at the plate.
|2008 - Jermaine Dye||78||299||50||90||18||1||18||50||22||58||3||2||.301||.352||.548|
While he isn't as spectacular as he was in '06, Dye continues to stave off decline and is on pace to have the third-best offensive season of his career. Age hasn't hinted at sunset so much this season, and even in the field Dye continues to be a more than adequate defender. As one of few White Sox hitters who have been effective across the board of offensive achievements, if Chicago takes their run at a division title into September they'll have a lot to thank their right fielder for. Also, Jermaine Dye has been 34 since 2003.
Runners-Up: Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles; Johnny Damon, New York Yankees; Maggio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers
|2008 - Milton Bradley||71||243||50||78||21||0||16||49||49||64||4||2||.321||.440||.605|
I'm not sure anyone in their right minds could have seen this performance coming. Across the board this is simply a stunning, MVP-style season from a guy who's always been a good player...but he's never shown that he could be this good. Whatever the case may be, the Rangers picked up another diamond in the rough last winter in Bradley, a guy who many teams steered away from because of his makeup. If the Rangers do decide to sell at the deadline, they'll likely sell Bradley, who would be the quintessential example of selling high. Bradley's services may never be as profitable as they are right now--at least as far as a competetive team looking for a blockbuster bat is concerned.
Runner-Up: Hideki Matsui, New York Yankees
The Batting Order, which courtesy of Baseball Musings' Lineup Analysis tool, says this team could average 6.817 runs per game:
1-Milton Bradley, DH
2-Alex Rodriguez, 3B
3-Kevin Youkilis, 1B
4-Josh Hamilton, OF
5-Ian Kinsler, 2B
6-Jermaine Dye, OF
7-Grady Sizemore, OF
8-Michael Young, SS
9-Joe Mauer, C