But this All-Star season, the Red Sox have no players slotted to start in the Midsummer Classic in Anaheim. Of course, the polls don’t close until Thursday at 11:59 p.m. — but barring a dramatic spike in votes — most Red Sox are likely to stand pat a few spots outside the starting grid.
Don’t read too much into it. Resist fixating on the top of the charts, and much can be learned about Theo Epstein’s 2010 club, as well as the All-Star voting process in general.
Adrian Beltre is in fourth
Two things are clear.
1. Beltre was a hell of a pickup.
2. Rangers fans got to the ballot box early and often.
Beltre — who is batting .340 with 12 homers and 52 RBIs – has put up numbers worthy of a first or second spot at the hot corner. His fourth-place ranking shows people have at least noticed, and his impact is affirmed by the company he keeps in the top four: Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez and Michael Young.
Young has turned in a solid season with 11 homers and 51 RBIs, but his .316 batting average — and his ability to hunt down slow rollers — pale in comparison to Beltre.
Perhaps the best explanation is that Young is a Ranger. Ian Kinsler ranks third at second base, Elvis Andrus ranks second at shortstop, Vladimir Guerrero is the leading DH, Taylor Teagarden ranks fourth at catcher, Josh Hamilton is the second outfielder and the oft-injured Nelson Cruz is the fourth outfielder.
Now the Rangers have been impressive en route to a first-place standing in the AL West, but there are a few questionable selections in there.
You can’t vote on pitching
Epstein banked on pitching and defense heading into 2010. In large part, that’s what this poll reveals. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz – nine and 10 game winners, respectively – each sport numbers worthy of starting the game.
Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez are on the outside looking in
Yes, it’s true. The two players Theo turned loose languish in eighth and tenth place, respectively, in the National League ballot. The former Red Sox sluggers — who have combined for 12 homers — are clearly undeserving of a starting spot. But it speaks volumes that the fans have noticed this and voted accordingly.
While the slow-starting Chase Utley – 11 homers and 36 RBIs – leads the National League in total votes, fans have looked past the reputations of the ex-Fenway stars, ratifying Epstein’s decision to let them go.
Under the radar
With a former MVP (Dustin Pedroia) and the top-producing catcher in the American League (Victor Martinez) bypassed by fans, the Red Sox may be forming a chip on their shoulder just in time for a second-half outburst.
Also overlooked has been Marco Scutaro. After a slow start, Scutaro has turned it around to the tune of a .312 average with two homers and 15 RBIs in June. Meanwhile, his OBP has been strong throughout — standing at .353 on the season. This puts him leagues ahead of guys like J.J. Hardy and Jason Bartlett, whose batting averages have lingered in the low .200s yet rank No. 3 and No. 4 among American League shortstops.
Boston fans are hoping these Red Sox come out of the gate fuming after the All-Star break in time for a tear.