All-Star voting is a fun opportunity for fans to have their voices heard. Unfortunately, it’s often inefficient.
A player’s actual season production often takes a backseat to his name and history. The game’s starters are frequently determined by popularity, which results in undeserving All-Stars, snubs and plenty of debate.
This year’s voting has been much more competent, particularly in the American League, where the appropriate selections appear much easier to make.
Twins first baseman Justin Morneau leapfrogged Mark Teixeira in votes this week, correcting what had been a serious miscue by voters.
Morneau is having a stellar season, while Teixeira is hitting a dismal .226. Morneau is batting .365 with a .474 on-base percentage and a 1.139 OPS, all tops among AL first basemen.
If Morneau were to somehow lose out on the starting spot, Miguel Cabrera, who is currently third in votes, would be a much more logical selection than Teixeria.
Robinson Cano at second base, Evan Longoria at third base, Derek Jeter at shortstop and Joe Mauer behind the plate all look like excellent selections. Their high vote totals could actually be a reflection of their popularity, but it coincides with solid production.
While Red Sox fans would love to see David Ortiz use his monster May as a springboard to the Midsummer Classic, Vladimir Guerrerro is the easy choice at DH, which is the direction the fans have gone in thus far.
The outfield is where things get tricky. With so many players to choose from, selecting an outfield is always painstaking.
Ichiro Suzuki, who is a staple in such festivities, likely will make another start this year, and his .340 batting average, 83 hits and 18 stolen bases make his selection an easy one.
Nelson Cruz and Carl Crawford currently occupy the second and third spots in outfield voting and would get the starting nod, but are they the best selections?
It is difficult to argue against Cruz given his production this season, but he has made two trips to the DL throughout the first two months and only has 107 at-bats.
Crawford, who was last year’s All Star Game MVP, is an exceptional talent and a menace on the bases, with 19 steals and 43 runs, but he may be more deserving of a spot as a reserve rather than a starter.
Toronto’s Jose Bautista, on the other hand, is not even in the top 15 in votes among AL outfielders, and he is tied for the league lead in home runs (18) and fifth in RBIs (45). Those numbers are tops among AL outfielders. While his .239 average is certainly a turnoff, his power presence in the Blue Jays’ lineup cannot be disregarded.
Ultimately, Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays, Alex Rios of the Chicago White Sox and Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers are among those who should be considered for a start alongside Ichiro come July 13.
All three have rebounded from disappointing seasons last year to return to the AL outfield’s elite.
Wells already has matched his home run total from a year ago (15), and has driven in 40 runs to go with a .297 batting average. He also has played some of the best center field of his career, not yet committing an error and providing three assists.
Rios, a former Blue Jay, is blossoming once again with the Chicago White Sox. His power has returned, and he stills poses a threat any time he is on the bases. With 13 home runs and 19 stolen bases, a 30-30 season could be on the horizon.
Fully healthy again, Hamilton looks more like the guy who drove in 130 runs in 2008 than the guy who batted .268 in 89 games last season. His 71 hits rank third among AL outfielders, and his .558 slugging percentage is good for fourth, behind Wells, Bautista and Rios.
While a lot can happen between now and when the voting ends on July 1, the fans have done a solid job with the AL voting thus far. With a few tweaks in the outfield, this could be the year that every selection is justifiable.