July 2, 1998
BP's AL All-Star Team
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Starter: Pudge Rodriguez (Texas)
Okay, picking Pudge is easy, because he's probably the league's MVP. But after that? Several teams are platooning or job-sharing between veterans and kids. If you want to pick from regulars, it boils down to Dan Wilson, Sandy Alomar, and Terry Steinbach. Alomar and Steinbach have both been dragged to far too many All-Star games by unfortunate managerial choices, bad choices by the voters, and some outright ballot stuffing, so its hard to say either of them deserve another trip while they're both scuffling. Wilson is having a miserable offensive season, probably because he's picking up a Sundbergesque workload behind the plate. So I say, screw it, none of those guys deserve it, and why not reflect what's working for several teams by picking Fletcher?
Starter: Jim Thome (Cleveland)
No real surprises here. Thome is considerably ahead of the rest of the field, and he's without doubt the Most Valuable Indian. Raffy is the token Oriole, but he merits the selection. Mo was one of my last picks to put on, when I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt as a position player ahead of the league's designated hitters. Frank Thomas doesn't deserve mention any way you slice it.
Starter: Damion Easley (Detroit)
Where's Knoblauch, where's Alomar? They've both been outplayed by these guys (and probably Mark McLemore and Jose Offerman as well), and their teams are already represented. Easley has handily outhit his peers and shown that '97 wasn't a flash in the pan. Walker got a Tom Kelly-sized monkey off his back while returning to his original position, and he's worked his way out of a platoon. Durham has made outstanding strides in the field, particularly in turning the deuce, and is in a good position to consistently be the best second baseman in the league for the next several years. Robby and Knobby can enjoy their trophies and postseason glories, past and probably future.
Starter: Robin Ventura (Chicago)
It hasn't been a great year for AL third baseman, so I'm going with the player with the best track record. Ventura is still an outstanding defender and an offensive asset. I'm generally not inclined to just reward somebody for an outrageous half, so as much as I've liked and pulled for Scott Brosius over the years, he loses out to the token Royal, Palmer. If Bernie Williams can't play, I'd tab Brosius to take his place. Cal Ripken Jr. can spend three days filming milk infomercials with Jesse the Body Ventura and Judith Light.
Starter: Alex Rodriguez (Seattle)
ARod's easily the class of the league, so that didn't take any thought. The other choices boil down to sorting through Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra, and several more notches down, Gary DiSarcina and Omar Vizquel. I made my decision on mostly subjective grounds: America ought to get to see as much of ARod as possible, which along with other roster pressures meant just one reserve. I couldn't really see picking DiSarcina or Vizquel over either of Jeter and Garciaparra, even considering the time the latter pair has missed due to injury. Although Garciaparra has usually been considered the better defender, I went with Jeter because of his better OBP and DP figures.
Starter: Ken Griffey Jr. (Seattle)
Griffey is having an outstanding season at the plate, and he's a better defensive player now than when he came up. Edmonds and Williams are both underappreciated, if you ask me, even if they are making highlight shows and play in big markets. I couldn't really see making space for Kenny Lofton when he isn't getting any better, and isn't better than this trio in the field or at the plate. If I wanted a pinch-runner, I'd make room for Rickey Henderson.
Starters: Bobby Higginson (Detroit), Juan Gonzalez (Texas)
Bobby Higginson has is putting up the second-best OPS among AL outfielders (running behind that there Griffey character), so the miserable Tigers have two starters on the American League All-Star team. Gonzo's RBI drive aside, he's also been healthy and relatively solid in the field, and merits the start. The three "kids" behind them are already three of the league's best players, easily better than people like David Justice or Paul O'Neill.
The Hitters Who Didn't Make It
Reggie Jefferson (Boston), Matt Stairs (Oakland), Edgar Martinez (Seattle), Carlos Delgado (Toronto)
No room for these DH types unless we decide to let Pudge catch the whole game to get Darrin Fletcher off the roster, but here's a tip o' the cap to some sweet-swinging lumbermen.
Starter: Brad Radke (Minnesota)
I believe I'm in a minority of one when it comes to arguing in Radke's behalf, but you're talking about a great pitcher in a hitter's park with a worse defensive support crew than Finley or Martinez have. I generally believe in recognizing starters much more than relievers, so I parceled out my selections to reflect the ERA leaders (Colon, Irabu), the token Devil Ray (okay, Arrojo deserves better than that: he's been an outstanding mix of El Tiante's ability to throw strikes from any angle with a J.R. Richard-like ability to just murder righty batters), and Clemens is in because he's considerably ahead of David Wells for entertainment value. Is the Gambling Man up there because he wears green and gold? Well, maybe, but he's outpitched David Wells or Aaron Sele or Rick Helling or Brian Moehler or Jamie Moyer, and I don't really believe in rewarding a bunch of closers with roster spots. Hell, if there's a guy I've shafted, it's probably Omar Olivares.
John Wetteland (Texas), Flash Gordon (Boston)
Like I said, the league is flush with guys racking up big save totals with low ERAs, so I don't believe in rewarding all of them. I selected Wetteland for the long-term track record and the second-lowest ERA (only Mariano Rivera has a lower ERA, but he's missed time), and Gordon because he's actually getting to pitch more than an inning in some save situations. Yes, I've blown off Troy Percival, and yes, I'm not giving well-deserved credit to various ace lefty relievers and middle relievers. As my Catskill Dutch forebears would say, "tough kenooghies."