June 2, 2004
AL All-Star Ballot
On to the American League players I voted for in the All-Star balloting. I got a lot less e-mail yesterday than I normally do on this topic, which makes me think I've finally been dismissed as a crackpot.
First Base: Jason Giambi, Yankees. A few years ago, this was the toughest call in baseball, with five or six guys with legitimate claims on the vote. Now, it seems like all of those players have slipped a couple of notches, with the top remaining one, Jim Thome having moved to the National League. The top five first basemen in baseball, by VORP, are all in the NL.
I went with Giambi over Carlos Delgado, Rafael Palmeiro and Frank Thomas, although it's a half-hearted choice. The guys having the best 2004 seasons, like Ken Harvey (not actually on the ballot) and Tino Martinez, just don't have the kind of track record that pulls my vote from the established greats. Palmeiro or Thomas would make a perfectly good choice as well.
This position is a good example of why basing All-Star status on first-half stats is silly. By the end of the year--hell, maybe by the All-Star Game--Palmeiro and Delgado will probably be outperforming Harvey and Martinez. The shape of a season shouldn't dictate honors.
Second Base: Bret Boone, Mariners. Another half-hearted choice, as it comes down again to Boone or Alfonso Soriano. The massive difference in run context between Financial Services Company Field #1 and Financial Services Company Field #2 means that the huge basic-stats gap between the two really only represents a handful of runs. Boone has been the better of the players for two years and has a defensive edge on Soriano, so he keeps my vote. All of the AL second baseman having good seasons so far have mediocre track records, so I'm comfortable ignoring them.
Shortstop: Miguel Tejada, Orioles. Perhaps the biggest winner in the Alex Rodriguez move to third base, Tejada also benefits from Derek Jeter's lousy year and Nomar Garciaparra's worse one. Michael Young isn't actually out-hitting Tejada by as much as it looks, and even if he was, he hasn't established himself on this level just yet.
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees. Tejada wins, Eric Chavez loses. There's just no way to fill out an All-Star ballot without including Rodriguez, an inner-circle Hall of Famer in the prime of his career. Chavez could well lose out due to the need to have an Oriole (Melvin Mora) on the team, and his recently suffered broken hand won't help any. Then there's the vital importance of having 12 pitchers available for a single baseball game. It's conceivable that Chavez will miss three or four All-Star Games in his prime due to the Rodriguez move, assuming it holds.
Really, the entire AL infield is screwy. Let me go with Young at second base, Rodriguez and shortstop and Chavez at third base, and the whole thing looks a lot better. Stupid Yankees.
Catcher: Jorge Posada, Yankees. Posada rates just enough of an edge over Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Varitek over the last couple of seasons, this one included, to warrant this vote. Although I can cite stats to back up my choice, I confess that this feels like a homer selection.
Outfield: Manny Ramirez, Red Sox, Carlos Beltran, Royals and Vladimir Guerrero, Angels. Ramirez is something of an auto-selection for me, a consistent .350 EqA guy who manages to be underrated. The gap between Beltran and Vernon Wells isn't that big, and seems to close every single day. Beltran still gets my vote, though. Guerrero's move to the AL cheats Magglio Ordonez out of the third slot, although Ordonez's off year makes that a bit easier to take.
I don't think I've ever used the write-in slot on the ballot, and I didn't really think about doing so this year. Just for snicks, I looked up the top players, by VORP, who didn't appear on the ballot this season:
Player Team Pos VORP Juan Uribe CHW 2B 25.0 Travis Hafner CLE 1B 21.2 Ken Harvey KC DH 19.5 Lew Ford MIN CF 19.3 David Ortiz BOS DH 17.1
Pretty uninteresting stuff...two guys who got jobs due to injuries, and three 1B/DH types who lost their ballot spot to a teammate. Of these, Ortiz might have gotten some votes at first base, especially given the soft competition this year, and Harvey's high batting average almost certainly would have attracted attention. I love Lew Ford, and have been talking him up for two years, but a good two months doesn't get you to Beltran/Wells territory.
The first voting update was released yesterday. Don't take it too seriously, because it's largely driven by who happened to have a homestand early in the process. I mean, could there be another reason why Adam Everett leads NL shortstops in the balloting?