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June 8, 2004

Breaking Balls

The Tino Martinez All-Stars

by Derek Zumsteg

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I'm tired of everyone focusing on the positive. Who's going to be elected to the All-Star team. Where the close races are. I'm more interested in the best of the abjectly bad. Who gets in only because there has to be a representative from every team?

I want the teams where not only aren't there any near-misses, but managers are going to have to stretch to make any selection at all. Who's the most likely of the least deserving to get recognized this year? Teams under .450 and their players:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks, .386 win percentage
    Randy Johnson is going and Luis Gonzalez deserves to go, so no lack of candidates here.

  • Colorado Rockies, .382
    Todd Helton is always nice, if possibly crowded out by the bounty of first basemen to be selected. Maybe a nice Joe Kennedy?

  • Detroit Tigers, .446 win percentage
    Carlos Guillen is having a great season, and there's always the catching stylings of Ivan Rodriguez...get out of here, you star-having guys.

  • Kansas City Royals, .370 win percentage
    Ken Harvey, who I guess could hit and then couldn't and now can hit again. Carlos Beltran's always good...ennnh, boring.

  • Montreal Expos, .327 win percentage
    It's easy to overlook, but the Expos have gotten some stellar pitching this year out of Livan Hernandez and, to a lesser extent, Zach Day. They aren't as abjectly devoid of talent as their record would lead you to believe.

  • Seattle Mariners, .382 win percentage
    Bret Boone is third in voting at second base, getting fewer than half as many votes as Alfonso Soriano. Does Boone get the selection based on a couple historic seasons by a second baseman, or does he get passed up on his current ugly .228/.304/.404 line? That's like Cal Ripken's last-season election, except without the tearful goodbye tour and legacy of greatness. It's hard to pick a guy hitting that badly.

    There are two pitching candidates for selection: Freddy Garcia and Eddie Guardado. Garcia's pitched well at home but not as well away, and he did have that little spell where he was erratic but mostly worthless since his last All-Star appearance in 2002. And can you pick a closer with a team this bad?

    Ichiro Suzuki's popular but he's a distant fifth in the voting. He's clearly behind Manny Ramirez, Lew Ford and Vladimir Guerrero in performance this season, roughly in the same ballpark with Hideki Matsui, Carlos Beltran and Gary Sheffield. His coolness appeal may make him the best choice to squeeze onto a roster.

  • Tampa Bay Devil Rays, .389 win percentage
    Talk about a pity selection. None of their starters are contributing above what you'd expect from a replacement level pitcher. They've got a couple relievers that are above average, but not enough that anyone should notice. Their best hitter is The Tino Martinez Renaissance, which is saying something. That Tino. Just when you think he's run out of clubhouse leadership and pixie dust, back he comes. I think Tino gets it, though, if only because he and Joe Torre have a history, and Torre always was pretty bad about stocking the team with his guys.

  • Toronto Blue Jays .439
    Vernon Wells isn't in the voting for center field, but he'd be a fine pick.

This little exercise illustrates how hard it is to actually field a baseball team that's entirely bad. Even the worst teams have one or two players that wouldn't be embarrassing on an All-Star team. If star power's a major factor in attracting fans, almost every team's got something it can market. MLB's got a wealth of good players it can show off to fans this year, even when it has to pan the river to make sure everyone's included.

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