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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.

Other AL outfielders I at least considered include Garret
Anderson
, Gary Sheffield and Hideki
Matsui
.

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?