There was a lot of feedback on yesterday's column, which included the All-Star ballot I filled out last Saturday. Almost all of the e-mail dealt with my choices in the AL's outfield.
The "16 outfielders" comment
Hyperbole, folks. I wouldn't really pick J.D. Drew over Manny Ramirez, but I certainly believe the NL has the top six or so candidates to be an All-Star outfielder, and a lot more legitimate All-Stars as you go down their list. The tenth-best outfielders in each league are something like Adam Dunn in the NL and Kenny Lofton in the AL, and that's more than the difference between a 16-team league and a 14-team one. The NL has in outfielders what the AL has in shortstops.
In my book, you can't be an All-Star based on six weeks of good play. I absolutely hate that standard for picking All-Stars, and yet every year, we hear that some guy coming off the hottest month of his life should be an All-Star over an established star playing a bit below his level.
The All-Star Game is for the best players in baseball; not the guys having the best season–or best first six weeks–but the best players. That's my criterion. Here's another: if putting you on an All-Star team would have seemed silly in March, you don't get there by May 22.
Torii Hunter is having a very good year, and when you consider his defense, he's a pretty good choice as the AL MVP to date. But if anyone had suggested he was an All-Star two months ago, they would have been laughed out of the room. His career OBP coming into this season was .310, his career high .318.
I once again point to the Charles Johnson Test. If this player goes 10-for-100, will his selection look silly? In Hunter's case, the answer is "yes." Bernie Williams has an infinitely better All-Star argument than Hunter does, regardless of the fact that Hunter has played better this season.
Let's work the problem.
2002: Player Pos G AVG OBP SLG EqA RARP Manny Ramirez LF 33 .372 .497 .673 .396 24.1 Ichiro Suzuki RF 42 .349 .431 .456 .339 19.2 Bernie Williams CF 43 .290 .398 .491 .316 16.2 Magglio Ordonez RF 44 .335 .374 .575 .315 13.1 2001: Player Pos G AVG OBP SLG EqA RARP Manny Ramirez LF 142 .306 .405 .609 .336 60.6 Ichiro Suzuki RF 157 .350 .381 .457 .311 50.3 Bernie Williams CF 146 .307 .395 .522 .321 60.0 Magglio Ordonez RF 160 .305 .382 .533 .314 48.5
There are about a dozen ways to break this down, because we have four players with different edges, playing different positions, and having wildly divergent defensive value.
I will say that the fact that I didn't mention Ordonez in yesterday's column was an oversight. He should be a part of this discussion. However, I still wouldn't put him on the team ahead of any of the guys I did select, nor would he make the team ahead of Mike Cameron, who compares reasonably well to Ordonez as a hitter and has more defensive value:
Pos G AVG OBP SLG EqA RARP Cameron, 2001 CF 150 .267 .353 .480 .307 50.8 Cameron, 2002 CF 43 .248 .374 .529 .327 18.8
You could make an argument that both players will make better choices than Manny Ramirez, who won't be playing for some time, but I still think Ichiro Suzuki and Bernie Williams are superior to Ordonez and Cameron. Plus, as I said last year, there's an element of spectacle to this, and I think it's fair to give Ichiro bonus points for being someone people want to watch.
As always, thanks for the feedback. The people who read this column make me think about what I write, make me challenge my assumptions. It's the best part of this gig, and I just wish I had the time to respond to more of the mail I receive.