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If you don’t agree with a pick here and there, that’s OK; half of the authorship
probably doesn’t either. As always, we welcome your comments at
info@baseballprospectus.com.


Catcher

Starter: Pudge Rodriguez (Texas)
Reserve: Darrin Fletcher (Toronto)

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?


First Base

Starter: Jim Thome (Cleveland)
Reserves: Raffy Palmeiro (Baltimore), Mo Vaughn (Boston)

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.


Second Base

Starter: Damion Easley (Detroit)
Reserves: Todd Walker (Minnesota), Ray Durham (Chicago)

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.


Third Base

Starter: Robin Ventura (Chicago)
Reserve: Dean Palmer (Kansas City)

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.


Shortstop

Starter: Alex Rodriguez (Seattle)
Reserve: Derek Jeter (New York)

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.


Centerfield

Starter: Ken Griffey Jr. (Seattle)
Reserves: Jim Edmonds (Anaheim), Bernie Williams (New York)

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.


Corner Outfielders

Starters: Bobby Higginson (Detroit), Juan Gonzalez (Texas)
Reserves: Ben Grieve (Oakland), Darrin Erstad (Anaheim), Manny Ramirez (Cleveland)

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.


Starting Pitchers

Starter: Brad Radke (Minnesota)
Reserves: Chuck Finley (Anaheim), Pedro Martinez (Boston), Bartolo Colon
(Cleveland), Hideki Irabu (New York), Rolando Arrojo (Tampa Bay), Kenny Rogers
(Oakland), Roger Clemens (Toronto)

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.


Relief Pitchers

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.”

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