I might be the last person alive who still loves the All Star Game. I get that it’s an exhibition where nobody really tries their best. I understand that sometimes players skip it for dubious reasons. And I in no way am under the impression that it “counts”. But when I see the greatest collection of baseball talent the world has to offer gathered on one field every July, it takes me back to when I was kid in complete awe of the game and its players.
I’ve grown up since then, obviously. I don’t believe it’s healthy to hold players to a higher standard than I hold my friends and neighbors. I don’t think it’s healthy to believe in ballplayers anymore. But for that one night, I almost feel that faith again. And I’m grateful.
So I won’t care when J.D. Martinez replaces Matt Kemp after four innings. And I won’t complain when Justin Verlander gives way after two innings to a string of closers. And I won’t pretend that I think the whole exercise is pointless and stupid when something feels historic and gives me chills. Hell, I probably won’t even whine about Joe Buck and Tim McCarver butchering the broadcast. I’m almost a child in those moments, and kids don’t have to make excuses for that sort of thing.
But there is one thing that continues to stick in my craw, and that’s the selection process. There are fan votes for the starters, player votes for the reserves, the manager gets to choose a few backups, and then the fans vote on one final guy for each team. It’s chaotic, and made increasingly ridiculous by how early each year the voting starts.
We are 10% of the way through the 2012 season (or have 90% of the season left, if you’re an optimist) and the voting opened last week. Teams are required to submit their candidates at each position almost before the season even begins. And guys who have been shipped back to AAA, have been traded, or who have remained mired on the bench following a slow start remain on the ballots (both electronic and paper), sucking up votes from more deserving contenders.
If MLB were more concerned with accuracy and integrity in the voting, they could hold off the vote for a couple more weeks and make sure the ballots make some sense. But, alas, the integrity of results isn’t really on anybody’s radar screen in the MLB offices, just look at how they continue to deny the need for instant replay.
So, to honor MLB’s lack of nimbleness, here are what my votes for the 2012 All Star Game starters would be if I didn’t still care about the contest and had any kind of courage at all:
1B Brandon Belt and Daric Barton
Belt has only gotten five starts and 25 plate appearances this year, as the Giants are screwing him over yet again in favor of second baseman Aubrey Huff and Brent Pill. Belt has hit .238/.360/.333 in his limited playing time. Barton started the season on the DL and has regressed significanly since 2010. He’s hitting .289/.268/.324 and doesn’t figure to have a job much longer.
2B Tyler Greene and Chris Getz
Greene has started all of seven games at 2B for the Cardinals this year, hitting .226/.314/.355 in 35 plate appearances, while Daniel Descalso has gotten the lion’s share of the playing time. Getz has started just six games for the Royals, hitting .292/.292/.417. Most of his playing time has been gobbled up by the inexplicably hot Yuniesky Betancourt.
SS Stephen Drew and Cliff Pennington
There’s not much to complain about here, actually. Drew has been out all season, and will be out for an indeterminent length going forward. On the other hand, the AL shortstops have all been healthy and most of them have been effective. Pennington, is simply having the worst season so far of anyone on the AL ballot, but his presence isn’t an embarrassment.
3B Pedro Alvarez and Mark Trumbo
Wait, before we get to Alvarez, I kid you not. Mark Trumbo is listed as the 3B for the Los Angeles Angels of the OC. Now, Trumbo has hit a ton this year in just 34 plate appearances (.333/.412/.567), but he’s started all of four games at 3B, making three errors in the process. His fielding percentage at the hot corner is .625. That experiment is over, and Trumbo’s been also used at DH, 1B, and even LF. But I’ll be surprised if he ever sees 3B again in any capacity other than baserunning.
Alvarez still has a job, but for how long? He’s hitting .108/.132/.270, with 16 Ks in 38 plate appearances. He’s got massive holes in his swing, and the Pirates, who botched up his development by promoting him before he was ready, can’t let him learn on the job for a third straight year. Alvarez belongs in Indianapolis.
Catcher Ryan Hanigan and Salvador Perez
Up front, I want to say that I really like Ryan Hanigan. What’s not to love about a catcher with a .370 career OBP. I would have loved it if the Twins had swung a deal for him this offseason. But as he continues to struggle this year (.219/.324/.219), look for him to increasingly lose playing time to rookie Devin Mesoraco (.304/.407/.348), even with Dusty Baker managing this team. Perez tore his miniscus before the season even started, had surgery, and is out until at least late June or July. (Bonus vote to JP Arencibia, who will only hold onto his job until Travis d’Arnaud stops struggling at AAA Las Vegas. At that point, Arencibia will make fun of his weight.)
Designated Hitter Wilson Betemit
Betemit has only started two games for the Orioles at DH, suggesting this was all an elaborate joke by Dan Duquette to make us think that the Orioles were actually incompetent enough to use Betemit at DH, when Mark Reynolds is just sitting there letting balls clank off his glove left and right. Betemit is hitting .184/.205/.342, which strains the credulity of the word “hitter.” Let’s remove that from DH and replace it with “guy”. Betemit is the designated guy.
Outfield Marlon Byrd, John Mayberry, Aubrey Huff, Ben Revere, Lorenzo Cain, Shelley Duncan
Byrd started the season 3-for-43 and was just traded out of the National League. Mayberry (.175/.175/.200) may finally be the thing that gets Domonic Brown some playing time in Philadelphia, and Huff has started four games in the outfield in 2012, spending the majority of his time keeping Brandon Belt off of 1B despite hitting just .182/.300/.333 and occasionally filling in at 2B.
In the AL, Revere was sent back to AAA to get regular playing time after getting just 11 plate appearances in the Twins’ first seven games. Cain has flopped out of the gate, (starting 2 for 15) and seems to have been supplanted by Mitch Maier in Kansas City. And the Indians were so uncomfortable with giving Shelley Duncan regular playing time in LF (even though he’s hitting .268/.434/.439) that they went out and signed Johnny Damon.