King Kaufman's Sports Daily

All-Star outrage shortage: It's hard to get excited about fans picking Polanco over Upton. Where are those crazy votes of days gone by?

By Salon Staff

Published June 20, 2007 4:00PM (EDT)

I've just taken a peek at the latest baseball All-Star vote tallies, and I have to tell you I'm outraged! I can't believe the way so-called baseball fans don't have the slightest idea who the best players in the American and National leagues are.

For example: [Actually looks at ballot] ...

Oh. Hang on a second.

It may be time to change the template on the old mid-June All-Star column. You rubes out there have gotten a lot better at filling out your ballots. I blame the Internet and fantasy baseball.

This is a dirty shame because ranting about how some washed-up veteran shouldn't be the leading vote-getter at his position when there's a young star who has been better for three years running is one of the things that have buttered the early-summer bread of the typing and chattering classes since the baggy flannel days.

Also, I wouldn't have much of a leg to stand on, having helped my son Buster, the random All-Star votinest 4-year-old in the Lower 48, fill out his ballot a few weeks ago. Although I've been trying to work out an argument for Craig Biggio, All-Star, just in case.

Let's have a look at the leaders anyway, even if they are decent enough choices. I'll also tell you who I'd vote for and you'll pretend to care who I'd vote for. Sound good? I'm afraid Buster's picks are lost to history, except for Albert Pujols, whom Buster wants to marry.

American League

First base
The leader: David Ortiz, Boston
My vote: Ortiz
Outraged commentary: If I really tried I could work up some dudgeon over Ortiz leading at a position at which he's played three games this season. But there's no designated-hitter category on the ballot in years when the game's in a National League park, and if baseball can't bother itself to deal with this problem, I'm not going to worry my pretty little head about it.

Longtime sabermetric darling Carlos Pena finally putting together a big half-season in Tampa Bay and the emergence of Casey Kotchman in Los Anahangeles aren't enough to overcome the Pig Papiness of one of the game's best players.

Second base
The leader: Placido Polanco, Detroit
My vote: B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay
Outraged commentary: I'm not going to miss out on the chance to vote for a young hotshot playing for an obscure team -- fun fact: Tampa Bay is not an actual city, and the Devil Rays don't play in it -- over a crusty veteran who plays for the defending league champ. You people only know what you see on your TV!

But really I'm OK with Polanco. He's a longtime good soldier who's putting together an outrageous year at the age of 31, and it's nice to see him get some recognition for it. He also had a great year in 2005, but it was obscured because he played for two teams. The outrage here is Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia of the YankeeRedSoxRivalries getting more votes than Upton. Also Brian Roberts of Baltimore being nowhere in sight.

The leader: Derek Jeter, New York
My vote: Jeter
Outraged commentary: Orlando Cabrera of the Angels and Carlos Guillen of the Tigers are having nice seasons, but let's face it: You've got to be a lot better than Jeter to beat him in this vote. It's sort of like how the prettier of the two funny girls in high school wins for Best Sense of Humor even though the other one's funnier. Just a fact of life. In this case, though, Jeter really is funnier.

Third base
The leader: Alex Rodriguez
My vote: Rodriguez
Outraged commentary: He's having a season for the ages, and for all his troubles, he's the leading vote-getter in baseball, and it isn't close. He has 1.9 million votes, Giggles Jeter not quite 1.6 million.

The leaders: Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles; Manny Ramirez, Boston; Ichiro, Seattle
My votes: Guerrero; Ichiro; Magglio Ordonez, Detroit
Outraged commentary: Ramirez is having a horrible year for him, though for almost anyone else it would qualify as pretty good. Ordonez, who rewarded the Tigers for their 2005 free-agency gamble with a nice year last year, is having an MVP-type season.

I usually object to the All-Star methodology of having the outfield being one catch-all position, which generally shortchanges center fielders. They play a tougher defensive position than their corner brethren, and deserving center fielders sometimes miss out on All-Star spots because several corner outfielders are putting up bigger hitting numbers, which it's their sole job to do. It's sort of like keeping Jeter off the All-Star team because Mark Teixeira is hitting better.

Or maybe it's like using Jeter in every simile when there are plenty of other options.

But this year in the American League, it doesn't matter. Not only is Ichiro, now a center fielder, clearly deserving, but my fourth-place vote would go to Cleveland center fielder Grady Sizemore. And fifth place would probably go to Curtis Granderson of Detroit. But I'm not getting paid enough to think about fifth place. It's bad enough I have to wash the boss's car.

The leader: Ivan Rodriguez, Detroit
My vote: Jorge Posada, New York
Outraged commentary: Posada has managed to be that rare thing, the underappreciated Yankee. He has had a great career, one that has put him on the fringes of Hall of Fame consideration, but because he has always been surrounded by such bright stars, he hasn't gotten the attention he has deserved, except in the hallways at ESPN.

Now, at 35, he's having a fantastic year, a career year, while Rodriguez, who is three months younger and who should be a shoo-in Hall of Famer, is not.

National League

First base
The leader: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
My vote: Fielder
Outraged commentary: The fact that Albert Pujols, who's having an off year, is not leading this vote is all you need to know about the vast improvement in All-Star voting savvy. In the dark days of the 20th century, a player of Pujols' stature would have to have had about four bad seasons in a row before he fell out of first place in the All-Star voting. He's close enough to Fielder that he might win after all, but this still reflects well on you, the increasingly discerning baseball fans of the world.

Now, Nomar Garciaparra just behind Pujols in third place? Rubes.

Second base
The leader: Chase Utley, Philadelphia
My vote: Utley
Outraged commentary: Chase Utley first, daylight second. Orlando Hudson's having a nice year too.

The leader: Jose Reyes, New York
My vote: Reyes
Outraged commentary: All right, here's an outrage. It isn't that Reyes is leading the tally, it's that Florida's Hanley Ramirez, who should be a close second, isn't in the top five. Barring injury or some other disaster, these two are going to spend the next several years fighting it out Willie vs. Mickey style over who's the best shortstop in baseball. Ramirez may have to escape South Florida before anybody but seamheads knows the debate is going on.

National League shortstop is a loaded position these days. Aside from these two, there are Jimmy Rollins of Philadelphia; Rafael Furcal of Los Angeles, who has been hurt and is having a bit of a down year; Edgar Renteria of Atlanta, who's having a career year, which is saying something; J.J. Hardy of Milwaukee, who's having a breakout year; and Troy Tulowitzki of Colorado, who at 22 is just establishing himself. Of that bunch, only Renteria has turned 30, and even he's only 31.

Third base
The leader: David Wright, New York
My vote: Miguel Cabrera, Florida
Outraged commentary: You know, the Marlins really are in the league.

Wright's a good defensive third baseman; Cabrera is not. An argument can be made that Wright deserves the nod here because of his defensive edge, but I think it's safe to say he's not leading the voting -- by more than 200,000 votes -- because the fans are impressed by his defense. If you just want to talk about hitting, which, aside from the occasional Ozzie Smith, is what gets the All-Star chads punched, then Wright's very good, but Cabrera's the man.

In fact, Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus argues that the man Cabrera is is something like a cross between Manny Ramirez and Albert Pujols. His early-career numbers are comparable to those of Hank Aaron.

Enjoy it while you can, folks. Cabrera's waistline at 24 is starting to look like Hammerin' Hank's did at 42.

The leaders: Carlos Beltran, New York; Ken Griffey Jr., Cincinnati; Alfonso Soriano, Chicago
My votes: Griffey; Aaron Rowand, Philadelphia; Barry Bonds, San Francisco
Outraged commentary: You think playing for a first-place team in New York can get a guy some votes? Beltran's having an off year, not as bad as 2005 but nothing like his superlative '06. His power is way down, from 41 home runs last year to nine so far this year, approaching the midway point of the season.

Soriano isn't an outrageous choice, but I'd put him behind Griffey's teammate Adam Dunn, whom the Reds can't trade fast enough, and I think I'd also put him behind sensational Astros rookie Hunter Pence. Pence has been terrific, but if you don't like rewarding a guy for one good half-season, you won't be voting for Pence, who was in the minor leagues for most of April.

Matt Holliday of the Rockies, who is seventh in the voting, has tremendous offensive numbers, but he gets a boost from Coors Field. That park isn't the offensive launching pad it used to be, but it has been very good to Holliday, who has a solid but not spectacular .894 OPS on the road, a better measure of his true ability. He's at 1.131 in Denver. I'd put him ahead of Soriano too.

But listen, this is good. Here's the fodder for some good talk radio: You want outrage? How about Andruw Jones, with a .205 batting average and a sub-.700 OPS, fifth in the voting, behind the leaders and Bonds? Or how about Rowand not even appearing in the top 15?

Rowand is having the kind of year he had in 2004 with the White Sox, when he looked like an arriving superstar. After two years of scuffling, one in Chicago and one in Philly, he's either playing over his head again or he really has arrived. Either way, a good-glove center fielder with a .884 OPS needs to be starting in the All-Star Game. Juan Pierre of the Dodgers, who is a national punch line, is ninth in the voting.

Come on, people!

Gee, that felt good.

Bonds has a ways to go to catch Soriano in the voting and get a start in his home park. For all his baggage, he has a .496 on-base percentage and a .586 slugging percentage, and if you want to talk steroids, fine. Bonds either should be suspended or should be an All-Star.

After Rowand and Bonds, you could toss Griffey's name into a hat with all of the other names listed above except Beltran, Jones and Pierre -- that is, Soriano, Dunn, Pence and Holliday, and let's also toss in Eric Byrnes of the Diamondbacks -- and any name you picked would be fine. I pick Griffey partly as a lifetime achievement award, but I think he's also having the best year of the bunch.

The leader: Russell Martin, Los Angeles
My vote: Martin
Outraged commentary: Paul Lo Duca is a fairly close second in the voting because, hey, it turns out playing for the Mets gets you a lot of votes.

As for the National League's best catcher, it's Martin, and second best is Walter Mondale.

This story has been corrected since publication.

Previous column: A delightful look at early baseball music

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