It’s that time of year again. The season is more than a third over, the parks are crowded with sunbathers, the days are long, Roger Clemens is back in his firmament, and the smell of garbage has begun to drown out the smell of urine over on 7th Ave. Yes, it’s time to begin complaining about the All-Star game.
Every year intelligent fans lament the fact that fame and market size and RBIs often seem to go farther than meaningful stats or real talent when the All-Stars are elected, and that being sent to the game is not a genuine mark of excellence so much as a popularity contest. Well, yes. In fact it’s the very definition of a popularity contest. And how many legitimate electoral processes do you know of where you’re allowed to vote 15 times per email address?
There’s nothing to do but embrace the randomness: the All-Star game is best appreciated as a frivolous entertainment, not a meaningful measure of excellence. And in fact, because some people really will vote 45 times in this thing, and I’m assuming that most of you have more pressing draws on your time, your vote doesn’t count all that much anyway. So I say forget average, OBP, SLG, and HRs, to say nothing of VORP, WARP, and RATE. Logic has no place in this vote; attempts to impose it will only leave you frustrated and distraught. On that note, I present my personal 2007 AL All-Star ballot:
1B:David Ortiz Why: Not because he’s the best first basemen in the AL – hell, he doesn’t even play first base. Nor because he's the only baseball player I’ve ever had disconcerting recurring dreams about (winter of ’04-’05). No, because of this :on May 4th, when the Mariners’ Yuniesky Betancourt tagged Ortiz out between first and second, Big Papi enfolded the guy in a big bear hug. I suspect some of you may disagree, but for my money, there’s just not enough hugging in baseball. Alternate choice:Travis Hafner, who because he plays in Cleveland, does not get nearly the love he deserves for his awesome nickname, Pronk (a mashup of Project and Donkey), or his candy bar. Or, you know, for his hitting. Whichever. The fact that he’s having an off-year is of no concern to me under the guidelines I just made up ten minutes ago.
I should point out here that although Casey Kotchman is having a very good season, I will never, under any circumstances, vote for a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim player. Mark Texiera’s really good too, but he’s on the DL and, as far as I can tell, kinda boring.
2B: Placido Polanco Why: He’s actually having a great season, but that’s not why I’m voting for him. He was one of the first players during last year’s playoffs to wear one of those incredibly dorky-looking head socks in an attempt to keep warm. Eventually other guys on several teams followed, but at first it was just him, and he looked absolutely ridiculous; I admire his apparent lack of self-consciousness or embarrassment. Plus, awesome name. Alternate:Aaron Hill, just for stealing home a few weeks back. Admit it, if it hadn’t been off the Yanks, you would have thought it was awesome. And Brian Roberts, who may only have a few enjoyable years left before creeping Orioles Malaise steals him from us in his prime, as it took Miguel Tejada. Plus anyone who grostesquely mangles his elbow in a collision with Bubba Crosby, of all people, is due for a break.
3B: Brandon Inge. Just kidding! Alex Rodriguez. Why: HA! Alternate:Akinori Iwamura’s hit very well when not injured, and has a kind of funny blog up at mlb.com. Of course these things are always “as told to,” but here’s a sample:
“I'm looking forward to becoming a father. Right now we just have a toy poodle named Nuts. I think it will be interesting to see how Nuts reacts to having a baby around the house.”
He just sat out a few days because a bouncing ball hit him square in the eyeball and caused his actual eyeball to fill with blood and ewwwwww. Sympathy vote.
SS: I really don’t want to pick Jeter. It's so unoriginal. There must be someone else who grabs my attention here. How about… uh… well, there’s… oh, fuck it. Jeter. Why: Because Miguel Tejada stopped being fun to watch a couple of years ago. Alternate:Tony Pena, Jr.… what? His dad seems like a nice guy. Actually, Jhonny Peralta’s really good, with a lot of power for a shortstop, but the spelling of his first name is inexcusable. Also, I kept feeling like there was some reason I didn’t like Carlos Guillen, but I couldn’t figure out what it was; then I realized I was confusing him with Jose Guillen, who’s kind of a jerk. So my initial aversion to Carlos was totally unjustified, and now I might actually end up voting for him, because I feel bad about that.
C: Joe Mauer Why:Joe Mauer Sideburn Night, that’s why. The Twins are awesome. Plus, he got robbed of the MVP last year, arguably even more than Jeter. Alternate: If you want the truth, I was totally going to put Jorge Posada here, but felt having three Yankees in a row went against the spirit of the exercise. Also, I never remember that Victor Martinez is this good. Man, next time you start to complain about media bias towards the Red Sox or something, think how infuriated you’d be watching Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez kick ass year in and year out, only to get mentioned on SportsCenter three times all season.
OF #1: Ichiro. Why: Now officially the best quote in all of baseball. He had me from "I hope he arouses the fire that's dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul. I plan to face him with the zeal of a challenger." The man claims he wants to become a pitcher and learn a knuckleball at age 40 -- he gets points in my book just for thinking of that. OF #2: J.D. Drew Why: Just to piss off Red Sox fans. OF #3: Tie. The outfield is tough. -Melky Cabrera: Is Melky one of the three best outfielders in the AL? Of course not. Is he one of the best 10? No. 20? Uh, probably not. You’d actually have to write him in. Sure is fun to watch though. -Vlad Guerrero: He’s fun to watch too. And like 35 times better at hitting. I can’t violate my no-Angels rule... but you can.
-Magglio Ordonez: All last fall his hairstyle made me think a pregnant chinchilla had crawled under his helmet and died sometime in July, but I respect the assertion of individuality. -Gary Sheffield: Y’all think you know what he’s going to do, but you don’t. Nobody knows. That’s the mystique of Sheff.
OPTIONAL WRITE IN: Mariano Rivera, OF. Why?!?!: Every profile I read about Rivera seems to mention how all his teammates think he’d make a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder; and if you’ve ever watched the guy shag flies, they may be right. This is actually a terrible idea -- imagine if he ran into the wall and hurt his shoulder or something. There would be rioting in the streets. But since Mo-in-the-outfield will never, ever actually happen, those concerns should not stop you from voting for him.
Phew! It turns out picking All-Stars for no good reason is more time-consuming that I would have thought. If you're in a rush, I recommend using the Japanese ballot and simply selecting the coolest-looking translated names. Rondell White, it's your lucky day.