All Star Break Down

Managing Editor
Posted Jul 5, 2004


The votes have been cast, and save one player from each league waiting to see what happens in the MLB Final Vote, and the standard opt outs because of injury, fatigue, or apathy, the All Star teams are set. Who deserved it, who got hosed, and are there any D'Backs besides Randy who fall into either category. Managing Editor James Renwick goes through the lineups position by position.

We knew Randy was going.  You don't get 10 wins, throw a perfect game and reach the 4000 strikeout plateau and get left off the All-Star Roster unless you're a convicted serial killer (and if you play for the Yankees you'd probably still get in).  Beyond that though we knew there wasn't a whole lot of hope.  Basically, there was one, Steve Finley.  Fins might still get in, he's among the choices in the Final Vote (click here to give Steve your support final vote- cast your ballot) but should he (or any other D'Backs for that matter) have been there already?  Who will win the game and give their league home field advantage in the World Series (and isn't that the stupidest rule you've ever heard of)?  Who's going to go now that they've gotten the invite, and who will take the time off to heal, be with family, or get arrested for something?  Let's take a look shall we?

Catcher:  

  Player Batting Avg. Home Runs RBI
NL Mike Piazza .312 16 39
AL Ivan Rodriguez .376 10 57
D'Backs Robbie Hammock .222 2 14

Can't really argue for the D'Backs here.  Lately, due to a combination of injury and poor performance it appears Juan Brito has actually overtaken Hammock as the D'Backs starter, and besides, Piazza is going to his 10th All-Star Game for a reason, he's the best offensive catcher in history.  Rodriguez on the other hand might be the AL MVP almost single handedly making Detroit's pitchers respectable and doing the unthinkable, making people in Tiger Town think their team might not be too bad.  The reserves for both leagues are youngster's making the case that as Piazza and Pudge move on, they will be the next wave of dominant catchers.  Atlanta's Johnny Estrada is killing the ball (last week he was hitting .478 with runners in scoring position, that in a word, is ridiculous) and Cleveland's Victor Martinez has sparked that team and is among league leaders for catchers in four different offensive categories.

Snubbed:  Can't argue with the selections, but Pittsburgh's Jason Kendall has had a great year (he's on the Final Vote ballot also) in the NL and a case could easily be made for either the Yankees Jorge Posada or the Red Sox Jason Varitek.

First Base

  Player Batting Avg. Home Runs RBI
AL Jason Giambi .239 11 31
NL Albert Pujols .304 21 57
D'Backs Shea Hillenbrand .302 8 40

Maybe if Richie Sexson had been healthy, or maybe if Shea Hillenbrand had been starting from day one, maybe then we'd have a case.  Or maybe not.  The NL's deepest position has three reserves (and remember Piazza has been playing a lot of first also) with Cincinnati's Sean Casey, the Rockies' Todd Helton, and Philly's Jim Thome.  Casey will likely skip the game (he's nursing a sore calf) and it seems unlikely All Star Manager Jack McKeon will select another first basemen considering 2B Jeff Kent may have to sit out the game also, leaving the NL with just one second baseman.  

On the AL side this is the only ridiculous pick.  Giambi has been hurt often, and hasn't played well even when he's played.  He's 120 at bats behind Ortiz, who hitting 70 points better in average, has double the home runs and more than double the RBI.  It likely that Giambi will elect to sit the Game because of lingering injuries, and he should, at which point we will find out how deep AL Manager Joe Torre's dislike of the Red Sox goes.  If he starts Kansas City's Ken Harvey over Ortiz, who along with Pudge and Vladimir Guerrero, are the top candidates for AL MVP, it will be a slap in the face of all the Red Sox.

Snubbed:  The Cubs Derrick Lee started strong but has come on strong in the NL.  Rafael Palmeiro has been stellar for the Orioles, and though the numbers might not match up Tino Martinez has been the heart and soul of a Devil Rays team that is actually challenging for the AL Wild Card.

Second Base

  Player Batting Avg Home Runs RBI
NL Jeff Kent .293 10 52
AL Alfonso Soriano .292 13 48
D'Backs Scott Hairston .281 4 11

Hairston looked like a Rookie of the Year contender early, but has since apparently lost his job to Roberto Alomar (though Alomar's playing time probably has more to do with raising his trade value than Hairston's play).  In a particularly weak year for NL second basemen, Kent is the obvious, and best, choice.  And though their numbers are nearly identical Soriano was the leading vote getter in the fan balloting (it seems likely a lot of Yankee fans voted for him, and some probably still think he's a Yankee), and considered by far the better player.  Doesn't really matter as Kent is also hurt and will probably skip the game, leaving the NL with only one true second basemen (Mark Loretta of the Padres) though one would assume Pittsburgh SS Jack Wilson could easily slide over.  Regardless look for the NL to add a second baseman to replace Kent, possibly the Expos Jose Vidro (more for his potential than his numbers this year), the Giants Ray Durham (for his time in the league), the Cardinals Tony Womack (for his speed; both on the base paths and coming back from surgery), or the Marlins Luis Castillo (because McKeon is his manager).

Snubbed:  Okay, so he's now the everyday 3rd baseman for the Angels, but before that he was the everyday CF, and for awhile there he was the everyday 2B.  He's got a .307 average, 36 runs scored and he's swiped 20 bases.  Chone Figgins might have a funny looking name, but it could be argued that he's been the runner up MVP for the Angels (after Guerrero).  His versatility, speed, and attitude have helped carry them through injuries that might have broken other teams.

Third Base

  Player. Batting Avg. Home Runs RBI
AL Alex Rodriguez .276 19 50
NL Scott Rolen .342 18 77
D'Backs Chad Tracy .281 4 29

Chad Tracy doesn't measure up, and he's probably not going to be an All-Star (though a solid #2 hitter is well within his reach.  Hank Blaylock on the other hand is bettering virtually every statistical category on A-Rod save two that I can think of.  Home town's population and number of times he's switched positions in the last year.  Regardless, A-Rod's numbers are solid, and getting better by the day.  Like teammate (and fellow All-Star) Derek Jeter, A-Rod started slowly and came on in the last two months, but his selection was never in doubt.  The only difference between this selection and one in which he was having a monster year would be that he would have led all vote getters instead of Soriano.  Scott Rolen on the other hand is the hands down NL MVP of the first half, and his defense is so far ahead of every other 3rd basemen that you could justify starting him simply on that.  Mike Lowell has had a great year down in Florida, but nobody notices because Rolen has been incredible.

Snubbed:  In the AL the two best guys were chosen, and though once again it seems like a story as good as Tampa Bay's ought to have more than one guy telling it in Houston, Aubrey Huff's numbers are good but not great.  Over in the NL Aramis Ramirez is on the Final Vote ballot, but at .326/25/56 he really should have been given the invite in the first place.  Probably won't matter though, as Ramirez has pulled either a groin or leg muscle (depends on who's talking and when) and will likely sit out even if he gets the 'Final Vote.'  But the Dodgers Adrian Beltre is crushing the ball, finally living up to the promise that everyone has been talking about for four years, and now nobody cares.

Shortstop

  Player Batting Avg Home Runs RBI
NL Edgar Renteria .287 4 34
AL Derek Jeter .273 13 40
D'Backs Alex Cintron .244 1 22

That's a big ol' 'No Sir!' for Cintron, in fact Sergio Santos probably has a better case to be in Houston.  Renteria is there because he's been the best in the league for a long time and not enough Japanese fans voted for Kaz Matsui of the Mets.  Solid, but no where near the numbers he put up the previous two seasons, he's still among the best choices.  The best NL choice certainly goes to Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson, and McKeon saw that, putting the youngster on the team along with sentimental choice Barry Larkin who at .296/4/30 is having a good, though probably not All-Star caliber, year.  Jeter was very very bad in April, and has hit over .400 the last month of the season.  If you had any doubts about whether he was an All Star or not they were answered a couple nights ago when Jeter, who I admit I'd always sort of thought was a pretty boy, threw himself three rows deep into the stands to catch a ball off the bat of Trot Nixon.  Nobody plays the game harder, or smarter, or seems to have as much fun doing it.  He is the heart and soul of that Yankee team (shortly after A-Rod arrived in New York he was asked "Is this your team now?"  A-Rod's response?  "What team?  Derek's team?") and has now added 'slugger' to the list of words used to describe him.  If Jeter hits 30 dongs this season, and hits .300, he might start really belonging on those 'Greatest SS of All Time' lists.

Snubbed:  Not so much a snub as a shock.  Kaz Matsui is wildly popular in Japan, but didn't get the votes that some of his countrymen have so consistently gotten.  On the AL side I hate to keep beating a dead horse but Julio Lugo has had a great year in Tampa, and Jose Valentine has put up All-Star numbers despite being hurt for a chunk of the year.

Outfield

  Player Batting Avg. HR RBI
NL Sammy Sosa .276 14 33
NL Ken Griffey Jr. .246 19 55
NL Barry Bonds .354 22 45
AL Manny Ramirez .342 20 71
AL Vladimir Guerrero .345 20 71
AL Ichiro Suzuki .319 3 30
D'Backs Danny Bautista .318 10 48
D'Backs Steve Finley .299 19 41
D'Backs Luis Gonzalez .272 15 42

Wow did we get hosed on this one.  Finley is on the 'Final Vote' and all you D'Back fans who didn't get him there in the first place better get on line before Wednesday night to make sure he makes the trip.  As good as Finley has been Danny Bautista might really have been better.  Only 10 homers from a right fielder is below average, but his 48 RBI shows that he's producing one way or another.  And while Luis Gonzalez's number don't look incredible, they're pretty close to Griffey's (better on average, close on HRs and RBI) and better than Sosa's.  But let's be honest, this NL outfield isn't about this year's performance, it's about three guys who've all hit 500 career homers patrolling the same outfield for the first time in history.  

On the AL side Ichiro is still the most dangerous lead off hitter in baseball, even if his numbers don't show it, and Manny and Vladimir's numbers are so close it is almost scary.  No wonder people in Boston hear Guerrero and Pudge's names talked about for MVP and wonder why Manny doesn't get the same kind of talk.  

Snubbed:  Finley should be there period, but the biggest loser is by far Carlos Beltran.  The MLB once again uses its most brilliant judgment in keeping arguably the most deserving outfielder from starting because, through no fault of his own, he was traded from one league to another.  Beltran has been nothing short of a savior in Houston, where the team appeared to be free falling until he arrived.  Meanwhile Ken Harvey, who's having a great year, is the happiest guy in the world because there is no way that two players make it from the Royals, and since Beltran got moved, Harvey was the guy.  That's right Mr. Selig, the exhibition game should count, but one of the best players shouldn't.

Pitchers

NL

Roger Clemens--10 wins at a time when he's supposed to have put on 10 pounds because of retirement, gunning for yet another Cy Young, only this time in a different league.  He's the starter in Houston because he's pitching for Houston, and should be for no other reason than we'll get to see if he crosses up his catcher (Piazza) on purpose.

Jason Schmidt--Would be the starter in every other ballpark, dominant, the best right handed starter in the game right now.  Nasty, durable, and the only other working part on the first place Giants besides Barry Bonds.

Tom Glavine--Crafty lefty is a great come back story after a horrific year last year, would hate to be the AL guys facing Glavine and his 83 mph fastball right after...

Randy Johnson--...and his 98 mph fastball.  You're lone Diamondback representative.  Still the Big Unit, still capable of making the best hitters in the game look and feel stupid.  A perfect game, 4000 strikeouts, 10 wins, the bright shining star in the cold black night that has been the D'Backs 2004 season.

Carl Pavano--It seemed like he took whatever step he needed to take during the playoffs and World Series last year.  Doesn't look like a guy who's going to dominate you, then you realize you're 0-4.

Livan Hernandez--If you thought Randy had it bad in Arizona, imagine Hernandez in Montreal.  The only starter more durable than Schmidt, would throw 150 pitches in a game on four days rest if they'd let him, and if they'd let him they'd be a much better team.

Ben Sheets--Um, okay, well let's look at the stats.  7-5, not great, but with a 2.58 ERA and 113 strikeouts (remember the 18 K performance earlier this year?) Sheets has earned his first All-Star appearance...maybe.

Carlos Zambrano--Yes, he talks to himself on the mound, okay, maybe it's more like screaming, and sometimes the emotions do affect his pitching, but not always negatively, as his top 5 in the league ERA shows.  During a first half in which the Cubs never had their starting five together, and veteran Greg Maddux was hit and miss, Zambrano and Matt Clement were the studs who carried the team.  Also the most likely (even more than Clemens) to hit somebody in the All-Star game purposely.

Armando Benetez:  Another great resurrection, as he bombs with the Mets and Yankees but is now 27 for 29 in save opportunities with 1.07 ERA for Florida.  Not a sure thing if McKeon isn't managing, but hard to fault him for it, remember Brenley did the same thing in the 2002 All-Star game.

Danny Graves:  When this name was announced I did one of those Ace Ventura 'Re-e-e-e-alllly' things.  31 saves is impressive.  A 2.89 ERA is solid, but he's also blown 7 saves, or 22%.  So he's an All-Star, except for one of every five times out there?  

Danny Kolb:  Who?  He's the closer for the Brewers, a team unexpectedly over .500 in the toughest division in baseball, and he's one of the biggest reasons why.  Unlike 1 in 5 Graves, Kolb is 24 for 25 in save opportunities with an almost comical 0.87 ERA, and no that's not a misprint.  The funniest part, he has only nine Ks in 31 innings.  People hit it, just not very hard.

Eric Gagne:  I think the steak is at 82 straight saves, by the time you read this it could be at 110.  This guy is incredible, amazing.  He's got maybe the nastiest curveball in all the major league, and he throws one about every fourth outing.  The best closer of all time?  Maybe, but McKeon should make a point to have Gagne in to face Hank Blaylock, after all, that's the last guy to force Gagne into a blown save, in last year's All-Star Game.

Snubbed:  Matt Clement (was the other part of the tandem that filled in for Wood and Prior, and he's 8th in the league in ERA and 4th in Ks), Eric Milton (leads the NL with 11 wins, but isn't an All-Star?  Explain that to me), Chris Carpenter (he's pitching with an arm that's been duct taped together and is the ace on a staff with Matt Morris and Woody Williams...and they are in 1st place in the Central), Guillermo Mota (6 wins and 1.84 ERA out of the bullpen),  Trevor Hoffman (20 for 22 in save opportunities with a 1.88 ERA), and Jose Mesa (2-0, 20-21 in save chances and a 2.34 ERA, don't hate him because he's on the Pirates).

 

AL

Mark Mulder--He's your AL starter, and he's nasty.  11 wins, stupid ERA, just ugly, and has stepped up even more with Oakland's Barry Zito struggling this year.  Just a average fastball, excepting he throws it exactly where he wants to.  Damien Miller, who's caught Randy and Curt on the D'Backs, Wood and Prior on the Cubs, and now Mulder and Hudson on the A's was asked who the best staff was.  His response, "Well, this one is the easiest to catch, I never have to move my glove."

Tim Hudson--It was the three headed monster in Oakland, with Zito rounding off Mulder and Hudson.  Hudson is the lone righty of the three, and he holds up his end of the bargain.  The hardest thrower of the three, but his control is just as good.  When he throws that four seam fastball professional hitters look like blind golfers.

Ted Lilly--The Blue Jays starter that is supposed to be in Houston is former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, but Lilly has been the stud of Toronto's rotation.  He's just a little guy, but the ball seems to explode half way to the plate, and his control is nearly as good as Mulder's.

Kenny Rogers:  11-2 with a 3.42 ERA in a ballpark that rivals Coors Field.  I swear when I have kids I'm going to tie their right hands behind their backs and force them to throw lefty.  Then I'm going to teach them a curveball, a circle change, and a cutter.  Then I'm going to retire.  Rogers is 39 years old, and throwing as well as he ever has.  A veteran presence on a young Rangers squad that is contending simply because they didn't believe everyone who told them they couldn't, and Rogers is a big part of the reason why.

C.C. Sabathia:  Going 5-3 on the Cleveland Indians this year is a pretty major accomplishment itself, a 2.77 ERA is always an accomplishment, but learning that striking people out is not always necessary is the real reason Sabathia is going the Houston.  61 Ks in 97 innings isn't bad, but last year it would have been 75 Ks in 65 IP.  Now Sabathia has learned his stuff if filthy enough that even when they hit him the ball isn't going anywhere special, probably the most improved All Star on the AL squad.

Estaban Loaiza:  Somebody needs to remind Joe Torre what year it is.  Last year Loaiza was special, this year he's okay.  But he's not even the best pitcher on his team, and shouldn't be here.  Especially when Pedro Martinez is sitting at home.

Curt Schilling:  Dominant, and fearless, he has unofficially become the Red Sox 'Ace' over Pedro.  Gutsy, gritty, finds ways to win, does all the things he did when he was with the D'Backs.  His clubhouse presence has been wildly underrated on that Boston ballclub.

Tom Gordon:  Joe Torre says he's been the glue that holds the Yankee bullpen together, but he got rocked consistently this weekend against the Mets.  Might be tiring but has certainly put together a great first half for a set up guy.  Torre took his own player even when there might have been other guys out there who deserved it more, shocking.

Francisco Rodriguez:  K-Rod made his name two years ago in the World Series when he went after Barry Bonds and got him.  This year he has floated between set up for the oft hurt Troy Percival and closer when Percival is on the shelf.  Been fantastic in both roles, deserves to be here, and deserves to get the closer's job in Anaheim whether Percival is healthy or not.

Francisco Cordero:  Many thought he was overrated, most thought he wasn't the answer at closer for Texas, and almost everybody thought it wouldn't matter because the Rangers would be horrible.  Oops.  2-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 24 saves in 26 chances.  Tack on 37 strikeouts in 35 innings and you've got what we around here refer to as a 'All Star Closer.'

Joe Nathan:  Those that thought Cordero wasn't the answer in Texas thought Nathan was only the answer for the Hot Dog Eating Contest.  Oops again.  1-0 with a 1.19 ERA and 23 of 24 in save opportunities.  I think the career middle reliever likes this whole closing thing. 

Mariano Rivera:  Back to form after a shaky (for him) 2003 Rivera throws one pitch.  It's a cut fastball that zips up there at about 93 mph these days.  Hardly overpowering, and its the only thing he throws.  Problem is he can made do the Macarena on the way to plate if he wants to.  So much movement one AL pitching coach once quipped "We know he's not doctoring the ball, because doctored balls don't move that much."

SnubbedVictor Zambrano (seriously guys, the D'Rays are good, somebody should realize that), Mark Buehrle (Loaiza goes from the White Sox with the same number of wins, a higher ERA, and less strikeouts, good job Mr. Torre), Pedro Martinez (because 8-3 with a 3.74 ERA sucks...if you wear a Red Sox uni), Juan Rincon (this is what a set up guy is supposed to be, not Tom Gordon.  8-3 with an under 2.00 ERA, but he's from Minnesota, so nobody cares), Eddie Guardado (Seattle is horrible, he's been hurt, and he still manages to have 15 saves and a 1.19 ERA), and for reasons that I have already explained, Keith Folke, who's ERA, wins, saves, strikeouts, and virtually every other category are better than Tom Gordon, but who will be staying home.

 



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