Since I've been trapped in this bed for the past 2 weeks recovering from knee surgery, I took advantage of my eligibility to vote 25 times per email address for the All-Star game. My family let me vote for them, too. Altogether, I think I cast 175 votes. I wait until June is at least half over, in order to give people plenty of time to emerge as deserving a spot. I don't like that, in the current system, voting begins just over a month into the season. Anybody who casts votes at that point is either basing them on last year, reputation, or a really small sample size. I'd like it better if the voting were limited to the 3-4 weeks right before the penultimate weekend.
I'd also prefer to see more of a "Dancing with the Stars" model of voting, where the starters are determined by 50% the fan vote, and 50% a vote by the writers or players. With this popularity contest model, the starting lineup risks being disproportionately populated by members of the large-market teams, whether they are the best at their position or not. Pat Burrell, Matt Holiday and Ryan Ludwick are all having measurably better seasons than the current NL leaders in OF votes (Alfonso Soriano isn't even qualified, for crying out loud). The various teams would be better represented, and the talent level in the starting lineups would be higher if some combination of experts could over-rule the fans.
When deciding who to vote for, I usually sort each position by OPS to get a rough ranking, then check HR, RBI, SB and K/BB. If that doesn't decide it, I look at the defensive stats. If I still need a tie-breaker, I give it to the guy from a so-far forsaken team. Here are my choices for this year:
1B - Justin Morneau, Twins - Kevin Youkilis is actually a fine choice, but I give the edge to Morneau because he's played more games, has a better K/BB ratio, and he's from my home team. (Feel free to over-rule me, experts!) Jason Giambi is also a good choice.
2B - Ian Kinsler, Rangers - This is going to be the great injustice of this year's voting, unless Kinsler can make up a couple hundred thousand votes over the final 3 days. In about the same number of ABs, Kinsler has out-produced Dustin Pedroia in H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, R, SB (20/21!), BB, BA, OBP, SLG. It's not even close. And Brian Roberts should be second.
SS - Michael Young, Rangers - Young and Derek Jeter are essentially tied for OPS, but Young has the edge in HR, RBI, SB% and E. Plus, I'm kinda burned out on Jeter.
3B - Alex Rodriguez, Yankees - A-Rod has a healthy lead on every other regular 3B in most offensive categories. Mike Lowell or Joe Crede should be the reserves.
C - Joe Mauer, Twins - Where Morneau was a bit of a home-town bias, Mauer is, objectively, the best catcher in the AL this season. Jason Varitek isn't even qualified. AJ Pierzynski should be the backup.
OF - Josh Hamilton, Rangers - He's been leading the league in HR and RBI all season.
Milton Bradley, Rangers - He's been leading the league in OPS and BA for much of the season.
Grady Sizemore, Indians - The most tools of any OF in AL right now: 19 HR and 19 SB.
Carlos Quentin was not on the ballot! He must be a backup, along with Jermaine Dye and JD Drew (I couldn't vote for Drew - I've just never liked him). I'm as bored with Manny Ramirez as I am with Jeter, but he's not undeserving. Ichiro has stolen a ton of bases and plays good D, but I don't think he's having an All-Star caliber year right now.
DH - I cast about half my votes for Hideki Matsui before he went on the DL. With Ortiz also on the DL, Aubrey Huff of Baltimore appears to be the next in line. But he wasn't so much better that I couldn't spend the last half of my votes on Jason Kubel. Since he's mainly been a DH for Texas this season, this is where they should put Bradley in the starting lineup.
1B - Lance Berkman, Astros - This was a pretty easy one for me. Albert Pujols has been catching up to him, but you gotta give props to a veteran who's contending for the triple crown.
2B - Chase Utley, Phillies - Dan Uggla actually got a few of my votes, but Utley's edge in RBI, SB and ZR put him over the top for me. These two guys are so close in production, it's unbelievable that Uggla is not only being blown away, he's not even in second place! Mark DeRosa is having a fine year with the Cubs, but he shouldn't make the team ahead of Uggla.
SS - Hanley Ramirez, Marlins - As with Grady Sizemore, there's no other SS in the NL that can match Ramirez' tools: 18 HR, 20 SB. Jose Reyes could be the reserve, although it will probably go to Christian Guzman, just to get a Nats player on the team.
3B - Chipper Jones, Braves - Again, you've got to give it to the veteran who's flirting with .400. I guess I'd have to give the bench spot to David Wright, who has more HR, RBI and SB than Aramis Ramirez.
C - Brian McCann, Braves - Geovanni Soto is going to win this spot, but McCann edges him in BA, SLG, and has a wildly better K/BB rate. Russell Martin of the Dodgers should get some consideration as a backup.
OF - Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals - He's had an absolute breakout year.
Pat Burrell, Phillies - All the production of Adam Dunn, but with 20 fewer K.
Nate McClouth, Pirates - Everybody in the Pirates' OF is having an awesome year, but McClouth stands out to me because he's played the most games and has the most steals. I empathize with the good people of Pittsburgh, who must think no one else in the country has noticed these guys. I have! For reserves, I'd like to see Matt Holliday, Ryan Braun and Dunn.
Each team must send at least one representative to the All-Star game. Here are some suggestions for worthy additions from teams I haven't mentioned yet.
A's: Justin Duchscherer
Angels: Frankie Rodriguez
Royals: Joakim Soria
Tigers: Placido Polanco or Carlos Guillen
Blue Jays: Shaun Marcum
Rays: James Shields or BJ Upton
Giants: Tim Lincecum
D-Backs: Brandon Webb
Padres: Jake Peavy
I hope the wise voting public provides a team that makes me want to watch the game!