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by alex ciepley
And now we come to my favorite press release of the year: the inaugural All-Star ballot update. "Cubs among ASG voting leaders", Cubs.com crows, with Astros.com proclaiming similar good tidings. Look how popular our teams are! Adam Everett is getting justly rewarded!
These early polls are, of course, virtually meaningless. They reflect the punch-card ballots from a few stadiums. Considering that each Astro regular currently sits in the top three at all non-outfield positions, and all three outfielders are in the top seven at that position, I'm thinking Houston's gotten some of their ballots in early.
Same thing, pretty much, with the Cubs:
NL ALL-STAR VOTING UPDATE
POSITION PLAYER NL RANK ---------------------------- Catcher Barrett 4 1st Base Lee, D 3 2nd Base Grudzielanek 4 Shortstop Gonzalez, A 4 3rd Base Ramirez, A 2 Outfield Sosa 2 Outfield Alou 6
That Grudz and Gonzo, both of whom aren't even playing, are currently fourth at their positions tells you everything you need to know about the significance of this vote.
That said, there are three guys that, if the game were held right now, I think could be given serious consideration (among hitters only): Barrett, Ramirez, and Alou. Ramirez's inclusion would probably depend on if they took three third baseman, but he's also the Cub hitter I think has the best chance to be added to the roster after the votes come in. But I still think it is too early to be thinking about these sorts of things. Plenty of folks are going to have hot or cold Junes, completely changing our perception of their seasons.
Joe Sheehan over at BP has discussed this volatility some in the past few days. In an article today, Sheehan writes the following in regards to first base in the AL:
This position is a good example of why basing All-Star status on first-half stats is silly. By the end of the year--hell, maybe by the All-Star Game--[Rafael] Palmeiro and [Carlos] Delgado will probably be outperforming [Ken] Harvey and [Tino] Martinez. The shape of a season shouldn't dictate honors.
I understand Sheehan's point, and think it has some virtues, but I don't really sympathize with it. I like the fact that some Sam Schmoes make their way into the All-Star game, whether by a hot couple months or because their team needed a representative. The way I look at it, a person's view of All-Star game selections is a matter of perspective. If you see it as a game run by the winner of the "Fantasy GM" contest -- that is, where you get to handpick the best players in the game, no matter how they've performed thus far -- then Sheehan's idea of the All-Star Game makes sense. I don't think I've ever thought of it that way, though; I see the ASG as a reward for playing well in the first half, so it doesn't bother me when schmucks are elected because of playing well in the first half.
And I actually really like having each team represented. Sure, it pisses on my parade from time to time when someone crap gets selected in lieu of a more deserving player, and I'm sure I will moan on at length when Player X is selected by Joe Torre or Jack McKeon in a month or so. But I also remember watching the All-Star Game as a kid. I didn't really have a very good grasp on who was more "deserving" of a berth at that time; all that was important to me was to watch every Cubbie in the game. I wanted Ryne Sandberg to hit a home run in every at-bat, and I held my breath before each Lee Smith pitch. And yes, I rooted equally hard for Shawon Dunston when he was an All-Star -- not because I thought he was the best at his position, but because he was a Cub. If you had taken my Cubs out of the game, you would have taken me out of the game. I think baseball has enough problems with marketing to youngsters, and it doesn't need to remove any chance of a kid seeing a local boy.
Does all this lessen the meaning of "All-Star"? Probably, but again I think this is a matter of perspective. It should cease to be seen as a "Hall of Fame resume-builder", as it has so often in the past. Too many players get a chance to be All-Stars for it to be a representative honor, and as Sheehan points out many of those All-Stars are really only "hot two month" stars. But in my opinion that doesn't mean the game has to be any less fun, or any less engaging, or any less competitive. It just is what it is -- a midsummer review of the season's first half.