Reader Mail: My All-Stars Edition

I know that all the hype and exaggerated outrage over who makes the team this year and who doesn’t will be completely forgotten within 72 hours of the game’s final pitch, just like it was last year. And yet the annual discussion of who deserves to be an All-Star still manages to rope me in each time.

— Me, My 2005 All-Stars

Apparently, I’m not alone. While there was no protest from a particular group of fans like the mass-mailing I got for my comments on Jack Wilson last year, my choices for this season’s All-Star game generated an amazing amount of e-mail. I say amazing, not only because of the sheer volume of e-mails I received, but because in the end we’re just arguing about who gets to play in an almost-meaningless game. Yet for some reason we all care, and way too much.

From Gary:

Felipe Lopez not an all star?? I understand the preference some have for longevity, but when one guy is just absolutely squashing the competition in performance RIGHT NOW, saying he’s not an all star is just silly.

We’re less than halfway through the season, so “squashing the competition in performance” in Felipe Lopez‘s case adds up to being 10-15 runs better than other NL shortstops. For instance, Lopez leads NL shortstops with 28.9 VORP, while my pick to start for the NL, Omar Vizquel, has just 13.9 VORP. That’s certainly a substantial gap, but it likely gets smaller when defense is considered. Is a dozen runs really enough to make up for the fact that Lopez was a .235/.304/.379 career hitter coming into this year, while Vizquel had 16 seasons under his belt, many of them All-Star-caliber?

In my opinion, no. I don’t place more value on 75 games than I do three or five or 16 seasons. Lopez has been very good this year, but hasn’t been nearly this good in the past. I want to see him keep it up for another 75 games, or perhaps even another 162 games, before I declare him an All-Star over guys who have consistently been valuable players year after year. If that’s “silly” … well, then so be it.

From Nathan:

At least throw a bone to Bill Hall. It’s such an incredibly weak crop that a guy with an .877 OPS and very solid defense merits a mention. Sure it’s likely just a hot first half but when the competition is Felipe Lopez and Omar Vizquel then it’s pretty clear the field is wide open.

This is the other end of the Lopez argument. While one person thinks not picking Lopez is silly, another thinks an unproven player like Lopez being the best shortstop in the league this year is enough to open the door for other shortstops. So which is it? For me, neither. Until a player, whether it is Bill Hall or Lopez, convinces me that it’s not “just a hot first half” I stick with established guys like Vizquel (who I am far from a big fan of).

From Kyle:

I am a huge Brewer fan (and a little biased…all right a lot biased), but I think Carlos Lee (RBI Leader), or Brady Clark should be on the team…perhaps even Doug Davis.

And here is another part of the Hall argument, which is that Milwaukee fans can’t even agree on which Brewer deserves a spot on the team. One fan thinks it should be Hall because the shortstop crop is weak in the NL, while another thinks it should be Carlos Lee, Brady Clark or Doug Davis.

From Drew:

any met fan would tell you: beltran nice, but floyd’s the met’s all-star outfielder 2005

I choose Door #3: The Mets don’t have an “All-Star Outfielder 2005.”

From Mike:

My only disagreement would be with your characterization of Soriano as a “star caliber player for years”. Taking into account his poor OBP, ballpark effects and his defence, “good player” is how I’d describe him. Actually, there wouldn’t be that much difference between Roberts ’04 and Soriano ’04. I’d go with Roberts over Soriano in 05.

Whether or not calling Alfonso Soriano “a star-caliber player for years” is accurate is in the eye of the beholder. I think his defensive problems are vastly overstated, and he hit .291 with an average of 35 homers, 40 doubles, and 30 steals from 2002-2004. That makes up for a sub par on-base percentage from a middle infielder, at least in my mind, and only one of those seasons came in a hitter’s ballpark. There is no one who would disagree that Brian Roberts has been better than Soriano in 2005, but I would have gone with Soriano over Roberts in 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001.

From M.S.:

Sorry, but you’re so off base you’ve been picked off. The all Star game is not a lifetime achievement award. Historically, Randy Johnson is Awesome and Jon Garland is mediocre. However, this is the 2005 All star game, not the best team of the last 10 years. The guys who have the best half seasons get recognized.

And Soriano? Please. He puts up good numbers for an outfielder playing second base, but he’s a bad teammate with a big ego and a mediocre defender. The Rangers have been trying to trade him for 2 years with .no takers. What does that tell you? Defense is the most overlooked facet of baseball by far. Ask the Twins the importance of defense. in 3 straight division championships.

Finally, while I recognize that corner outfielders are expected to put up 300-100-30 seasons, those guys are a dime a dozen. Nobody has had as much impact on his team, offensively and defensively as Scott Podsednik has in changing the White Sox approach and making them the best team in the league. That alone (without his mid – 80’s stole base totals) deserves recognition.

Perhaps I missed the memo, but who says “the guys who have the best half seasons get recognized”? Certainly not me. In fact, I couldn’t disagree more. If that’s the case, it seems that the guys having great second halves are really getting ripped off. Where is the All-Star game for the guys who hit .225 in the first half and .325 in the second half? If Jack Wilson would have reversed his halves last year, he would never have been an All-Star. That doesn’t strike anyone else as inconsistent?

Also, as far as I’m concerned, Soriano can be a bad teammate with a big ego as long as he keeps putting up “good numbers for an outfielder playing second base.” As if that’s a bad thing. For years now, Miguel Tejada has been putting up good numbers for an outfielder playing shortstop. What a bum!

And let’s just say I disagree that “nobody has had as much impact on his team” as Scott Podsednik, and I don’t think Podsednik is responsible for Chicago being the best team in the league. He has done a nice job getting on base and has done great work on the bases, but he’s hitting like a second baseman playing left field and all the running in the world isn’t why the White Sox are winning. Unless he’s the greatest defensive outfielder in baseball history or is pitching under an assumed name, Podsednik is not behind Chicago ranking second in the league with a 3.47 team ERA.

From Brian:

Chris Carpenter not among the top eight NL starters? Please… Your “select the great player” argument fails here. Show me a GM who wouldn’t prefer Carpenter over Livan or Webb, for example.

Then, you break your own criteria not to pick recent flashes by tabbing Chad Cordero, who had just seven saves and a 3.03 ERA following the All-Star Game through the end of last season. At least be consistent or you may as well ignore the fact that Derrek Lee hit just .249 after the break last year and has yet to register a 100-RBI season since first coming up in 1997.

To top it off, your “roster” isn’t even legal. There are no Colorado Rockies or Milwaukee Brewers on your team. Nice fantasy squad, though.

Lots of e-mails from angry Cardinals fans in my mailbox, so let me say that “Chris Carpenter or Brandon Webb?” was the very last decision I made for my NL team. I didn’t think either of them was significantly more deserving than the other, so I simply picked one. I went with Webb because he pitches in a hitter’s ballpark and doesn’t get the sort of run support the Cardinals provide for Carpenter. Plus, I think Webb’s outstanding 2003 and 2004 seasons were completely overlooked. If I had made the decision five minutes later, I may very well have gone with Carpenter, in which case I’d have had a whole bunch of e-mails from angry Diamondbacks fans in my mailbox.

Regarding “breaking my own criteria” in picking Chad Cordero, I did no such thing. As I wrote, “If I had to break it down into a formula, I would say 75% past performance, 25% current season.” That keeps me from selecting rookies like Huston Street, who has no “past performance” whatsoever, but it does not preclude me from taking young players altogether. Cordero and guys like David Wright and Miguel Cabrera have limited track records, but they do have a “past performance” to look at and have been fantastic since the moment they arrived in the majors.

Cabrera and Wright jumped right into the big leagues and starting playing like stars, and Cordero is now 10-4 with a 2.22 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 134 major-league innings, while going 42-for-48 in save opportunities and holding opponents to a .206 batting average. I see a clear distinction between picking them and picking guys like Brandon Inge, Jon Garland, Felipe Lopez or Jack Wilson, whose track records differ from their first-half performances.

Oh, and my roster is plenty “legal.” Do you know how I know? Because I made up the rules. I was not trying to predict who would make the All-Star team, I was naming the players who made my All-Star team. As for the one-player-per-team rule, I don’t follow it. Or, as I wrote in the intro leading into my selections:

My formative years as a baseball fan were spent watching the post-Kirby Puckett Minnesota Twins fight for fourth place in the AL Central, so I speak from experience about the one-player-per-team rule. There is absolutely nothing exciting about watching Ron Coomer represent your favorite team in the All-Star game, and in fact it serves as more of a reminder that your team stinks than simply not having an All-Star at all would. Plus, the idea that a deserving player has to miss out on an All-Star game because a less-deserving player plays for a horrible team is repulsive to me.

I hope that explains the lack of Rockies.

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