The All-Star Game can be kind of silly. The fans vote for the starters, and that inevitably results in a great deal of the team being determined via popularity contest, and anyone who's been to high school knows that popularity is distributed with little rhyme nor reason.
That's not good news for a team like the White Sox averaging under 24,000 fans per home game and not exactly drawing national attention for being 3 games under .500. I suppose people are gawking at Adam Dunn's 2011 like one would stop and stare if they saw a bus fall off a freeway ramp onto a Target.... but you don't vote that kind of thing into an All-Star Game.
Maybe it doesn't matter. The All-Star game is purely spectacle, and is successful for the league so long as there's decent ratings and they fill the stadium, and home-field advantage in baseball doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot, even if it's the World Series.
Except that when careers end, and they're determining who belongs in the Hall of Fame, someone will have the nerve to cite the number of total of silly All-Star games as a measure of the quality of player. And even if the All-Star game is silly, the Hall of Fame, and taking a long look to honor the greatest players to ever play the game, is much less so. Maybe that's why the fans get cut out.
(Also...the opening announcements get me. When they line up, and every player has his name called--and half of them get booed--you can tell that they care. And it's so much easier to care when they do.)
Which is why what follows is kind of horrifying:
As the voting stands now, the AL starters will be composed of 5 Yankees, 2 Red Sox, Josh Hamilton, and Jose Baustista. Personally, it's hard to be less fond of this lineup without, you know...having a real reason to not be fond of this lineup.
Paul Konerko is 5th in voting for AL 1st basemen. That's the closest any White Sox position player is, and Paulie's not only behind Mitch Moreland, but has over 100,000 less votes than David Murphy....who is a sub-replacement part-time outfielder for the Texas Rangers, and apparently extremely charismatic.
So no White Sox position players are cracking the starting lineup, and it's probably bad news if any of them find their way into the Last Man vote. They will probably lose, and probably to Nick Swisher again. But maybe someone can squeeze a reserve role out of merit.
Not a chance - Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham, Juan Pierre, Adam Dunn, Anyone Who's Been Playing 3rd Base
Dunn and Pierre's descents into hell have been well-documented, and they're both a good bet to make Jon Heyman of SI's All-Not-Stars team (It'd be Juan's 2nd straight year). Beckham, Rios, and Morel/Teahen have at least earned their keep with defense, but neither are hitting well, nor even producing an empty high batting average to be gawked at. There is literally no reason these men should make the All-Star team.
In a position to benefit because the world is unfair
A.J. Pierzynski is hitting .296. He's slugging under .400 and takes walk lessons from Dayan Viciedo, but good gravy! .296! From a catcher!?!!?
In my intensely cynical view of AL manager Ron Washington's selection process, I could see him being unaware that Matt Wieters is a superior fielder, and being terrified by Carlos Santana's .228 batting average even though he has more walks than Adam Dunn has hits.
After fan-vote leading Russell Martin and obviously-the-best-catcher-in-the-league Alex Avila, there's no one who blows Pierzynski away in traditional hitting stats...unless of course Washington isn't discerning enough to realize Victor Martinez has only caught 21 games.
It could happen. How the hell do you think he made the All-Star team the other two times?
Ready yourself for heartbreak
Alexei Ramirez is leading AL shortstops in fWAR thanks to a fantastic defensive rating, but he's giving me a strong 2010 Alex Rios vibe.
His offensive numbers spiked in May, but he's power-slumped into a .288 wOBA in June and has committed 11 errors, second amongst AL shortstops Many of Alexei's gaffes have been of the 'random screwup of a routine play' variety, so I guess he has himself to blame, but it stinks that he might have a career year and miss his best chance to make an All-Star team because his timing's bad.
[Update: Thanks to Mike for reminding that I completely forgot the 2nd best hitter on the team. Off-days are hell] Speaking of slumping at the wrong time, Carlos Quentin still might be in the midst of a return to his 2008 form that earned him his first All-Star trip, but he hasn't homered since June 8th, and has hit .196/.291/.239 in that time. That still only drops him down to 4th amongst AL outfielders in wOBA, but may ending up getting squeezed due to the fact that every team has a solid-hitting outfielder, and every team needs a rep.
Unless fortune smiles on Scott Baker, who goes for the Twins if not Michael Cuddyer? Who goes for the Royals if not Alex Gordon? And the Orioles may very well find themselves being limited to Adam Jones. CQ's case on paper looks better than I expected, but it behooves him to snap out of this recent stretch to emerge from this field.
Our team rep
Konerko is 5th in the AL in wOBA...and one of the guys in front of him isn't even a 1B/DH! He's also tied for 3rd in HR, 2nd in RBI, and 5th in batting average. There's just too many darn gaudy traditional offensive stats to keep someone having their best offensive season of their career out, especially when he's streaking to the finish.
He's techinicaly only 4th in fWAR amongst AL 1st sackers, right behind Mark Teixiera, but the day 1st base defense vaults someone in the All-Star game, I start getting really confused.
How about a pitcher?
Relievers typically need exorbitantly low ERA or high save totals to get the nod, or a highly-developed reputation for dominance (i.e. Matt Thornton in 2010). So as much fun as it might be to watch Sergio Santos' slider when it's on, racking up an ERA over 3.00, blowing some terrible saves, and only pitching for a few years can't help him.
Jesse Crain is having a great year, but it's only his second season of dynamic production, and he's sitting at 31st amongst AL relievers in ERA. Somebody making the decisions would have to really take a shine to him.
Strangely enough, Phil Humber leads the White Sox in wins and ERA, and seems like the only starter with a real shot unless everyone gets nostalgic about Mark Buehrle in a hurry. He ranks in the top 10 in the league in ERA and WHIP, but I fear the lack of gaudy peripherals will make it harder to overcome the, you know...complete anonymity.
Final Cut: I'm calling Konerko as a lock, and Humber sneaks in when a bunch of teams decide their ace starter has 'general soreness' that week. A Q!perman hot streak could push Carlos through as a reserve, seeing as he is the greatest human target of all-time, and A.J. Pierzynski gets close until Ron Washington remembers running on him at will, and his fellow players remember that they hate his guts.