Monday, June 8, 2015

TWTW's 2015 MLB All Star Game Ballot

Danville, Kentucky - Democracy is a peculiar thing. Sometimes democracy works perfectly; like during the 2000 presidential election or season 8 of Big Brother. Other times democracy is a disaster, like Barry Goldwater’s defeat in the 1964 presidential election or season 2 of American Idol. Voting for the 2015 MLB All Star game is somewhere in between—like a Dairy Queen chocolate-vanilla swirl of both the good and bad parts of democracy. I admire the enthusiasm of the good people of Kansas City, who have become more drunk on power than President Obama’s healthcare death panels. Their baseball instincts are true, and thanks to the fans of the Kansas City Royals, many feel-good stories like Mike Moustakas have a shot at getting the recognition they deserve. With home-field advantage for the World Series on the line, there really isn’t anybody you’d rather see on the field than proven winners like Omar Infante, going mano-a-mano against Clayton Kershaw and the NL’s best and brightest talents.


However, fans of the Royals would pay heed to a cautionary tale, involving a similarly enthusiastic fan-base. My Uncle Cletus of Marmet, West Virginia, used to put me on his knee and tell me the story of how the communist MLB Commissioner Ford Frick over-rode democracy after the good people of Southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky elected seven Cincinnati Reds to the All-Star Game in 1957.  To the dismay of my father and his brother Cletus, their zealous get-out-the-vote efforts were wasted when Comrade Frick refused to let the democratically-elected Cincinnati Reds players take the field, opting to insert the undeserving Willie Mays and Hank Aaron into the All-Star game instead. With a tear in his eye, Uncle Cletus would recount how democracy failed Danville that day. I wouldn’t put it past the MLB overlords to snub the AL Champion Royals in the same manner this year – which would be ironic, given that this year’s All Star Game will be hosted by none other than the Cincinnati Reds family and the Great American Ballpark. I certainly hope the MLB doesn’t ignore the results of the fan-voting, as I saved up would-be child support payments and bottle-deposits for months to afford tickets for the 2015 All Star Game.

The 1957 All-Star Game and the Lyndon B. Johnson’s victory in the 1964 election are why I myself refuse to participate in any form of democracy. I'm used to the powers-that-be ignoring the little guy, so I don’t even take the little surveys that my Taco Bell receipts constantly suggest to me. 


Yet, I still feel as though I should voice my opinion on this matter. I have a feeling the passion of Kansas City fans could prompt the MLB overlords to eliminate democracy altogether – opting instead to pick All-Star starters based on who has the highest fWAR score. This would truly be the worst of all worlds. In the interest of sparking on a conversation about democracy and the great game of baseball, I will construct a 2015 All Star roster based entirely on the eye-test. Unlike democracy and marriage, the eye test never failed anyone.

1st Base - Miguel Cabrera


I have a feeling this pick might be somewhat controversial, but I’m going with Detroit Tigers 1st Baseman Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera has 12 dingers to Hosmer’s 7, and 38 RBIs to Hosmer’s 34. In addition, Cabrera has 3 crowns to Hosmer’s 0. Hosmer should undoubtedly make the roster and will benefit from getting to chat with the 2-time MVP in the dugout.

Honorable mention: Prince Fielder of the Texas Rangers – who is playing with the tenacity of a man with nachos being dangled in front of him.



2nd Base - Omar Infante

For me, this is easy. I’d have to go with Omar Infante. Like it failed Goldwater in '64, democracy is failing Omar Infante, who currently trails Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros. Jose Altuve is great at padding stats on bottom-feeding teams, but has played in exactly zero meaningful September or October baseball games. He’s not ready for primetime and could very well buckle under the pressure of the spotlight of Southern Ohio’s biggest stage. This talented but untested guy is the exact opposite type of player you’d want to take the field with home-field advantage in the World Series on the line. Don’t get me wrong; Altuve is the best entertainment you can find in Houston, other than its excellent Rainforest CafĂ©. Very few guys Altuve’s size play the game with a heart as big as his. However, Omar is a proven winner who has played in 2 of the past 3 World Series and boasts extensive playoff experience. Royals fans, you need to ensure Omar gets the All Star appearance he deserves. I’m confused why he’s basically the only Royal not winning right now.

Honorable mention: Devon Travis of the Toronto Blue Jays, who has 7 dingers and is off to a hotter start than Ron Paul at the 2012 Iowa Caucus.

3rd Base - Mike Moustakas


I’m not the only one dissatisfied with democracy; nerds don’t like it either for other reasons, which is why All Star voting will likely be replaced with some dystopian authoritarian fWAR scheme after this year. The AL 3rd Base race will be one of the prime reasons, where 3.4 WAR player Josh Donaldson is currently trailing the more populist pick, MVP Candidate Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals. Folks, the good people of Kansas City have gotten this one right. Mike is a guy who has overcome adversity, been to Omaha and back, and beaten game-ruining defensive shifts while he’s at it. Mike Moustakas gives me hope that I can overcome my imperfections and short-comings to one day make myself better. It’s simply too good of a narrative. He deserves an All Star appearance as a reward for his trials and tribulations. It would be the best reward a man has been given since I got to keep the George Foreman grill after my last divorce.

Honorable mention: Pablo Sandoval of the Boston Red Sox, who along with Prince Fielder has proven the nay-sayers wrong, showing that big boys can play this game.

Shortstop - Alex Rodriguez


The starting shortstop for the AL should be none other than Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. I know that George W. Bush was a first-term president the last time A-Rod played shortstop, but he was a natural with the glove and probably shouldn’t have been forced to yield his position to the Captain, Derek Jeter. I’m a guy who thinks every All Star starting lineup needs at least one Yankee, and there’s no better position for a man in pinstripes than shortstop. A-Rod has definitively been All Star worthy, both on and off the field. Baseball fans have had the privilege of watching a new and humbled A-Rod, who wants nothing more than forgiveness. A man who wrote an apology letter to all of Major League Baseball, and who cried after hitting his 660th career dinger. He’s been making history this season, in spite of a front office that has antagonized him every step of the way. If A-Rod’s going to get denied his milestone bonus, he should at least get the All Star nod. It’s time he was #FORG1V3N.

Honorable mention: Marcus Semien of the Oakland Athletics – I know advanced defensive metrics don’t like him or his 20+ errors, but he’s hit too many dingers for me to care about that.

Designated Hitter - Nelson Cruz


I’m personally confused why the MLB is letting people vote for people who play a fake position, especially since this year’s game is being hosted by a senior-circuit team. Since it is inevitable that a fake player will inevitably besmirch the Great American Ballpark later this summer, I’d have to pick Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners, who is on pace to hit 60 dingers or something. All indicators are that Nelson, like Alex Rodriguez, is a great guy off the field as well. He’s can also field a position, as evidenced by the time he gunned down nerd-favorite Mike Trout earlier this season:


Honorable mention: Billy Butler of the Oakland Athletics – truth be told, I’m a little surprised he isn’t riding the coattails of his former Royal teammates – Kansas City fans must have a shorter memory than my Uncle Cletus, who has suffered amnesia since an accident at the GM plant in ‘75.

Catcher - Salvador Perez


I feel pretty confident with my choice here. Even though Salvador Perez has the knees of 60 year-old Michael Jordan and the plate discipline of an A.D.D. little leaguer, he’s been the most valuable catcher in the AL, providing stability and leadership behind the plate. On the field, you’d be hard pressed to find a more clutch-hitter – on top of his season-saving RBI in the wild card game last year, he hit a game-winning dinger just the other day. Although his OBP is the stuff of Billy Beane’s nightmares, there isn’t a better game-calling backstop in the game.

Outfield

This is where my ballot is sure to raise a few eye-brows, especially amongst team spreadsheet. But if I’m trying to build a team with the best shot of giving the American League home-field advantage, I’ve got to go with proven winners and not unproven guys with lots of WAR but no veteran presence of mind to speak of. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better outfield than Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals, Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, and Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins.

Picking All Star outfielders is liking ordering appetizers at Chili’s: there are a ton of good options. I’m not good at math, but 3 outfielders per team multiplied by 15 teams per league equals a lot of choices. Choosing between talents like Adam Jones, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Rios can be as difficult as choosing between Chipotle Chicken Flatbread, Southwestern Eggrolls, Texas Cheese Fries, and Fire-Grilled Corn Guacamole. However, Alex Gordon is like the Triple Dipper Appetizer trio at Chili’s – you can’t go wrong.


With an arm that packs more firepower than the Viet Cong, and a willingness to put his body on the line like a Kamikaze in left-field, he is more than deserving of the nod. He’s already made one of the best defensive plays of the year and is a known resident of dong-town. This is a bigger slam-dunk than the Quesadilla Burger at Applebee’s.


Josh Hamilton is similarly #AllStarWorthy. Another great comeback narrative, and maybe the 2nd best “coming home” narrative of 2015. After being persecuted by the Los Angeles Angels front office (which has always been a poor judge of character and talent), he has given them the finger by basically out-performing all LAA left-fielders in his brief playing time in 2015 before getting injured. Prior to his untimely sidelining, all indications are that he was primed to return to the MVP form of his 2010 season – racking up 2 dingers, 2 doubles, and 5 RBI in just 26 plate appearances, including a walk-off 2-run double against the Boston Red Sox. Like money and trustworthy women, that type of clutch-ness and grit doesn’t grow on trees. The change of scenery seems to have really helped Mr. Hamilton, another intangible factor that statistics are so incapable of explaining. The American League All Star team can’t afford for the former MVP to be on the sidelines when home-field advantage is decided. Once he returns from the DL, Hamilton should be greeted with an All Star appearance in front of the great city of Cincinnati. It's the perfect redemption story.


The wily veteran Torii Hunter should also get the nod, preferably playing center-field which he did so reliably for so many years. He’s on a torrid pace offensively and has improved his already stellar defense so far this year. The real selling point is his veteran leadership. His winning mentality has helped turn a last place team into the class of the AL Central; as I write this, the Twins have occupied first place for a little more than a week. If that’s not All Star worthy I don’t know what is.


Honorable Mention: Yoenis Cespedes – the Home Run Derby champion would provide some much needed punch off the bench.

Nerds would point out that all but two of my AL position player picks are 30+ years old (with Torii and A-Rod pushing 40), giving my roster an average age of about 34, but I say that grit, hustle, and gristle are timeless.

Pitching

Ned Yost shouldn’t have to put much thought into relief pitching for the AL: the 7th inning belongs to Kelvin Herrera, the 8th inning belongs to Wade Davis and the 9th inning belongs to Greg Holland.

Starting pitching should be similarly easy. All Stars are chosen by their ability to win, not FIP, so you won't find Corey Kluber on this list. Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners should get the nod as the AL's starting pitcher, as he has a league-leading 9 wins. Mark Buehrle of the Toronto Blue Jays is another proven winner, with 7 wins this year and a perfect game in 2009 on his resume.

Mike Pelfrey of the Minnesota Twins is a bit of a dark-horse candidate, and admittedly, he has only 5 wins. However, he’s pitched like an ace, with his 2.28 ERA being one of the prime reasons the Twins have been resurgent this season. You have to ride the hot hand, and there hasn’t been a hotter pitcher in the AL than Mike Pelfrey, FIP be damned.

Do you smell what the Pelf is cookin'?
Alfredo “Big Pasta” Simon of the Detroit Tigers also deserves a nod, and I admit, I might be a little biased here because of all the games I watched him play as a Cincinnati Red. Simon (who is also a 5-game winner, with a 2.76 ERA) has been filthier than the Chicken Mushroom Alfredo Bake at Fazzoli’s. I trust Ned to make the right decision.

Fazzoli's delicious Chicken Mushroom Alfredo Bake
NL – Catcher

I’ll only make a couple of recommendations for the NL, since the voting isn’t nearly as contested or heated as the junior circuit’s ballot.

Brayan Pena should get the nod as starting catcher for the senior circuit. He’s a hero in Cincinnati, and should get to represent the home-town Reds – there’s not a player in baseball who is more deserving of a chance to play under the bright stadium lights of the Great American Ballpark on the winding banks of the Ohio River as an All Star. He has an all-around winning attitude, and also maintains an extremely professional and fan-friendly twitter account. On top of that, he’s truly a maestro of the art of hitting, wielding a bat with a finesse comparable to my nephew and his paintbrush, whose portrait of a Skyline Chili dish won an award at Toliver Elementary in Danville. Mr.Pena hasn’t struck out since May 22nd – that’s 41 plate appearances without a rally-killing K, the 2nd longest streak in the MLB. Pena hates striking out like I hated giving up hits during my ’72 no-no for Danville High. Plus, Buster Posey and other NL catchers have nothing on Brayan’s sunny personality and smile.


NL Pitching

National League pitching is also straight-forward. Gerrit Cole of the Pittsburgh Pirates has 9 wins. Bartolo Colon of the New York Mets has 8 and could also be utilized as a pinch hitter if necessary. Tim Lincecum of the World Champion San Francisco Giants is experiencing a renaissance, with more wins than Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber.

Conclusion

Listen, folks. I don’t have a horse in this race. If I did have a horse in this race, it would be American Pharaoh, who like Miguel Cabrera has won a Triple Crown. I’m going to go to the game and buy as many Limearitas as my unemployment benefits will buy, and have fun regardless. Not to sound like the type of person who has given up on America, but I don’t think my Reds need to worry much about home-field advantage in the World Series. But from the (non-statistical) perspective of a guy who wants to see the most entertaining and hardest fought All Star Game possible, I think these players deserve the nod. Enjoy the ability to vote while you still can. Democracy is imperfect, and prone to abuse. But it’s better than using fWAR spreadsheets to select the boys who will fight, bleed, and bruise for a shot to secure home-field advantage for their league.