Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Deadline Has Passed

The NL Central was apparently tired of the West getting all the headlines.  In matching moves at the top of the standings, the Pirates and Reds both shored up their teams for the playoffs.

The Marlins were the key in this, and another trade that I’ll cover in a second.  The Marlins shipped struggling first baseman Gaby Sanchez to the Pirates for Gorkys Hernanzez and a competitive balance pick.  In Pittsburgh, Sanchez will back up first base and be a good young bat that can come off the bench.  It gives the Pirates a young player who can play well.  He’s struggled, but succeeded in the past so this pick up was great for the Pirates.  It’s a low risk/high reward move for the Pirates who continue to show that they are for real, not just this year, but into the future.

The other big NL Central move that happened was the Reds adding Jonathan Broxton to be a set up man in their bullpen.  This move makes games a lot shorter for Cincinnati as Chapman is pretty much a shut down closer in the 9th and Broxton should have similar success in the 8th.  The Reds are currently in first and playing some of the best baseball in the majors.  The Royals have fallen apart and are trying to get value back for their valuable pieces.  The last thing Royals fans want to hear is that they are re-building, but they are certainly not contending this season.  At least they have their young core intact. 

The defending champs in St. Louis have added Edward Mujica to their bullpen as they continue to chase the Pirates and Reds.  They are 7 games back of the Cental title and in 4th in the wildcard race.  Mujica is a solid bullpen veteran who will help out this team, but if the Cards are going to make any noise it will be with the guys they have.  They got Mujica for former number 1 pick Zack Cox, who will be taking his talents to South Beach and the Marlins.

The Yankees made one more move, acquiring Casey McGehee from the Pirates to help hold down the hot corner until A-Rod returns from injury.  In return, the Pirates get a veteran bullpen arm in Chad Qualls. 

Conventional wisdom saw the Red Sox standing pat today after asking around about their players.  They don’t want to just give guys away, but they also don’t like the clubhouse chemistry.  In the end, they decided that they have talent, they just need them to play the way they are being paid to play and they will have a shot at a wildcard slot.  So while they did make a move, it was a small one.  They received Craig Breslow from the Diamondbacks for Scott Podsednik and Matt Albers.  Breslow will be a lefty out of the bullpen.  Podsednik was signed to help out while Ellsbury and Crawford were hurt, but with those two back he was expendable.  He goes to help out an Arizona club that is likely going to be sitting at home in October.  Being a fringe club is the hardest thing to be at this time of year, and the Diamondbacks didn’t want to mortgage the future for a short-term burst of life that very well may leave them short of a playoff spot.  This trade gives them help in Podsednik and Albers, but leaves them in good shape.  The big surprise out of Phoeniz was that Justin Upton wasn’t on the move.  But he may be this winter. 

And in the last minutes before the trade deadline we get another headline trade.  The Texas Rangers finally add a pitcher.  After losing out on Greinke to the Angels and seeing Hamels re-sign with the Phillies, the Rangers were running out of options.  With the two top options gone, they weren’t interested in Josh Beckett, didn’t like the asking price for Matt Garza and Josh Johnson and were told that Felix Hernandez wasn’t on the market.  They looked into Cliff Lee, but thought the contract was too expensive.  They looked like they were gonna just sit on what they had, until Ryan Dempster agreed to think about other teams besides the Dodgers.  After the Dodgers and Cubs couldn’t get a deal done, the Yankees were rumored to be interested in Dempster.  But in the end, the Rangers got another solid pitcher to add to their starting roation and prepare them for the playoffs.  They still feel like they don’t have that one game playoff ace, but hope it’s no longer a necessity with a starting rotation of Derek Holland, Yu Darvish, Roy Oswalt, Matt Harrison and now Ryan Dempster.  The Cubs return was Kyle Hendricks and Christian Villanueva.  Both players are young, but have high upside and will be important pieces in the Cubs re-building effort. 

Other deals were rumored to be happening, but didn’t go through.  The one with the best shot at going down was a trade that would send Joe Blanton to the Orioles.  But alas they couldn’t work out a deal.  Alfonso Soriano was rumored to go to the Tigers, but that was another one that didn’t make it.  And while trades can still happen if a player passes through waivers, I think we are done with seeing players being shipped back and forth for a while.  It was an exciting trade season.  I’ll come back with a post of winners and losers at the trade deadline soon.

Deadline Day

Well with less than an hour until the trade deadline, there is a lot of chatter.  With the flurry of activity in the last few hours, here’s a rundown of a few trades you may have missed and my thoughts on a couple key players who could be on the move. 

The biggest news of the day (so far) is the trade that sent the Phillies’ Shane Victorino to the Dodgers.  The Dodgers are adding offense for a playoff run the day after adding Bradon League from Seattle to shore up the bullpen.  They have also made two huge offensive moves now, adding an upgrade at third base (currently short while Dee Gordon is hurt) in Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino to take over left field from Bobby Abreu.  Victorino can immediately upgrade the top of the lineup, and improve the outfield defense tremendously.  He was a center fielder in Philadelphia, but can play all three spots.  It’s the biggest splash of the day on a name that was a common topic of conversation for the past few weeks.  In return, the Phillies got reliever Josh Lindblom and a minor league starter in Ethan Martin.  With their struggles this season, and Shane’s impending free agency, they tried to get something for him instead of re-signing him.  It makes sense for the Phils, as they have a ton of money tied up in contracts to Halladay, Papelbon, Howard, Utley and Rollins.  I don’t know the exact figure, but it’s over $100 million to 5 guys.  And that’s not even counting the money they owe Lee and whatever money Cole Hamels gets in his new deal.  With their new financial issues and an underachieving season, the Phillies may look to move more players, including Hunter Pence, Cliff Lee and Juan Pierre.

Since my last update, there have been a few more trades that hit the wire.  The biggest (after the one I just touched on of course) was the White Sox taking a gamble on Francisco Liriano.  In an inter-divisional trade, the ultra aggressive Kenny Williams strikes again.  He gets Liriano from the Twins for a fairly modest haul.  His struggles this season are well documented, but recent improvements were enough for Williams as he hopes Liriano will continue to miss bats in Chicago after tweaking his slider and making it a much tougher pitch to hit.  The Twins get back Eduardo Escobar, a weak-hitting utility guy and Pedro Hernandez who doesn’t project to be much more than a mediocre bullpen guy.  Hard not to pull the trigger when you are giving up so little, and this could end up being the biggest upset trade of the year.  High risk if the ERA stays where it is despite the pitch shift, but after essentially poaching the starter for free, the rewards could be boundless. 

The A’s made a small splash picking up catcher George Kattaras from the Brewers.  He will be in a time sharing situation with Kurk Suzuki, unless they try to trade him.  Kottaras is an okay catcher who hits righties better than lefties.  The Brewers got Fautino De Los Santos back, who has a live arm but no control.  It’s a good move for both teams as the Brewers are out of it and the A’s are continuing their surprising wildcard run.  This trade helps them out without costing them their future.

In yesterday’s biggest move, the Braves finally got that starter they’ve been searching for.  After being turned down by Ryan Dempster and not having the money to commit to signing Matt Garza or Zack Greinke long-term, their options were running low.  Their hesitation about James Shields made them blanch at the price tag the Rays put on him.  So they set their sights a little lower and pulled the trigger on a different Cub, lefty Paul Maholm.  Maholm isn’t the star the other pitchers on the market are, but he’s been fantastic in this second half with an ERA of 1 in his last 5 starts.  In addition they added Reed Johnson who hits lefties even better than the injured Matt Diaz and plays superior defense.  The Cubs got Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman in return.  Not much is expected of Chapman, but Vizcaino is a stud whose fastball has touched triple digits.  He’s mainly been a reliever in the majors, but has started in the minors.  The one holdup on him is that he’s out with Tommy John surgery right now.  Otherwise the Braves would have never given him up.  But if he comes back strong from the surgery, he could be a major piece of this Cubs bullpen as they move forward with this re-build or possibly a starter. 

The fire sale in Chicago continued with Geovany Soto being shipped off to Texas.  They got back a Double A pitcher who doesn’t project as much, but Soto’s offense has devolved to the point that they couldn’t ask for much.  Soto is there in case Napoli leaves for free agency, but they can’t really expect him to be a good substitute with his stagnant bat.  Other than a slight upgrade in defense, Soto doesn’t seem like a very good replacement.

The Pirates made a nice snag in taking Travis Snider off the hands of the Blue Jays.  The epitome of a AAA player, Snider destroys Triple A pitching but hasn’t been able to find that consistency in the majors.  He’s had some good stretches and has plenty of talent.  Hopefully a change of scenery will be all he needs to achieve his potential.  It’s a great add for the Pirates who are hoping to build a team that contends for a long time.  The Blue Jays got reliever Brad Lincoln, who has a live fastball in the mid-90s and will be a great set up man in that bullpen. 

And as I write this, the last trade that has been announced is tied with the Dodgers Victorino move as the biggest of the day.  The Phillies continue to dump salary by sending Hunter Pence to the Giants.  They get back Nate Schierholtz, who has been a quality fourth outfielder that hits for pretty good average, but only seems to have warning track power.  Maybe moving to Citizens Bank will see more of those doubles clear the wall.  In addition, the Phils got back Tommy Joseph, a Double A catching prospect with upside and Seth Rosin, who made a successful transition from bullpen to starting rotation in the Cal league.  However the Dodgers are the more immediate winners.  Pence takes over right field from the Gregor Blanco/Nate Schierholtz tandem and is an immediate upgrade.  He makes that Giant offense much more formidable and plays a good right field.  Now with Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Pence and Melky Cabrera, the Giants finally have an offense that can frighten some people. 

And as the Phillies continue to fortify the NL West, it looks like we are going to have an exciting final few months out there, as the Dodgers and Giants both make a big push to make the playoffs.  Both are big winners as the trade season winds to a close.  There may be a few more moves yet as Dempster to the Dodgers stagnated to the point that he’s agreed to consider other teams, specifically the Yankees.  But Cliff Lee was apparently taken off the market.  Not many teams wanted to take on his contract, but a return to Texas made so much sense.  The Red Sox took Josh Beckett off the market after gauging the interest of the Braves and Rangers, and James Shields seems to be staying put in Tampa Bay, where they think they have a shot at a wildcard run.  Ty Wigginton and Juan Pierre could be on the move out of Philly and no one is sure what will happen with Matt Garza in Chicago.  And the Marlins may continue their fire sale by dumping Josh Johnson if they like a deal for him.  We’ll see what happens.  I’ll write about any updates that come down the tube.  But we are in the middle of the most exciting day of the year for baseball.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Trade Talk

The big news today is the trade that sends Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  The Brewers had fallen way out of contention and were looking to get something back for their talented young pitcher.  Greinke is 9-3 with a 3.44 ERA this season.  He was possibly the biggest prize on the trade market, especially among pitchers.  And this trade makes the Angels team even more frightening on paper than it was before.

The Angels, who were also the big winners in the offseason, added the former Cy Young Winner to a starting rotation that includes Cy Young front-runner Jered Weaver, All Stars C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren, and the struggling Ervin Santana.  This move makes their rotation even deeper, and puts them in a great position down the stretch run.  They are trying to chase the Texas Rangers who have a 4 game lead in the AL West.  After snaring the biggest prize, the Angels hope they have the firepower and now a deep enough rotation to overtake the Rangers before the one game wildcard playoff.  The Brewers got a rookie shortstop back for Greinke in addition to a big, talented Double A pitcher and another Texas league prospect. 

As we get closer and closer to Monday’s trade deadline, there are plenty of teams that could use some help and plenty of players available to be had.  I’ll give a quick rundown of the teams that are looking to buy, and who might be available.


New York Yankees:                        The Yanks made their big move to get Ichiro.  They may chase down another bench player to help ease the loss of A-Rod, but they like the Eric Chavez/Jayson Nix combo they have right now.  They still have the best record in the league, and the two teams behind them that are really in contention (Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays) are likely not going to make any moves due to financial constraints (Tampa) and not wanting to dump prospects and possibly get behind the 8-ball after a promising, though unexpectedly good season (Baltimore).

Chicago White Sox:                        The White Sox have also already likely made their moves.  The addition of Kevin Youkilis to be their starting third baseman has paid off in a big way.  And adding Brett Myers to help stabilize a young bullpen is a good move too.  They are also surprisingly exceeding expectations, but this team has a lot of talent and wants to stay in the playoff picture.  Detroit is breathing down their necks, but they think they have enough offense, and now enough pitching to hold the Tigers at bay.  Kenny Williams is very aggressive, so I wouldn’t put anything past them.  But I’d bet that they make no more moves.

Detroit Tigers:                        The Tigers made a splash picking up a starting second baseman and back of the rotation starter from the Marlins.  Omar Infante immediately improves their defense at second, and is hitting 280 with 10 SB.  Anibal Sanchez has been hit and miss, but is young and very talented.  He’ll be an upgrade as a 4th or 5th starter on this very talented Detroit team.  They are right behind the White Sox and have a slight lead on the Indians (who have claimed that they are also looking to buy), but I’m thinking this race will be between Detroit and Chicago. 

Texas Rangers:                        This Ranger team is very good.  The only area where they could improve would be in the starting rotation after losing Colby Lewis for the year and still missing Neftali Feliz.  They were big players in both Ryan Dempster and Zack Greinke.  With the Angels making such a big splash, it almost forces the Rangers to do something.  Dempster is still on the market, but has made it known that he wants to be in LA.  The Phillies have flirted with putting Cliff Lee on the market, and he’s been incredibly successful with the Rangers in the past.  That makes a lot of sense, but it depends on how high the asking price is.  The Rangers want to make a move, and they have a deep enough farm system to get anyone they want.  But with options dwindling, and being loath to overpay, they may stick with what they have to make a run.

Los Angeles Angels:                        The Angels haven’t done a lot, but they got the biggest name available, Zack Greinke.


Washington Nationals:                        The Nationals have the best record in baseball.  They are off to a great start and have an incredibly talented young team.  Their pitching staff is very good, but with Stephen Strasburg’s innings limit coming up, the Nationals are in the market for a low end starter.  Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Ross Detwiler have been fantastic, and now John Lackey has been called up to back them up.  Look for them to snag someone like Kevin Millwood to give them depth and some veteran leadership. 

Atlanta Braves:                        The Braves are looking for pitching.  I never thought I’d type that sentence.  Their offense isn’t incredibly potent, but it gets the job done and there really isn’t a spot to plug in anyone else.  All the guys they have are good, but none are really great.  When they lost shortstop Andreslton Simmons, they made a trade to pick up Paul Janish, a slick fielding, light hitting middle infielder that will fill the hole until Simmons comes back.  But with no other offensive moves on the horizon, their need for strong pitching becomes even more of a necessity.  The Braves actually worked out a trade for the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster, but Dempster vetoed the trade, saying he’d rather go to the Dodgers.  That hurts.  They were in the running for Greinke, but lost.  They have a strong farm system, but being hamstrung financially by an indifferent ownership group, they need a player who would be under club control, or someone they can get cheap.  The Braves need help, but their options are running low.  There has been a lot of talk about them going after James Shields and possibly Matt Garza.  But Garza is likely too rich for their blood and there are concerns about Shields.  They may make a move, but it has to work out for them.  That makes the list of potential moves pretty small.

Cincinnati Reds:                        The Reds have the best second half record in baseball.  They’ve played incredibly well, despite the loss of MVP candidate Joey Votto.  They may be in the market for some insurance, but they don’t want to overpay for someone who will go to the bench when Votto is healthy.  They may make a move, but being strong in the rotation and around the rest of the diamond, I don’t expect anything major.

Pittsburgh Pirates:                        What can this team do?  They have gotten off to a great start for a second straight year.  But after an ill-advised pick up of Derek Lee last year, they still finished under 500.  There is a good chance they will finally have that winning season and make the playoffs this year.  So the problem is they want enough help to ensure they get to the playoffs, but don’t want to overpay for someone just when they are starting to be good.  They made one strong move that didn’t cost them too much when they added Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros.  The veteran lefty will give them some experience and help out a starting rotation that includes the over achieving A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, and the talented, young Jeff Karstens and James McDonald.  The Pirates are playing well, and should have enough talent to stay in the race all year. 

St. Louis Cardinals:                        Still hanging around in the NL Central race, the defending champs have plenty of talent and feel like they belong in the race.  The NL Central has not been that strong in recent years, but the Reds are hot right now and the Pirates are playing well.  They have no glaring weaknesses, but some back of the rotation pitching or bullpen help would be appreciated.  I don’t know that they make a move, but it’s possible.

San Francisco Giants:            The Giants have plenty of pitching again.  But they can always use some offense.  And they made a good move adding Marco Scutaro from the Rockies.  Brandon Crawford isn’t hitting much, and is pretty young.  Scutaro brings playoff experience and some extra offense to a team that needs a lot of it.  I don’t see them making a move for pitching, despite Tim Lincecum’s struggles.  But an extra bat on the bench, perhaps one that can play second or right field, is a possibility, as long as the cost isn’t too prohibitive.

Los Angeles Dodgers:            The Dodgers have made a big move by adding Hanley Ramirez.  He’s an immediate upgrade at third base, and will fill in at short until Dee Gordon gets healthy.  They needed more offense behind Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, and so far Hanley has been money.  The bullpen is solid, but could use some help.  The biggest need for the Dodgers is in the back of the rotation.  They know Ryan Dempster wants to be there, but that may make that trade difficult.  The Cubs don’t want to just give him away, but by requesting the Dodgers he’s given them all the power.  It makes too much sense to not happen, but I don’t see Epstein caving for a deal he believes is below Dempster’s value.  I think that will be the last move they make, and it will likely give them all they need to stay in the race.

This is always an exciting time of year.  Lots of teams have needs and lots are looking to unload commodities while they can get value back.  This year is strange as there are a lot of teams in the middle who want to be neither buyers nor sellers.  As the deadline gets nearer, teams inevitably blink and overpay for someone, or give someone away for nothing.  We’ll see what happens, but there is still plenty of time for deals to go down.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Marlins Continue to Shed Salary

The Marlins’ fire sale continues.  Yesterday they unloaded franchise jewel, Hanley Ramirez.  Ramirez has been essentially untouchable for the last few seasons as he was one of the only players on the club to get a long-term deal (before this offseason’s crop of free agents).  Ramirez was actually paid due to the hand of the MLB Commissioner’s office, which stepped in and insisted that the Marlins give him a long-term deal for big money.  Had that not happened, he likely would have been out the door years ago as part of another dose of “market correcting.”  With this trade to the Dodgers, we see that nothing is off limits for this team.

The main reason Hanley was sent off is because the Dodgers were willing to take on his salary.  And it’s a risk for the Dodgers too.  Hanley is one of the most entitled players in the game, and was handled like a fragile Faberge egg by the Marlins administration.  But even they tired of his antics, and that’s really saying something.  Don Mattingly has done a tremendous job in L.A. of getting heady young stars (Matt Kemp) to get their act together and act like a team.  Hanley could ruin all that good work fairly easily, especially if he’s not happy (which he often isn’t).  However it’s a great trade for the Dodgers as he can replace Dee Gordon at shortstop until he comes back in a few weeks, and then become the full time third baseman.  The former batting champ has shown great power and speed, but has struggled the last few years.  His weight and whining are the only aspects of his game that have climbed while his AVG and OBP have dropped at an alarming rate.  It’s hard to know what’s going on in that mind, but if he can begin to recover his former skills, which were at a near MVP level, this will be a great deal for the Dodgers as they look to add offense to back up Kemp and Andre Ethier.

As for the Marlins, it’s no surprise what’s happening there.  The only thing that surprises me is that they had the gall to begin their fire sale in the same season that they opened their new stadium.  There was never any doubt that the Marlins wouldn’t change.  And despite the promises they made to the fans, a new stadium wasn’t the cure-all to the way they do business.  The way they make money is to run out a team on a shoestring budget, and use the revenue sharing to pay bills and line their pockets.  Jeff Passan goes into great detail in this article, which I suggest everyone read.  It’s tremendous, and an indictment of what this administration thinks about baseball.

Miami baseball fans are craving meaningful September games.  But they won’t even see meaningful August baseball this year.  They’ve unloaded two talented players before they hit free agency, and one mega-star that was owed mega-bucks.  They are fielding offers for ace Josh Johnson, who is also due quite a bit of money.  All indications are that he’ll be gone before the trade deadline on Monday.  This new stadium has not been the answer, despite the Jekyll and Hyde claims of strong attendance from the Marlins top brass.  There has been only one sellout, and they are still in line to finish near the bottom in MLB ticket sales for an 8th straight season.  And while one month they trumpet their new stadium’s success, the next they use the low ticket sales as a scapegoat in their broken promises to fans as they ship off all the expensive, but talented pieces of their team.  They continue to build for a metaphorical future, which will never take hold while this ownership runs things.  The brazen disregard this team has for building a champion is an insult to the city of Miami, and the baseball world.  And regardless of the new team name, or what this team does on the field, the citizens of Miami-Dade County have over $2 billion due on a stadium that will house a team made up of young prospects who won’t sell tickets.  The executives will continue to cash in on revenue sharing, and this team will do what it does best…lose.  It’s like a baseball version of The Producers, make a team bad enough, and you will actually make money, not lose it.  It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad.  But that’s Miami, where baseball goes to die.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Something Fishy in Miami

Yesterday’s big baseball headline was the trade that sent Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees.  It was quite a surprise to most people and hopefully a positive end to the quietly messy divorce that was happening in Seattle.  Click here to read Jeff Passan’s take on the trade.

But I’m writing about the other trade that was making headlines in the few hours before Ichiro changed clubhouses.  That trade involved the Detroit Tigers getting ready for a playoff run.  They picked up a couple of key pieces from…the Miami Marlins (I suppose the ellipses were for suspense in case you failed to read the title).

In an all too familiar move, the Marlins are sending away expensive talent and getting back cheap prospects.  It’s the way Jeffrey Loria and David Samson have run the team for years.  And they’ve been happy and successful with the formula.  Their only issue was with the old, ugly stadium they had to play in.  But after moving into a new, ugly stadium this offseason, they seem to be back to their old “market correction” schemes, despite assurances to the Miami-Dade County taxpayer that they were a new ballclub.  But with their Loss numbers growing at a much quicker rate than their Wins, they find themselves in familiar territory…the bottom of the NL East.  They currently sit 4th in the division, 11.5 games back of first.  They are closer to the bottom of the division, where the Philadelphia Phillies are occupying last place, only 3.5 games behind them.  The only difference between this year and last year is that the Marlins feel they’ve spent enough money to be in the playoff hunt.  The fact that they are not is unacceptable to this administration. 

The struggles the Marlins are having are not overly surprising to me.  I personally picked them to finish fourth in the division, behind the Braves, Phillies and Nationals.  They were a last place team with okay pitching that struggled to score runs last season.  They were counting on Hanley Ramirez, Giancarlo Stanton and Gaby Sanchez to drive in Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio last year.  They signed Jose Reyes to lead off and get on base more, but they are still asking the same guys to drive in runs, and they haven’t gotten the job done for a second straight season.  They added a workhorse to the rotation in Mark Buehrle.  But Buehrle has never been more than an above average innings eater who is up there in age and can’t strike guys out.  He’s dependable, but dependably decent isn’t worth what he gets paid.  They paid him to be an ace, and he is not.  They added a good closer to a team that doesn’t seem to find enough Save opportunities as it is.  I don’t blame the team for Heath Bell’s struggles.  But it’s worth noting that many blame it on Bell’s issues with Ozzie Guillen, the new manager that the Marlins brought in.  They were hoping his fiery personality would shake things up and help this team win a few games.  And if it happened to bring more attention to the team, ideally in a money making format such as being the subject of Showtime’s “The Franchise”, so be it.  He’s achieved one of those goals, and it happens to be the one that brings in money independent of the on-the-field performance.  While that isn’t what the Marlins initially had in mind, they’ll take it, and cash in on the fact that they are making some money back and have some valuable assets.  The mission statement down there seems to be, “Make money first, and if we can win some games that’ll be nice too.” 

This is not a big secret in baseball.  The Marlins have been doing this ever since Jeffrey Loria bought the team.  Chris Jones wrote a great column about this for ESPN the Magazine this winter when the Marlins were pushing their “New Ballpark New Identity” slogan.  You can read it here.  It talks about the way Loria did something similar in Montreal, threatening to move if he didn’t get a new stadium, bankrupting the team, and then skipping town before he got saddled with the bill.  The difference was that this season, the Marlins promised things would be different.  They promised that if they got a new stadium, they would be able to draw more fans, make more money and begin to sign players to long-term deals and compete.  They assured Miami-Dade County that they had no money to pay for a new stadium and needed taxpayers to foot the bill.  They promised that the new stadium would greatly improve the economy and crime rate in Little Havana.  And they promised that they were done dumping players when they got too expensive.  They underscored it by signing 3 big free agents this offseason before moving into their new stadium. 

But with this trade we, once again, see their true colors.  The Marlins aren’t above lying to everyone.  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the money for the new stadium and found that 80% of it was paid for by the taxpayer.  The Marlins claimed they had no money after finishing last in attendance for the last 7 years.  They claimed that people didn’t come to see the games because of the stadium.  But after the investigation, and the leakage of some financial documents on Deadspin, we found that despite their claims to be an impoverished team, the top executives, specifically Loria and his stepson David Samson, were making boatloads of money, mainly from revenue sharing off “richer” teams.  But despite all that, the Marlins still insisted the new stadium would change everything.

Well in the first season in the new stadium, everything looks the same.  Miami is still near the bottom in attendance and the NL East.  They are claiming more sellouts, but with the third smallest seating capacity of all ballparks in the MLB, it’s easier to sellout, something Loria and Samson know all about.  Other teams have had short spikes in attendance after building new stadiums, but it would generally last about a year.  Miami’s has lasted a few months.  And with guaranteed money contracted to their offseason free agent signees, and the traditional low attendance that this team is known for, the Marlins have to find a new way to make money.  The Showtime contract will help (thank God), but dumping salary is their tried a true method.  And it started yesterday with a talented young pitcher in Anibal Sanchez and a former All Star in Omar Infante.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  And if the Marlins have to decide between keeping a promise to a starved fan base and making back some cash from misguided financial investments, we all know which way this franchise will go.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All Star Snub Team

All Star Snub Team

Every year, there is some controversy about who makes the All Star team.  With fans being able to select the starters and final roster spots, there is a tendency to see popular players from larger markets take spots away from more deserving candidates because their names are the ones that fans recognize.  Or you see an organization make a big push for their fans to go out and vote for the hometown players, even if they are less deserving that others.  You can’t blame organizations for doing this, and it’s hard to get angry at fans for making homer picks.  That’s why the issue isn’t necessarily with the fans (they are behaving as we all knew they would) the issue lies in the format of the voting.  Perhaps it should be changed to a player vote.  Or maybe you let managers vote and bar them from selecting anyone on their own teams.  There is a way to fix this.  But until that happens (and likely after it ever happens as well) you will see lists of All Star snubs.  It’s a fun pastime for those who like to write about the game.  Most have come out already.  I like to wait until I hear all the replacement players announced before I compile my list.  The replacements are the players who weren’t originally selected by the fans or coaches, but were added to the roster later, either through the final fan vote, or to replace an injured player who was originally put on the team.  Those players are Yu Darvish (the AL Final Vote winner) and Jake Peavy for the American League and Michael Bourn, Chipper Jones, Bryce Harper and David Freese (the NL Final Vote winner) for the National league.  If a player is on the team then I don’t consider them a snub, even if they are a reserve that I think should be starting.  I consider snubs guys who should be on the team period, and for some reason are not.  Here is my All Star Snubs Team:

AL Roster

C:                        A.J. Pierzynski CHW- This is one of the most egregious snubs.  There are always a number of guys who are arguably more deserving of a backup spot than the other fairly deserving player who has been chosen.  However, when a player deserves to start and is left off the team, that’s when people really take notice.  It generally means that not only was a deserving player left off the roster, it also means that 2 or 3 other players of the same position got selected instead.  That’s tough for anyone to swallow.  And that’s the case we have in the American League at the catcher position.  Mike Napoli was selected as the starter because everyone loves home run hitters.  Joe Mauer is a former batting champ and charismatic young player who plays for the team he grew up rooting for.  And Matt Wieters is the talented young catcher for the upstart Orioles, who are playing better than anyone expected.  They were all selected ahead of Pierzynski, the player voted both least liked and dirtiest amongst his peers.  And that carried over into the fans, where a poll showed Pierzynski among the top 3 most disliked players in the major leagues.  So it’s easy to see why he lost the popularity contest that is the fan vote.  But his numbers clearly show that he’s had the best season so far.  His AVG is third (behind two Minnesota catchers, one of which is on this list {Mauer} and often a DH) however he has the most HR and RBI amongst all catchers and is second in R.  No one has outhit him, especially Mike Napoli, the owner of a 228 AVG.  You may not like it (no one does) but Pierzynski has been the best catcher in the AL this year.

1B:                        Chris Davis BAL- This one wouldn’t have made too many other lists.  The only reason he’s on mine is because I’m trying to build a team of snubs, and first base was pretty well covered.  So I reached on this one.  Fans still got it wrong voting Prince Fielder over Paul Konerko, but Rangers skipper Ron Washington helped set it right selecting Konerko to be a reserve.  He deserves to start, but at least he’s on the team.  After Konerko and Fielder, I might have selected Davis who has played well.  His 271 AVG is better than both Mark Teixeira’s and Albert Pujols’, two of the other players with a lot of votes.  He’s got as many homers as Pujols and one less than Teixeira.  But with both of those guys way ahead of him in RBI and R you could call them pretty even.  He’s not really a snub, but has played better than most people realize. 

2B:                        Jason Kipnis CLE- The fans voted Robinson Cano as the starter, and they got it right.  I highly doubt the stats had a lot to do with it, as Cano is a big name who plays for the Yankees and won the Home Run Derby last year.  But this time circle gets the square.  The only other second baseman on the roster is Ian Kinsler, who was selected by the players.  This pick wasn’t a huge snub, as both other guys are worthy players.  Cano has clearly been the best second baseman in the AL this year.  But if it were up to me, I’d have given the nod to Kipnis over Kinsler.  But just barely.  Kipnis is hitting 277, which is second in the league behind….you guessed it, Cano and Kinsler.  But Kipnis has 2 more HR, 9 more RBI and 5 more SB than Kinsler.  Kinsler has the lead in AVG and R.  By my count, that’s 3 categories to 2.  It’s often not that simple, but in this case I think it’s a pretty good barometer.  I like Kinsler and think he’s having a good season.  But I’m giving the slight edge to Kipnis, which makes him my AL second base snub.   

SS:                        Alcides Escobar KAN- Another stretch.  There are 3 deserving shortstops in the AL and all 3 made it on the team.  The one who looked like a future snub, Elvis Andrus, had the good fortune to play for the manager who was filling out the roster.  He’s a good choice.  So is Asdrubal Cabrera.  I was initially down on the Jeter pick, but he’s picked it up lately and now leads all shortstops in the AL in AVG and hits.  I’d still give Andrus the start, but there was no way the most popular player in baseball wasn’t going to start this game, no matter what his numbers were.  And at the time he was voted in, his numbers were clearly inferior.  But after seeing that all these deserving shortstops were in I had to reach a bit for a snub.  I came up with Escobar seeing as he’s second in hits and SB among Al shortstops.  He trails in the other numbers, but is having a good season, and with the game in his hometown he might have been a good choice.  Still, it’s a reach and the other 3 in front of him are clearly more deserving.

3B:                        Brett Lawrie TOR- Another reach.  Lawrie is clearly the third best third baseman in the league this season.  The fans voted Beltre to start and Ron Washington put Miguel Cabrera in the game as a reserve.  Other than possibly switching the roles of those two, I’m good with this.  And Beltre is a worthy candidate to start.  If I had to pick a third guy to man the hot corner, it’d be Lawrie who’s hitting 291 (third among AL third basemen BTW) with 51 R and 11 SB.  He’s also got 8 HRs.  But those numbers pale in comparison to the guys who got selected ahead of him.

OF:                        Alex Rios CHW- I’m actually fairly pleased with the outfielders chosen to be in this game.  I think Adam Jones and Mike Trout should be starting with Josh Hamilton over Curtis Granderson and Jose Bautista, but I’m good with all of them being on the team.  The 6th outfielder is Mark Trumbo who has also had a great year.  If I had to pick more outfielders, my first choice would be Rios, who is having a great comeback season in Chicago.  He’s struggled in recent seasons, and those struggles are highlighted more since he has a tremendous contract.  But this season he’s playing well and doing a little bit of everything.  He’s hitting 318 with 12 HR and 49 RBI.  He’s also a menace on the bases, scoring 50 R and stealing 13 bags.  I think the 6 outfielders chosen before him are having better season, but Rios is playing very well too. 

OF:                        Alejandro De Aza CHW- Staying on the South Side, we have De Aza.  I don’t like him more than any of the other All Star selections.  But if I had to have some replacements, De Aza would be second on my list.  He’s hitting 283 with 59 R and 15 SB.  He’s tied for second in the league in R.  He’s playing well for a better than expected White Sox team.

OF:                        Austin Jackson DET- Staying in the AL Central, we move from a team playing better than we thought, to a team that has failed to meet expectations.  The Detroit Tigers are not playing well.  But you can’t blame it on Jackson.  The speedy leadoff man is hitting 332 with 54 R.  We generally like to see more stolen bases from a guy like him (only 7 in the first half) but perhaps they don’t want to run into outs with such a dynamic middle of the order waiting in the dugout.  Or perhaps he has great speed, but can’t read pitchers and is ineffective at stealing bases, like another former Tiger centerfielder (Curtis Granderson).  Whatever the reason, his SB numbers aren’t what we were hoping for.  But he’s offset that with surprising power.  He’s got 9 HR and 38 RBI.  He’s doing a little of everything, and that’s always fun to watch.

DH:                        Edwin Encarnacion TOR- I’ve got a legitimate beef with this one.  Encarnacion has the highest WAR out of all true AL DHs.  He’s second in AVG, HR, RBI and R.  He trails David Ortiz in two of those categories and Adam Dunn in the other two.  But he’s second in all of them and first in SBs.  I originally chose Adam Dunn as the DH on my ballot, but I was wrong.  Encarnacion is the best choice to be the starting DH for the AL this season.  While Ortiz has a better AVG and more R, Encarnacion has outslugged him.  And he’s hitting much better than Adam Dunn.  And he’s faster than both of them.  All are having good seasons.  But Encarnacion not only deserves to be on the team, he should be starting.  That would make Big Papi a reserve and knock Billy Butler off the squad.  Not a popular move in KC, but the right one.  This is one of the biggest AL snubs this season.

SP:                        Jason Hammel BAL- This was tough because so many pitchers are on the roster that it’s hard to find snubs.  In fact, I’m reaching on this one, though I think Hammel has had a good season.  All the guys who were chosen before him have higher WARs or lower ERAs.  And most have more Wins and a higher K rate.  But Hammel is playing well with an 8-5 record and 3.47 ERA for the Orioles.  He’s been one of their key pieces, as they’ve stayed relevant in the AL East.  He’s got over 8 Ks per 9 as his season has come out of nowhere.  Getting out of Colorado did him some good.  I like Hammel a lot and if I had to choose another starter it would be him.  But I’m happy with the guys that are on the team.

RP:                        Rafael Soriano NYY- I feel like this is a big snub.  It’s rare that a Yankee gets overlooked, but I think that happened to Soriano this year.  He started the season as a middle reliever, but took over the closer’s role after Mo went down.  And in limited time as a closer, he’s notched 20 Saves, good enough for 5th in the league.  In addition, he’s got a very nice 1.99 ERA and over a K per inning.  If he was a closer from day 1, you have to think he’d be closer to the top of this group in total Save numbers.  But he’s got a better ERA than Chris Perez and more Saves than Joe Nathan.  Soriano is doing a great job in an impossible situation.  No one can replace the mighty Mariano Rivera.  But Soriano has done a great job in the 9th for the Yankees this year, overpowering hitters and converting his Save opportunities.  I’d have him on this team before at least two other relievers who made it.

NL Roster

C:                        A.J. Ellis LAD- This one was a stretch.  At the time of the voting, Ellis was hot and a good choice for NL catcher.  But Ruiz was always having a better season.  Ellis is another player having a surprisingly good season hitting 285 with 7 HR, 28 RBI, 26 R and the third best WAR in the NL.  I’ll note that his WAR is behind two of the catchers in the game, but ahead of the one chosen to start (that would be Buster Posey).  I used to think that Ellis should have been picked ahead of Posey.  But he’s cooled off and Posey has heated up.  They are about even, though it’s close.  The point is, Posey shouldn’t be starting. 

1B:                        Paul Goldschmidt ARI- My rookie of the year pick is having a great season.  They worried about his AVG, but he’s hitting 302.  And he’s still got his power with 12 HR and 42 RBI.  I think he’s a legitimate snub.  I’d have him as the first reserve on the NL squad to back up Votto.  Instead that player is Bryan LaHair of the Cubs.  He’s played well.  And he’s played well enough to take over in right field so the Cubs could follow through with the plan to call up Anthony Rizzo.  LaHair is hitting 286 with 14 HR.  Other than the two extra homers, Goldschmidt is leading in every category between them.  I think he would have been the better choice.

2B:                        Aaron Hill ARI- Possibly the biggest snub of the year.  No, I’m calling it the biggest snub of the year.  Aaron Hill is having a fantastic season for the Diamondbacks.  His 300 AVG is the second best among second basemen (behind Jose Altuve, a reserve on the NL team).  His numbers are now not as great as they were at the time of the voting and when the teams were announced.  He’s still second in HR and in the top 5 in RBI and SB and in the top 10 in R.  When the teams were announced he was second in AVG, tied for first in HR, and in the top 3 in RBI, R and SBs.  I would have selected him as the starter.  I like Uggla, but he’s hitting under 230.  I like Altuve, but he doesn’t do as much on the field as Hill.  He deserves to be on this team. 

SS:                        Jed Lowrie HOU- I am shocked, shocked, that an Astros player wasn’t well represented in the All Star voting.  He’s got the second most HR and third most RBI.  No one saw this coming.  He’s having a great season and deserves to be in the All Star game.  The NL shortstop position is pretty thin.  Fucal got the start and has a better AVG and more R and SB.  Jed Lowrie and Starlin Castro were the backups, but only Castro is going to the game.  I think there’s room on the roster.  He’s a snub, but like many other snubs, has seen his numbers drop since the All Star rosters were announced. 

3B:                        Aramis Ramirez MIL- This was a stretch.  The most deserving third baseman is on the team, but inexplicably is listed as a reserve.  That’s David Wright.  Pablo Sandoval has played well in limited time, but shouldn’t be the starter.  However both have played well enough to be on the team.  After them, David Freese was my next choice, but won the final vote to join the team.  So in the end, all the deserving guys are there.  If I had to add one, I’d go with Ramirez.  He’s hitting 272 with 10 HR and 52 RBI.  He’s played well, but I think he’s at best the 4th best third baseman in the league.

OF:                        Martin Prado ATL- I heard an interesting stat the other day.  There are 9 players in the NL with over 100 hits.  Of those 9, only one isn’t in the All Star Game.  Obviously (since I’ve shared this stat after listing his name) that player is Martin Prado of the Braves.  Prado is tied for 5th in the NL with 104 hits.  He’s got the 4th best WAR among NL outfielders and the 5th best AVG.  In addition, he plays left, third, first, second and has played short in the past.  What a valuable tool to have on the roster.  But he’s not a sexy pick.  He doesn’t have a lot of power (5 HR) or speed, though he’s swiped 11 bags this season.  I don’t think he should have started, but I’d have picked him before Giancarlo Stanton, Jay Bruce and Bryce Harper.

OF:                        Jayson Heyward ATL- Look, I’ve admitted to being a Braves fan, but I promise that’s not what’s going on here.  Heyward has the 5th best WAR, right behind teammate Martin Prado (and also behind his other teammate, All Star Michael Bourn who has the best WAR out of NL outfielders).  Heyward is hitting 272 with 14 HR, 41 RBI, 45 R and 11 SB.  He’s a 5-tool player and is having a great bounce back season now that he’s healthy.  I’m not pushing for him to be a starter.  And I’m not saying he’s a major snub, as I don’t know who I’d drop to add him.  Maybe Bruce.  Maybe Harper.  But all are worthy, and I’m now doing some slight reaching to fill out my snub team.  But that doesn’t take away from how good he’s played this season.

OF:                        Hunter Pence PHI- See, I chose a Phillie.  I’m being objective.  Pence is hitting 285 with 16 HR and 50 R.  He’s been one of the best hitters for the struggling team in Philadelphia.  Once again, at this point I’m reaching a bit to fill out my snub roster, but Pence has certainly played well enough to warrant consideration.  I’m not replacing anyone with him, though I’d consider Harper and Bruce again.  But Pence has played well this season and would have been a good choice as a reserve if needed. 

SP:                        Johnny Cueto CIN- Wow.  Big snub.  Cueto is 10-5 with a fantastic 2.39 ERA.  He’s not the strikeout pitcher we envisioned him becoming, but he’s been fantastic this season.  He’s got the 4th best ERA in the NL and is tied for third with 10 Wins.  Now all three pitchers above him were also left off the list, but one has been hurt, and the other two don’t have the Win/Loss record of Cueto.  But frankly all would be good choices.  The others are Ryan Dempster, Ryan Voggelson and James McDonald (I wish his name was Ryan).  Now the NL has a ton of great pitchers, so I don’t know who I would drop, but surely the top ERA guys could have been given a spot in the game.  Perhaps they are on the team instead of a reliever like Papelbon or Street.  Or maybe they replace Lance Lynn who has cooled some since his hot start.  But Cueto has a very legitimate gripe about being left off the roster.

RP:                        Kenley Jansen LAD- This is a big snub.  Jansen has a sparkling 1.93 ERA and 15 Saves this year.  Those numbers blow away Papelbon’s pedestrian numbers and Street’s injury shortened numbers.  I really don’t understand the reasoning on this one as both the Phillies and Rockies had other representatives on the team.  Jansen has been a great closer for a good LA team that’s in the middle of their division race and has better numbers.  Big snub.  Deserves to be in the game.

Okay so that was my list of All Star snubs.  I’m posting it a little after the All Star game, but better late than never.  I will say, especially after putting up a stink about Giants fans stuffing ballot boxes for what I deemed less than worthy candidates, that the three Giants starters played very well.  And while I only would have had one starting (that would have been Melky.  Dickey should have started the game and Wright should have manned the hot corner) the Giants were well represented.  It was quite a show last night, and despite my issues with the format of the game, it’s still a joy to watch and something I look forward to every year.  Now that that’s done, I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.

Monday, July 9, 2012

NL All Star Roster

I’ve taken a look at the AL All Star roster and given my thoughts.  I’m going to do the same with the NL.

National League


C:                        Buster Posey SF- Fans choose the starters of the All Star team.  And that’s often a mistake.  Posey is a young, exciting player who carried the Giants to a World Series a few years back.  However he is, at best, the 3rd best catcher in the NL this season.  His 300 AVG is third best in the league as are his R and HR numbers.  He’s 4th in RBI.  None of those numbers are bad.  But Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies is first in AVG, HR, RBI and R.  He’s also better behind the plate.  Yadier Molina of the Cards is second in all those categories.  The Giants fans did a good job getting out there and getting Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Matt Cain in the game.  They all belong.  But hometown favorite Posey not only shouldn’t be starting, I wouldn’t have him in the game period.  This is one of the worst choices of the fans this season.

1B:                        Joey Votto CIN- This one they got right, but it was pretty easy.  Joey Votto has the highest WAR in baseball and is the best player in the NL.  He’s been better than Josh Hamilton for the last few months and is rapidly overtaking him for the title of best player in baseball this year. 

2B:                        Dan Uggla ATL- Uggla hits a lot of homers.  Chicks, and apparently most fans, dig the long ball.  Hiss 11 HR are tied for first in the league amongst second basemen.  His RBI are second to Brandon Phillips.  However his 231 AVG is way down on the list.  Brandon Phillips has a legitimate gripe at being passed over with a better AVG, more RBI and only 1 less HR.  He’s also a lot better in the field.  But the best candidate isn’t either one of them.  That man is Aaron Hill of the Diamondbacks.  He’s got the second best AVG of all second basemen (behind Houston’s Jose Altuve) and is tied with Uggla for the lead in HR.  He’s third in RBI and first in SB.  He is possibly the biggest snub in baseball, and should not only be on the team, but should also be starting.

SS:                        Rafael Furcal STL- No one really ran away with the lead in this position.  Furcal has played well hitting 275 with the most R among shortstops.  Other worthy candidates are Starlin Castro and Ian Desmond, both of whom are among the reserves.  I’d have gone with one of them over Furcal to start, but at least all are on the team.  It’s close.  One guy is missing completely, but I’ll cover that in my snubs section.

3B:                        Pablo Sandoval SF-  This is a head scratcher.  Kung Fu Panda has played well in limited time, but no third basemen has been anywhere near David Wright in terms of production.  He leads all third basemen in AVG and has more HR and RBI than Sandoval, though he’s played more games.  But Wright was flirting with 400 for a long time and is easily the best third basemen in the league this season.  Once again, a tip of the hats to Giants fans for getting the vote out there, but that’s a reason fans shouldn’t pick the starters.  Wright is the only option to start this game.  Anyone else is a mistake and doesn’t belong in the same conversation as the dynamic Met.

OF:                        Matt Kemp LAD- The best player in the NL before he got hurt.  He was in the conversation for best player in baseball with Josh Hamilton before he went down and had a setback.  Kemp had 30 R in 36 games.  Add a 355 AVG and 12 HR to that, and Kemp was on a mission to be the MVP of the league.  He’s hurt still and won’t be in the game.  But he was an obvious choice to be in the game and hopefully will come back strong.

OF:                        Carlos Beltran STL- Beltran is having a comeback year in St. Louis.  His 63 RBI lead the majors and his 20 HR are near the top.  He’s also hitting 304.  I like Beltran on this team.  I’d have gone with Ryan Braun or Carlos Gonzalez to start, but Beltran would have been after them.  He certainly belongs on the team and I’m okay with him starting.

OF:                        Melky Cabrera SF- The NL hits leader deserved a spot on the team.  I thought he deserved to start and the fans agreed.  He’s hitting 352 with over 50 R and 10 SB.  I have him as a starter, and easily in the top 5 outfielders in this league.


2B:                        Jose Altuve HOU- I’m a big fan of Altuve.  It’s hard not too root for the smallest guy in the majors.  But while he has more than enough accomplishments to be on this team (best AVG amongst second basemen, second in R and SB) the fact that the best second baseman in the league isn’t on the team makes everyone who is there seem undeserving.  There are 4 really good second basemen in the NL this season that I could see being on the team.  However I doubt I’d have all 4 of them.  Out of those 4, Altuve is at best the number 3 guy in my opinion, possibly number 4.  He’s had a good season and is a good choice for a reserve, but with Brandon Phillips and likely Aaron Hill watching the game from home, his presence seems undeserved.

OF:                        Ryan Braun MIL- Braun is, in my opinion, one of the best outfielders in the NL this season.  I think with Matt Kemp missing the game, you could make an argument for him to start, specifically over Carlos Beltran, though he’s been fantastic too.  He’s had a great season and belongs on the roster.

OF:                        Jay Bruce CIN- Bruce is having a traditional Jay Bruce season.  Middling average with great power.  The only thing that’s different is that his speed seems to have disappeared in the last few years.  But as much as I like Bruce and his slugging potential, I think he shouldn’t be on this roster.  It’s not as much about him being there, as it is who they left off to give him a spot.  Michael Bourn (who ended up making the team as an injury replacement) has the top WAR for NL outfielders and leads them all in SB.  And he does all that while hitting 310.  His teammates in the outfield are 4th and 5th in WAR.  One is hitting 322 with 46 R and 9 SB, while the other is hitting 270 with 13 HR and 11 SB.  I’m not saying you have to hit for a high AVG to make the All Star team (though it helps), but Bruce’s 256 is low comparatively, and he doesn’t offset it with much else besides his 17 HR.  A good number, but with others hitting more HR, a lot with better AVGs and him near the middle in RBI and R, I think there were many more deserving candidates.

SS:                        Starlin Castro CHC- This was a good choice.  I have him as the best NL shortstop, which isn’t a position rich with stars.  I’d have given him the nod to start over Furcal, but it’s close.  At least both are on the team.  One of their shortstop brethren is missing, and has no business watching the All Star game from home. (tune in to my All Star Snubs post to find out who)

SS:                        Ian Desmond WAS-  Desmond has the highest WAR out of all NL shortstops.  His 279 AVG is very good and his 14 HR are tied for the league lead (among shortstops).  He also has 8 SB.  He’s got a pretty good argument to start too.  This past week he’s had has vaulted him into the number one spot in my eyes, but Furcal has played well so I’m just happy that both are on the team.  Desmond will miss the game due to injury, but he is deserving of a spot.

OF:                        Carlos Gonzalez COL- Gonzalez is having another great year.  His 340 AVG is 3rd among NL outfielders.  He’s also near the top in HR (17), RBI (58), R (59) and has 10 SB.  He’s not leading any categories, but is very competitive in all of them.  In a year where there are a lot of good NL outfielders, Carlos is one of the best, and has every right to be on this roster. 

1B:                        Bryan LaHair CHC- That brings us to Bryan LaHair, who was just supposed to keep a spot warm for Anthony Rizzo in Chicago.  But he apparently wasn’t privy to the plan as he’s hit like crazy this season.  They still brought up Rizzo, but LaHair played well enough that they taught him to play right field so he can stay with the big league club.  He’s hitting 289 with 14 HR, 30 RBI and 32 R for the last place Cubs.  The Cubs had to have a representative, and he’s the most worthy candidate.  After Votto, the first base position drops off rapidly and LaHair isn’t a bad choice as a backup.  But Paul Goldschmidt is hitting 302 for the Diamondbacks and has chipped in 11 HR, 37 RBI and 35 R.  And Alan Craig and Adam LaRoche also have an argument for being on the team.  LaHair isn’t a bad choice, but I’d have gone with Goldschmidt or Craig backing up Votto.

OF:                        Andrew McCutchen PIT- My only beef with this pick is that McCutchen has a legitimate beef about not being a starter.  However with Matt Kemp out, he might be next in line for a starting job.  And he heated up after the voting was done.  He went from good enough to be on the team, to so good that he should be starting.  His WAR is second among NL outfielders and his 358 AVG is tied for first.  In addition to hitting for a high AVG, he’s slugged 16 HR and stolen 14 bags.  His 54 RBI and 53 R rank near the top in the NL.  He’s having an incredible year and has every right to be on this team.

C:                        Carlos Ruiz PHI- The top catcher in the NL should be starting.  Ruiz has the top WAR among NL catchers and his AVG is also the best.  He leads the league in HR, RBI and R.  He is the obvious choice for starter.  He’s been hot the last few weeks and has separated himself from Yadier Molina to take over the title of best catcher in the NL this season.  He should be starting and there is no room for Buster Posey on this roster.

C:                        Yadier Molina PHI- A reserve, and deservedly so.  He should be the number 2 catcher on this roster, not the number 3.  Not as good as Ruiz this season, but much better than Posey.  He’s second in every major catching category and superior to Posey.

OF:                        Giancarlo Stanton MIA- Another situation where the team had to have a representative.  Stanton is the best option in Miami.  His 283 AVG is good and his 19 HR are third among NL outfielders.  He’s playing well with 50 RBI and 45 R.  He’s played well enough to be on the team.  The only knock against him is that the NL outfield is filled with talented guys, many who were left off the All Star roster, some who were much more deserving of being there than him.

3B:                        David Wright NYM- And lastly we have one of the best hitters in the NL this season.  Wright’s 354 AVG is 4th in the league and first out of all third basemen.  His 4.8 WAR is the best out of that group as well.  He leads them all in RBI and R, while he’s near the top with 11 HR and 8 SB.  He’s played in more games than Sandoval, which explains the better numbers. But he’s also better in the field and still has a higher AVG.  Sandoval is playing well in limited time.  But this was one of the worst calls of all the fans, even worse than the catcher debacle.  David Wright should be the starter this year.  There is no question.  This is why the fans shouldn’t elect the starters.


SP:                        Matt Cain SF- Mr. Perfecto is a great choice to be on this squad.  He’s second in the league in IP (by .1 IP) and has a 9-3 record.  He’s got a 2.62 ERA (5th best in the NL) and close to 9 Ks per 9 IP.  This was an easy choice.

SP:                        R.A. Dickey NYM- Arguably the best pitcher in the majors this season, Dickey has the best record in the league at 12-1.  He ranks in the top 5 in ERA and IP while striking out 9.23 batters per 9 IP.  Dickey belongs on this team, and should get the start in my opinion.

SP:                        Gio Gonzalez WAS- Gonzalez is tied with Dickey for the league lead in Wins with 12.  In his first season with the Nats, he’s outpitching young phenom, Stephen Strasburg.  He’s second in the league in K/9 and has a 2.92 ERA.  The NL is loaded with good pitching, and this guy has been one of the best this season.

SP:                        Stephen Strasburg WAS- The most exciting pitcher in baseball is having a great season as well.  He sits at 9-4, behind his teammate Gio Gonzalez.  But his 2.82 ERA is better and he’s the only person in the league with a better K/9 than Gonzalez, as he Ks over 11 guys per 9!  He is a joy to watch.  Hopefully the Nationals front office won’t follow through with that inning limit so we can watch him all year (I think the limit is 150 IP and he’s already at 99).  I think starters are coddled and Nolan Ryan proved they can be pushed in Texas with his young pitchers’ successes.  But I don’t pay his paycheck, so I understand their caution.  Anyway, he absolutely belongs on this All Star roster.

SP:                        Cole Hamels PHI-  Another pitcher attached to the “best pitcher in the league this year” conversation.  Hamels was on fire to start things off, then slacked off a bit after his boneheaded decision to bean Bryce Harper and admit he did it on purpose.  I guess having one of the best seasons of his life was not enough for him, and he wanted to get a different type of headline.  His justification, Harper was a rookie and rookies need to be taught a lesson by veterans.  I guess as a young starter in this league he got squeezed on a couple calls.  So he punished those umpires by drilling a young outfielder between the shoulder blades.  Anyway, that takes away from the great season he’s had, and sure enough I’ve spent more time talking about that than his accomplishments.  But he’s 10-4 for a struggling Phillies club this year.  He’s got a 3.20 ERA and Ks 9 hitters per 9.  The 3.20 is great, but looks average in comparison to all these sub 3 guys.  In the end, Hamels is having a great season and no matter what he says or does, he belongs on this squad….which now includes Bryce Harper.

SP:                        Lance Lynn STL- The Cardinals always seem to have a surprise stud in the starting rotation.  From Chris Carpenter years ago, to Adam Wainwright in 2010 to Kyle Lohse last season.  This year’s incarnation is Lance Lynn, who is second in the league with 11 Wins.  He’s got a solid 3.41 ERA, which is actually pretty good, but looks bad compared to his All Star compatriots.  He’s got over 9 Ks per 9 and over 100 IP.  He’s having a great season, and is a good choice to represent the redbirds in the All Star game.

SP:                        Clayton Kershaw LAD- Kershaw has followed up his Cy Young season with a strong first half in 2012.  The Dodgers are playing well, but Kershaw is only 6-5.  However he’s got a strong 2.91 ERA and leads the league in IP. This one was a no brainer.

SP:                        Wade Miley ARI- The big surprise in Arizona this season is the strong performance of Wade Miley.  Miley is 9-5 for a struggling Diamondback team.  He’s got a 3.04 ERA and over 100 IP.  He’s not overpowering, but hits his spots and gets outs.  He’s dependable and eats innings.  I doubt he’s a future Cy Young winner, but he’s pitched well enough this season to warrant a trip to Kansas City.

RP:                        Joel Hanrahan PIT- Hanrahan is having a fantastic season for the upstart Pirates.  He’s second in the league with 23 Saves and has a 2.38 ERA.  With his K numbers and low BAA, I have him down as the second best reliever in the league, and an obvious choice to be in the All Star game.

RP:                        Aroldis Chapman CIN- Chapman was the player’s pick.  WAR has him as the best reliever in the NL.  He’s recently taken over the closer’s role, which helped earn him a spot in the Mid Summer classic, even though he only has 10 Saves.  He’s got a 1.88 ERA and has over 16 Ks/9 IP.  He throws 105 MPH.  His numbers wouldn’t have gotten him in the past, because middle relievers almost never make the team.  But he’s now a closer, and is dominant.  I understand why the players chose him.  No one wants to face him at any point, especially at the end of the game.

RP:                        Craig Kimbrel ATL- The best reliever in the NL this season.  Kimbrel leads the league with 24 Saves and a sparkling 1.41 ERA.  He’s got almost as many Ks per 9 as Chapman (over 15) and is dominant.  48 of his last 81 outs have come from strikeouts.  He throws a shade under 100 MPH, and that’s both his 4 seamer and his 2 seamer which has some movement. Add to that a devastating slider, and I think we will be seeing Kimbrel in the All Star game not only this season, but many seasons to come.

RP:                        Jonathan Papelbon PHI- Not crazy about this pick.  He’s got 18 Saves, but a 3.45 ERA.  He’s pitched poorly at home and with the Phillies struggling has played in a lot of non-save situations.  He’s a great pitcher, but isn’t having the season of some of his closer brethren.  Santiago Casilla and Jason Motte both have more Saves and lower ERAs.  Papelbon plays on the Phillies and is rather popular.  But his performance this year has been lackluster.  I’d have gone with other relievers, or possibly more of the deserving starters.

RP:                        Huston Street COL- Another head scratcher.  Street has played well with a 1.17 ERA and 13 Saves.  But he’s only played in 24 games.  How can he be having one of the best seasons among NL relievers when he hasn’t been playing?  I like Street, and think he’s playing well.  But I think Street and Papelbon should have been replaced with Casilla and Motte.

So that’s the NL.  There were a couple picks I didn’t like.  But there are so many good pitchers in the NL, it’s hard to say anyone was unworthy.  The only argument would then be who is the most deserving.  I’m looking forward to watching these two teams square off Tuesday night.