I don't know what I was smoking yesterday when I suggested that Bobby Abreu being selected by the fans represented an improvement in their voting standards. After reviewing the full rosters in each league, I am left thinking of the old adage about the blind men and the elephant.
You've heard it a million times, but here goes. A group of blind men (usually three which is some sort of Jungian archetype for storytelling) approach an elephant. One feels his trunk and thinks he's a snake. The next feels his um I don't really know what they feel, but you get the point. Without the ability to see the whole, people will come up with the wrong solution by, uh, groping an elephant's trunk, or words to that effect.
The relatively new committee approach to selecting the team is like those blind elephant gropers. First, the fans pick the starting position players (and DH in the AL). After they permanently screw the dang thing up by swooning for David Eckstein and Carlos Beltran, the players favs are added with bête noires like Shea Hillenbrand as backup DH. Finally, the manager is guided by his personal animus for rivals, fatherly devotion to his own dysfunctional family of a team, and the requirement that every stinking team be represented. Finally, the fans' "Final Vote", which sounds like some sort of draconian game show from Nazi Germany, picks someone from a random group of overrated has-beens and sops to small ball punditry. And there you are America; there's your system for picking the homefield for the World Serieshuh?
Throughout the system dominoes fall that make it impossible to assemble the best group of players. The Cardinal fans, all agog with their early season success while forgetting the drubbing of last season's Fall Classic, dolt on Eckstein and Rolen. The Met fans plumb the depths of their baseball knowledge en masse and pick Mike Piazza and Carlos Beltran to represent the NL. The system groans and lies moribund in the NL at that point.
The AL fans did a bit better, but that's just because the hegemony of the Red Sox Nation at least has some decent players to vote for. The AL got tripped up in the player round with Hillenbrand, Mike Sweeney, and Paul Konerko being ludicrously picked over Cleveland's Travis Hafner. The ghosts of Garret Anderson and Pudge Rodriguez then crowd out other more deserving candidates. The same goes for Joe Nathan who is probably the least deserving AL squad member ( I would have gone for his pen-mate Crain if necessary).
With no Hafner, the manager must then pick an Indian and undeserving closer Bob Wickman draws the short straw. The Tampa Bay dart game is played out resulting in Danys Baez and his orchestra. With no Big Three, a deserving yet unheralded middle reliever has to represent the ever-mediocre A's (Huston Street was just as deserving). Oh, and then Francona had to fill his Mariner and Ichiro quota by pickingwho else? Ichiro.
As a last indignity, Hafner isn't part of the "Final Solution" or the "Weakest Link" or whatever it is they call the confounded least favorite all-star contest. Two overrated leadoff men, two deserving yet marginalized Yankes, and Torri Torri Torri fill out that list. Eh, why not?
Back to the brain-dead NL roster, the players pass over a boatload of more deserving players for random Lo Duci and Izturae. Ever-tinkering Tony LaRussa actually did a decent job of picking up some overlooked but deserving position players (Bay, Jones, and Lopez) that we'll even give him a pass for picking Lee and Gonzalez. Maybe Morgan Ensberg is not so forgiving. Kudos to TLR for picking Peavy and Smoltz for the staff (though Oswalt would have been better) and Fuentes was probably the least destructive Rockie to pick.
The NL staff all around is not bad. The players again went for overrated, underperforming closers (Lidge and Isringhausen). The ever-personable Todd Jones and one or two middle relievers would have been better choices, but perhaps, to quote Spinal Tap, that's nitpicking. Other than Oswalt, the better starters are on the NL staff and the closer fluff was kept to a minimum (potentially four on the NL while the AL has six relievers).
Of course, the "Final Vote" should go to Oswalt and a Hafner write-in campaign if there is any fairness in the world. Thatthe Hafner crusadefailing, Jeter is probably the most deserving choice in the AL. Maybe Travis has some friends who can pay a visit to Hillenbrand and make him an offer he can't refuse before the game.
Anyway, here are the teams broken down by starters, reservists, "Final Vote" hopefuls, and snubberino culprits: