Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
The All-Star rosters were announced today, and as usual there is plenty of grist for the "my favorite player got snubbed" mill.
Many argue that rosters are large enough and that expanding the rosters will only serve to make the game even more of a rotating door with managers rushing to employ as many players as possible. Also, some will say that no matter how large the rosters become there will always be borderline players that got overlooked.
Those are all valid arguments. However, the rosters don't have to be expanded and borderline players do not need to be included.
"Hey, what gives, Mike? No additional players and fewer Oil Can Boyd-erline arguments? How do I sign up?" you ask, my inquisitive friend? The answer is first to take the privilege of voting for the starting lineups out of the fans' hands. They have fouled things up for far to long and no longer deserve such an important role in determining the World Series home field possessor. Let them continue to vote for the last man on each roster. That minimizes the number of screw-ups they can execute to one per team per year.
Next, get rid of the "each team must have a rep" nonsense. What ends up happening is that on poor teams the best player is not even sent. A player is instead chosen to fill a role. Witness Brian Giles snubbing this year so that Buc teammate Mike Williams of the 6.29 ERA (!) can represent the city of Pittsburgh and the National League.
I know that these are not original suggestions. However, they have always been offered as the pro-roster expansion argument and have always been defeated by the con-roster expansion arguments above. I'm saying that both sets of arguments are valid and are far from mutually exclusive. Rather, they could be used together to get us to a happier, shinier All-Star world-Budtopia?
Anyway, here are the players that were overlooked from the All-Stars who deserve consideration. First, the batters ranked by major-league OPS standings. There are approx. 20 batters per team. I have listed the players in the top 50 in OPS:
8 Frank Thomas, Chi WS 10 Milton Bradley, Clev 11 Brian Giles, Pitt 13 Trot Nixon, Bos 16 Bill Mueller, Bos 17 Jason Giambi, NYY 20 Larry Walker, Col 21 Richard Hidalgo, Hou 22 Jason Varitek, Bos (But Posada #39 and Hernandez 118 do go) 27 Sammy Sosa, Chi C 31 Jim Thome, Phil 32 Eric Byrnes, Oak 33 Steve Finley, Az 34 Aubrey Huff, TB (The D-Rays have a valid All-Star and yet Lance Carter, 4.17 ERA, represents the team) 37 Geoff Jenkins, Milw (#47 Sexson represents the team) 38 Chipper Jones, Atl 41 Corey Koskie, Minn 42 Kevin Millar, Bos 43 Jeff Kent, Hou 44 Brad Wilkerson, Mon 46 Lance Berkman, Hou 48 Cliff Floyd, NYM 50 Adam Dunn, Cin 53 Ryan Klesko, SD (#79 fellow Padre Rondell White is going, however)
Here are the players outside of the top 40 in OPS who will be at th All-Star game:
47 Richie Sexson, Milw 49 Alfonso Soriano, NYY (Starts) 55 Edgar Renteria, StL (starts) 59 Ichiro Suzuki, Sea (Starts) 61 Troy Glaus, Ana (starts) 64 Rafael Furcal, Atl 69 Hideki Matsui, NYY (Starts-methinks the Japanese fans are heavily into online voting too much) 79 Rondell White, SD 84 Marcus Giles, Atl (starts) 103 Paul Lo Duca, LA 118 Ramon Hernandez
You might notice that the fans did a horrendous job, especially in the AL, in picking the starting team. This puts the managers at a distinct disadvantage. However, they perpetuated the screw-up.
The pitching staffs fully illustrate how. Here are the starting pitchers in the top 25 in ERA in the majors who were left off the All-Star teams:
4 Pedro Martinez, Bos (no Pedro, but we get to see Lance Carter? Yippee!) 6 Hideo Nomo, LA 7 Kazuhisa Ishii, LA 8 Miguel Batista, Az 9 Mark Redman, Fla 10 Tim Hudson, Oak (His ERA is ahead of teammates Mulder (#13) and Zito (#14), who both made the team) 16 Mike Mussina, NYY 17 Jae Weong Seo, NYM 18 Gil Meche, Sea 20 Carlos Zambrano, ChiC 22 Joel Pineiro, Sea 23 Kip Wells, Pitt 25 Brett Myers, Phil
However, Roy Halladay (#26 but 12 wins) and Shawn Chacon (#50, but 11 wins and having to pitch at Coors) were included.
The relief pitchers were far worse. They took most of the save leaders (except Ugueth Urbina (tied 3rd) and Rocky Biddle (tied 6th)). But saves tell only part of the story. Mike Williams goes to Chicago even with a 6.29 ERA (I am still shocked!). And Lance Carter goes even though he has a 4.17 ERA and is 22nd in the majors in saves.
And again only the AL acknowledges the contribution of middle relief. They chose two deserving setup men (Donnelly and Hasegawa) to bring their relief corps to 6 men. However, the NL chose 5 relievers, all closers. Worthy Octavio Dotel (1.99 ERA and 56 K in 49.2 IP) was ignored. Meanwhile in the AL, selecting Tampa's Al Levine (1.67 ERA in 43 IP) would have been a superior choice to the embattled Carter.
So what's to be done? Something must give if we are now to take the All-Star game seriously. Either the rosters must expand to cover the fans eccentric choices or the vote must be taken away from the fans. The AL and NL have to use like procedures to pick their staffs, particularly closers. And finally, and most importantly, chuck the "at least one player per each team" rule. If you're a Pittsburgh fan how can you rejoice in being represented by a player who will most likely lose his job before the end of the year?
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