- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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We now live in a world in which 68 MLB players a year get to call themselves "All-Stars." But clearly, that's still not enough to get this thing right.
Maybe we need to go to 88. Or 168.
How can we have a National League All-Star team that doesn't include the player who leads the whole darned league in OPS (Joey Votto)?
That's just wrong. But those are the teams we were presented with Sunday, teams selected by fans, players and the All-Star managers. And while we all know some of these injustices may be righted by the 34th-man vote, injury replacements or possibly divine intervention, it's still frustrating to look at these rosters and have so little trouble picking them apart.
So where did this year's selections veer off the track? Here's a look at this often-inexplicable All-Star hodgepodge:
What They Got Right (Part 1)
Might as well start with the positive. I'd like to thank Charlie Manuel, Bud Selig and anyone else responsible for the decision to leave Stephen Strasburg off this team. We've never had a player make an All-Star team who didn't show up in the big leagues until June. And there's no justification for this guy to be the first, unless we change the rules to include a special rookie/rising-star spot.
It would be an affront to Chris Carpenter and Tim Hudson -- the only two starting pitchers on this roster who could have been supplanted by Strasburg (because they weren't voted in by the players). Not to mention an affront to Mat Latos, Jaime Garcia, Mike Pelfrey and all the other starters out there who deserved this spot more than The Phenom. Yeah, it's fun watching the guy. But the season started in April, not the day he arrived.
What They Got Right (Part 2)
I don't know that I'd argue with a single pick for the AL lineup. Not for more than 12 seconds, anyway. I thought Vernon Wells deserved a spot more than Ichiro. But that's just nitpicking. It's not exactly a disgrace to have a career .333 hitter start the All-Star Game.
What They Got Right (Part 3)
If this is actually going to be played -- and managed -- like a game that "counts," I'm glad these managers found a place for three setup relievers having tremendous years -- Arthur Rhodes (1.09 ERA, 0.91 WHIP), Matt Thornton (23 hits, 47 whiffs in 33 2/3 innings) and Evan Meek (0.98 ERA, 0.87 WHIP).
I'd rather have seen Andrew McCutchen as the only Pirate on this team instead of Meek. But any process that selects relievers based on stats other than saves is cool with me.
OK, that's three entire paragraphs worth of positivity. But I regret to announce that's going to be about it. Time to move along to the What Went Wrong part of our program. And there's a lot to get to. So here goes:
Two Biggest Fan "Mistakes"
Hey, Yadier Molina is a stupendous defensive catcher. And Jason Heyward is going to be a megastar. But they should not have been elected to start this game. (Heyward, of course, won't even play in it now, thanks to injury. But this is a voting discussion.)
Brian McCann ought to be starting over Molina, whose .231 batting average would be the lowest by any All-Star starter since Cal Ripken Jr. (.229) in 1993, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And while I understand the Heyward vote surge, thanks to his tremendous first six weeks, what does it tell us that in voting by a bunch of us ESPN baseball geniuses he didn't get a single vote? Colby Rasmus, Corey Hart, Jayson Werth or Josh Willingham all would have been much more deserving choices. And three of them (Rasmus, Werth and Willingham) didn't even make this team.
Two Biggest Player "Mistakes"
I'm glad the players are now involved in this process. But that doesn't mean I have to agree with all the guys they voted in.
Other than save totals, what's the justification for Matt Capps (44 hits in 36 2/3 IP) getting more votes than any NL reliever, while Billy Wagner (19 hits, 52 K in 33 1/3 IP) didn't even make the top three? And while Jose Reyes -- the player choice to replace the injured Troy Tulowitzki -- has been a huge force in reviving the Mets, Reyes (.277 AVG/.321 OBP/.419 SLG) hasn't had a better year than Rafael Furcal (.338/.384/.500, 41 runs scored in 50 games).
Biggest Manager "Mistake"
If the game is going to "count," a manager needs a guy with a little versatility. I get that. And I know that's why Omar Infante is on this team. But yikes. How can Joey Votto not be heading for Anaheim, while a guy with a mere 156 at-bats, fewer homers (one) than Yovani Gallardo and fewer extra-base hits (nine) than Wilson Valdez makes the cut? Memo to MLB: It's the All-Star Game! It's for the best players in baseball, not for guys who have started 42 games all year.
12 Grievous Roster Omissions
I could make a lot longer list than 12 guys whose absence from these teams is practically criminal. But here goes:
1. Joey Votto: Have I mentioned yet this was a disgrace? Votto leads the league in OPS. He's second in on-base percentage and slugging. He's in the top five in all three Triple Crown categories. He's arguably the MVP in the whole league. How can he not be on this team?
2. Jered Weaver: Leads the league in strikeouts and strikeout ratio. Tied for the lead in quality starts. Fourth in WHIP. Seventh in ERA. The game is being played in his home park. How'd they leave him off? I don't get it.
3. Billy Wagner: By just about any metric you want to use, he's been the best closer in the National League. Leads all NL closers in WHIP and opponent OPS. He's been scored on in just four appearances all year. The league is hitting .165 against him. It's his last season. It's a debacle he isn't on this team.
4. Felix Hernandez: Third in the league in strikeouts. Tied for the lead in quality starts. Leads the league in innings pitched. Fifth in opponent OPS. Just shut out the Yankees in Yankee Stadium -- the seventh time in his past eight starts he's allowed two runs or fewer. And ohbytheway, he leads CC Sabathia in every major category except wins. Just sayin'.
5. Mat Latos: Shouldn't there be one Padres pitcher on this team somewhere? And the sensational Latos ought to be the one. He is, after all, the answer to this fabulous trivia question: Name the only starter in baseball who is holding all opposing hitters below the Mendoza Line (.193).
6. Brennan Boesch: How can a guy with a .342 average, .603 slugging percentage and .991 OPS not be on this roster? He'd be second in the league in hitting, fourth in slugging and fourth in OPS if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Basically, he's having the year people expected Jason Heyward to have -- except he's not named Jason Heyward.
7. Colby Rasmus: When ESPN.com asked us to fill out our All-Star ballots, Rasmus was the first NL outfield name I wrote down. Seventh in the league in slugging. Eighth in homers. Just slipped out of the top 10 in average. Leads his team in steals. Getting better every day.
8. Kevin Youkilis: While everybody around him in his lineup has crumbled like ancient Rome, Youkilis has stepped up to be what he has always been -- an on-base, run-producing machine. Leads the league in runs. Third in OBP. Fourth in slugging and OPS. Plays the heck out of first base. There's no justifiable reason that, aside from Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz -- elected by the players to a position this team doesn't need (backup DH) -- is the only healthy Red Sox position player on this roster, instead of this guy. Is there?
9. Josh Willingham: What's a National have to do to make this team, anyway? Third in the league in on-base percentage. Second only to Albert Pujols in walks. Tenth in most times reaching base. Has launched 15 homers. And he wasn't even the one National who made the 34th-man ballot. (The almost equally deserving Ryan Zimmerman did.)
10. Miguel Olivo: Once upon a time, the managers always used to take three catchers to this game. For some reason, neither manager did this year. And Olivo paid the price. Leads all NL catchers in average, slugging, OPS and homers. And he's thrown out 20 of 39 base stealers. But the fans elected Molina, and the players elected McCann. So that's that.
11. Jaime Garcia: For all the Strasburg hysteria, Jaime Garcia has been the best rookie pitcher in the National League. Has a lower ERA (2.10) than Ubaldo Jimenez. Has allowed two runs or fewer in 11 of his 16 starts. Deserves to be there.
12. Paul Konerko: Second in the league in homers and home run ratio. Fifth in RBIs. Eighth in slugging. More importantly, he's done it all year in the midst of an underachieving lineup in which most everybody else apparently set their alarm clock for June.
Other Guys With A Great Case (NL)
Heath Bell, Carlos Marmol, Mike Pelfrey, Matt Cain, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, Jayson Werth, Carlos Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, Rafael Furcal, Andrew McCutchen, Troy Glaus, Aubrey Huff, Prince Fielder, Kelly Johnson, Rickie Weeks, Dan Uggla, Adam Dunn.
Other Guys With A Great Case (AL)
Colby Lewis, Jeff Niemann, Justin Verlander, Rafael Soriano, Carl Pavano, Ricky Romero, Andy Pettitte, Andrew Bailey, Billy Butler, David DeJesus, Orlando Hudson, Alex Rios, Magglio Ordonez, Michael Young.
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.
No Joey Votto? No Jered Weaver? Jayson Stark examines where this year's All-Star Game selections veered off the tracks.