Monday, July 5, 2010

No wonder the AL always wins

It's that time of year again: the time where the public proves once and for all they are a bunch of morons, although with a little twist this go around. Having fans vote for the starters for the MLB all-star game has to rank up there with grading your own tests in school. Oh, everyone gave themselves A's again? The odd thing is, the teams seem to encourage stupidity. Each club runs advertisements and things in the ballpark and online pressing fans to vote for their players. The Washington Nationals had ads encouraging fans to vote 25 times online for Cristian Guzman and Roger Bernadina. That's not a joke. Fortunately for all of us, their campaign failed. But every team does the same thing. And it really seems like they shouldn't. Yeah I get that the Yankees want Nick Swisher to make the team. That would be neat for him. But, if they're trying to secure home field advantage for the american league in the World Series, wouldn't you rather have Kevin Youkilis on the roster? I mean bias should only go so far.

The juxtaposition of the game itself exists because the offices of the commissioner want the game to count for something but want it to be for the fans too. The problem is, you can't have both. Either it counts and people in the know vote for all players involved or it doesn't and the fans put in whomever they want to see. Either it counts and the manager for the game plays to win or it doesn't and they try to get every guy at least an inning or at-bat. Either it counts and we play with normal baseball rules or it doesn't and you can bring players back in after being removed in case of injury or unforeseen circumstances.

I realize this same argument is made every single year. The end battle is always between whether the fans should vote for the starters or not. The odd thing is, this year, it seems the fans were smarter than the players. The public votes for all position starters, then the players vote for most of the pitchers and benches. Lastly, each manager adds in a few guys to fill out the roster followed by the fans voting in the last player for each side. It's a screwy system that doesn't seem to work very well. Usually it is because fans vote for players they like/root for, whether they are having good seasons or not. Mark Teixeira was in the running to start at first base for the AL up until a day or so before voting ended. Luckily, he did not get rewarded for having the worst half a season of his career. Actually take a look at the entire american league starting lineup. There isn't a mistake in the bunch. Sure, I would have voted for Miguel Cabrera over Justin Morneau, but they were both making the team anyway. I might not have started Ichiro in the outfield, but it is not a grievous error by any means.

I can't tell what the reason was the AL roster was littered with so few mistakes. Even counting the benches and pitchers, I would have gotten Youkilis and Alex Rios on there somewhere, but neither necessarily deserved it over someone else. Jered Weaver should have made it simply because the game is in his home city. He's having a great year and that should have put him over the top. But, for the most part, the AL is a pretty solid roster. Perhaps this is because the public is getting smarter. Fans are very knowledgeable nowadays; they can find any stats and numbers they want online while voting. They don't necessarily go to more games, yet they see more games on tv, with highlights online and on Sportscenter. There are no hidden players anymore. Everyone is aware of the year Josh Hamilton is having even if they haven't seen a Rangers game yet this season.

Or, perhaps this was a coincidence of sorts. Perhaps this was a random occurrence of seemingly intelligent fans. Usually fans are biased and annoying and do not make decisions with much thought. Perhaps, at least in the AL, all the decisions were made for them this season. There was only one choice to start at catcher. There were only two choices to start at 1B and both were going to make the team regardless. There was only one choice for 2B and SS. Third was really only down to two players as well. Besides the crowded outfield, there was really no where for the public to mess up.

Now I thought the same thing about the national league when I was entering my votes last week, yet for some reason, the NL is dumber. I guess this is why they always lose the all-star game. And it's not just their fans. Their players are dumber as well. I guess adding to these lack of decisions, lack of position players having a good year, is all the pitchers having tremendous years. So we can live with some pitchers being left out in the cold. But really NL, what are you doing? At catcher there was really no one deserving yet it came down to two guys. Brian McCann or Miguel Olivo were the only two guys having any resemblance of a good season. The fans picked neither one. First base is a given. 2B actually only came down to one player. There was no one else having close to the season of Martin Prado. The fans didn't pick him either. In the outfield, there is always a cluster of players to choose from. Really the only thing the fans could have done wrong was vote in an undeserving player because of name recognition, like Jason Heyward. Well they did exactly that. Jason's .250 average and injury are on their way to Los Angeles.

However, it could be argued the national league fans are off the hook because of how poorly the players and manager chose the rest of the roster. Why is Jose Reyes on the team over Rafael Furcal? Why is Matt Capps on the team over Billy Wagner? Why is Omar Infante on the team at all? The biggest mistake of course is leaving off Joey Votto. When filling out my rosters in June I actually put Votto in the starting lineup over Albert Pujols but figured it didn't really matter since both were shoe-ins. Here is the Votto summary from a Jayson Stark article up on ESPN which seems to agree with me: "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?" My thoughts exactly.

The funny thing is, Votto was probably booted by Adrian Gonzalez because 1B is too deep in the NL. Okay, Ryan Howard made it. I wouldn't have had him, but if you include Howard, that means Gonzalez gets chosen over Votto because the Padres have no other representatives. The team in first place in the league has only one representative. Of course if Padres pitcher Mat Latos got added instead of Chris Carpenter or Tim Lincecum, like he should have been, then they wouldn't have been forced to choose Gonzalez over Votto. It actually seems like the players may have become less informed than the fans. They just chose these guys by their name; it's like the voting for the Gold Glove award. 'I haven't played the Padres yet this season. I've heard they lead the league in ERA yet I haven't faced Mat Latos yet. I better just give the nod to one of these big names having an off year instead.'

Of course the game itself is kind of random. Even though the national league didn't add all their players having the best seasons, there's no way to say that Yadier Molina won't have a big hit in the game. Well actually, I will say that. Yadier Molina won't do a thing to help this team win. He's the worst hitter to ever make an all-star team. He is batting under .230. No joke.

But the NL could win. It is not out of the question. They have tons of good players. Look at that ridiculous pitching staff. However if the AL does win again, for the 14th straight year, maybe it isn't coincidence. Maybe it is explained as simply as they are smarter than their non-DH using counterparts.

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