On Sunday, National League and American League All-Star rosters will be announced to much fanfare and consternation. The eve of this fine occasion of course presents me with the opportunity to declare, in authoritative, Judge Lance Ito-fashion, who ought to be on these rosters. And that's just what I'm going to do, after a bit of necessary throat-clearing.
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My personal All-Star criteria? Certainly, performance to date is weighted, but I also keep in mind that, at the present juncture, we're not even three months into the season. Thus, our 2012 sample sizes are still small. That means established track record matters. If it's a close or even semi-close call in terms of in-season performance, I'll side with with the player who's proved it in the past. That is, I'll typically choose the star, being that this the All-Star Game.
As for injuries, if an otherwise deserving player in question is definitely out for the Midsummer Classic (e.g., CC Sabathia, Brandon McCarthy, Matt Joyce, Colby Lewis; Ryan Dempster, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria, etc.), then his name will not appear on these rosters. If, however, he's presently injured but not yet a scratch for the All-Star Game (e.g., Matt Kemp), then he's eligible for inclusion.
It must also be noted that, in accordance with the rules, I'm selecting rosters of 34 and giving each team at least one representative. I'm also giving each squad a 13-man pitching staff.
So, if granted plenary powers over all that I survey, these would be my AL and NL All-Star rosters …
C - Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Backup(s) - Carlos Ruiz, Phillies; Buster Posey, Giants
Ruiz is having the best offensive season of any catcher in baseball, but Molina takes the starting nod because of his superiority on defense and his status as an established star.
1B - Joey Votto, Reds
Backup(s) - Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
This was the easiest decision of the bunch. There's no arguing against Votto as the starting first baseman for the NL.
2B - Brandon Phillips, Reds
Backup(s) - Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
This was an exceptionally tough call, as no NL second baseman has truly distinguished himself from the rest. Phillips gets the nod for his power-speed-defense combo and track record. Leaving Jose Altuve off the team was one of the most difficult decisions of all.
SS - Jed Lowrie, Astros
Backup(s) - Ian Desmond, Nationals; Starlin Castro, Cubs
Like second base, there's no standout candidate at short who combines genuine excellence in 2012 with genuine excellence in previous seasons. So it falls to Lowrie, who's easily been the most productive NL shortstop in 2012.
3B - David Wright, Mets
Backup(s) - Chase Headley, Padres
There's no sensible case against Wright. As for Headley, he's having a strong offensive season, particularly in "Petco" context, and his defense is top-shelf. Plus, I needed a Padre.
OF - Carlos Beltran, Cardinals
OF - Matt Kemp, Dodgers
OF - Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
Backup(s) - Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins; Melky Cabrera, Giants; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Matt Holliday, Cardinals
At this point, it's not certain that Kemp will be cleared to play in Kansas City, but for now his star power in tandem with his excellence when healthy gets him the nod. Beltran is a potential future hall-of-famer enjoying a tremendous season, and McCutchen is in the midst of making the leap from "very good" to "truly great." Harper makes it as a reserve for three reasons: he's having a fine year, he's already a star, and fans want to see him.
DH - Ryan Braun, Brewers
Braun remains one of the best power hitters in the game today. Easy call.
Starting pitcher - R.A. Dickey, Mets
Dickey has probably been the top starter in all of baseball this season, and, needless to say, he's a compelling figure.
RHP - Matt Cain, Giants
LHP - Aroldis Chapman, Reds
RHP - Johnny Cueto, Reds
LHP - Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
RHP - Zack Greinke, Brewers
LHP - Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
RHP - Craig Kimbrel, Braves
RHP - James McDonald, Pirates
LHP - Wade Miley, Diamondbacks
LHP - Johan Santana, Mets
RHP - Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RHP - Ryan Vogelsong, Giants
A number of these are obvious, indisputable choices. Less obvious is Santana's inclusion, but he makes the cut for past stardom combined with an impressive 2012 renaissance.
Snubbed with regrets - 2B Jose Altuve, Astros; OF Michael Bourn, Braves; LHP Madison Bumgarner, Giants; LHP Chris Capuano, Dodgers; OF Dexter Fowler, Rockies; LHP Cole Hamels, Phillies; RHP Joel Hanrahan, Pirates; OF Jason Heyward, Braves; OF Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks; RHP Kyle Lohse, Cardinals; RHP Lance Lynn, Cardinals.
C - Joe Mauer, Twins
Backup(s) - A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox; Matt Wieters, Orioles
Mauer has caught just 286.0 innings this season, but his slash line of .324/.415/.439 and longstanding excellence is enough to earn him the start.
1B - Paul Konerko, White Sox
Backup(s) - Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays; Albert Pujols, Angels
Konerko's .976 OPS and 410 career bombs are enough to make him the easy call to start at first for the AL. Pujols? Yes, the overall numbers are dragged down by his miserable start to the season, but he's been hitting like a house afire this month. Throw in his status as one of the biggest stars in sport, and he's a worthy addition.
2B - Robinson Cano, Yankees
Backup(s) - Jason Kipnis, Indians
Cano is a certifiable AL MVP candidate and easily the top candidate at the keystone.
SS - Elvis Andrus, Rangers
Backup(s) - Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
Gold Glove-caliber fielding plus OBP chops plus emerging stardom equal a nod for Andrus. Cabrera, meanwhile, may be the most underrated player in baseball.
3B - Adrian Beltre, Rangers
Backup(s) - Miguel Cabrera, Tigers; Mike Moustakas, Royals
Beltre's power and legendary defensive skills win out.
OF - Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
OF - Josh Hamilton, Rangers
OF - Mike Trout, Angels
Backup(s) - Austin Jackson, Tigers; Adam Jones, Orioles; Josh Reddick, A's; Mark Trumbo, Angels
Hamilton is a superstar, Bautista is an established masher who leads the majors in home runs, and Trout is a 20-year-old force of nature.
DH - David Ortiz, Red Sox
Ortiz has come to personify this "position," and in 2012 he's enjoying one of his finest campaigns (.307/.396/.621). Another easy choice.
Starting pitcher - Justin Verlander, Tigers
You can make a case for others, but Verlander is at the forefront of the discussion. Is there any other AL hurler you'd rather watch ply his trade? The reigning MVP gets the benefit of the doubt.
RHP - Jonathan Broxton, Royals
RHP - Ernesto Frieri, Angels
LHP - Matt Harrison, Rangers
RHP - Felix Hernandez, Mariners
RHP - Jim Johnson, Orioles
RHP - Joe Nathan, Rangers
RHP - Jake Peavy, White Sox
LHP - David Price, Rays
RHP - Fernando Rodney, Rays
LHP - Chris Sale, White Sox
RHP - Jered Weaver, Angels
LHP - C.J. Wilson, Angels
The AL has more worthy relievers/fewer worthy starters than you'll find in the NL. Broxton is perhaps a fringe choice, but his addition is in part a nod to the hometown fans in KC. Still, his 2.05 ERA is certainly All-Star-worthy.
Snubbed with regrets - DH Billy Butler, Royals; OF Shin-Soo Choo, Indians; RHP Yu Darvish, Rangers; SS Alcides Escobar, Royals; OF Curtis Granderson, Yankees; RHP Jason Hammel, Orioles; SS Derek Jeter, Yankees; RHP Hiroki Kuroda, Yankees; RHP Chris Perez, Indians; C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox; OF Josh Willingham, Twins; OF/2B Ben Zobrist, Rays
And there you are. So what say you, readers?