By Phil Rogers – Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO – Weighing performance ahead of popularity, fans did a good job at the polls this season.
Sure, they showed a soft spot for Derek Jeter, but across the board they did at least as good a job selecting players for the July 12 All-Star Game as did the players and managers, maybe better.
In the final round of balloting, fans took down four non-deserving vote leaders to elect the right guys. They rallied enough support to get Prince Fielder elected ahead of Albert Pujols as the National League first baseman, Jose Reyes ahead of Troy Tulowitzki as the NL shortstop, Matt Kemp ahead of Matt Holliday in the NL outfield and Alex Avila ahead of Russell Martin as the American League catcher.
That’s right, the Alex Aliva. The Detroit catcher has been the best in the AL this season, hitting .299 with 10 homers, and fans recognized that.
Jeter, the guy everybody loves (except the most analytical Yankees fans), was the only ceremonial choice among the elected starters, which included UIC product Curtis Granderson. This should have made the job of filling out the 34-man rosters easier, but still there were plenty of dubious choices.
The worst omission was probably White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who wasn’t given a discretionary spot after outfielder Carlos Quentin was elected by the players. The Cubs, one of nine teams that didn’t have a player elected by fans or players, will be represented by shortstop Starlin Castro, who at 21 becomes their youngest All-Star ever.
Among the other notable omissions were Tigers everywhere man Victor Martinez (who splits his time among DH, catcher and first base) and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. CC Sabathia, the Yankees’ 11-game winner, belongs ahead of Felix Hernandez or C.J. Wilson, but the two tightest squeezes were for AL starting pitchers and NL relievers.
The Yankees, who have baseball’s best record, also have the most All-Stars. Granderson is one of six overall and one of four elected starters, joining Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez and Jeter. Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista was the leading vote-getter overall, setting a record with 7,454,753 of the 32.5 million ballots cast. That topped a record held by Ken Griffey Jr. since 1994.
“I can’t even describe how good that feels,” Bautista said. “It has been a fun year so far, and it’s going to be another honor to represent the team and two countries – the Dominican (Republic) and Canada.”
Sixty-six of 68 spots were filled Sunday, with the last two to be determined by online voting this week. Konerko is among the five AL 34th Man candidates, along with Martinez, Alex Gordon, Adam Jones and Ben Zobrist. The NL’s 34th Man options are Shane Victorino, Todd Helton, Andre Ethier, Ian Kennedy and Michael Morse.
Ichiro Suzuki’s 10-year run of All-Star appearances ended.
As many as five pitchers are expected to be replaced on rosters this week, as they’re scheduled to start next Sunday. That makes them ineligible to pitch in the game, although they are still honored as All-Stars. That list includes the Tigers’ Justin Verlander, who would probably have been the AL’s starting pitcher, the Phillies’ Cole Hamels, the Rays’ James Shields, the Giants’ Matt Cain and the Mariners’ Hernandez.
As far as managers stacking rosters with their own players, the Giants’ Bruce Bochy provided more preferential treatment than the Rangers’ Ron Washington.
Washington added Wilson with a discretionary pick, but the other three Rangers – outfielder Josh Hamilton, third baseman Adrian Beltre and designated hitter Michael Young – were elected to the team.
“It made me feel good to tell every one of our guys that they’re an All-Star, but especially C.J.,” Washington said. “I don’t think there’s a guy out there who works as diligently and is more into his craft and trying to be the best that he can possibly be than C.J.”
Bochy named three-fifths of his starting rotation to the team – Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Cain – while passing up deserving starters elsewhere. Lincecum and Cain deserved to go, but was Vogelsong really as deserving as the Braves’ Tommy Hanson, the Rockies’ Jhoulys Chacin or the Diamondbacks’ Kennedy?