Dan's Dugout: Who Should Start the All-Star Game? • Latino Sports


Dan’s Dugout: Who Should Start the All-Star Game?


In the good old days, All-Star voting meant something.

People who saw baseball every day picked the lineups, had only one vote each, and were not influenced by the premature release of voting results.

But that was then and this is now.

The 2018 All-Star Game will be played July 17 in Washington.

Desperate to raise revenue even at the expense of integrity, Major League Baseball leans heavily on the fan vote to choose the starting lineups of the All-Star Game.

Not only that but it allows fans to vote up to 35 times for the same player and encourages teams to rally votes for local favorites.

Popular players, and familiar names, are often picked while the year’s best performers are ignored.

It’s been that way ever since Commissioner Bowie Kuhn restored the fan vote in 1970 as a way to generate more money for baseball’s coffers.

Corporate sponsorship of things like the All-Star ballot, FanFest, Futures Game, and Home Run Derby generates millions while Babe Ruth, hero of the first All-Star Game, turns over in his grave.

An earlier and wiser commissioner, Ford Frick, stripped the fans of the vote in 1957 after Cincinnati fans elected the entire Reds lineup except for first baseman George Crowe.

Frick vetoed Wally Post and Gus Bell, replacing them with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, and blasted fans for abusing their right to vote. The only non-local elected by Reds fans was future Hall of Famer Stan Musial, nearing the end of his legendary career.

Hank Aaron, added to the 1957 All-Star lineup after Reds fans stuffed the ballot box, had a record 25 All-Star Game selections.

The renewed fan vote has been worse than the previous one.

Davey Lopes started an All-Star Game, albeit in a strike year, with a .169 batting average. Reggie Jackson wasn’t much better at .199. Luis Aparicio and Mike Schmidt were named starters after retiring in spring training. Ozzie Smith, toward the end, made it more for his somersaults than his baseball skills.

Compounding the felony, weekly release of the vote totals influences the election. It’s the equivalent of states releasing hourly vote totals of presidential elections while polls are still open.

But wait! Didn’t something like that happen in 2016? Or is Rob Manfred auditioning for the role on The Apprentice?

For fans who see voting as a right of passage, here’s what the lineups should look like, at least in the opinion of one experienced observer:

National League

1B – Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman, neck-and-neck with Bryce Harper for NL MVP this year, has head-and-shoulders ahead of Joey Votto and slumping Paul Goldschmidt. A fine fielder and feared slugger, he hits more line drives than anyone in the game and helps his team in the field too.

2B – Ozzie Albies, who spent the first two months leading the league in extra-base hits, also has speed and defense in his corner. Because of his average, Scooter Gennett is a close second.

SS – Trea Turner, Washington’s terrific table-setter, steals bases, plays terrific defense, and provides surprising pop. Brandon Crawford and the versatile Javy Baez are in the mix.

Slugger Nolan Arenado is also a whiz at third.
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

3B – Nobody touches Colorado’s Nolan Arenado.

OF – Can’t go wrong with Harper, Charlie Blackmon, and Comeback of the Year candidate Nick Markakis, finally coming alive in the fourth and final year of his Atlanta contract. Matt Kemp, another veteran on the rebound, could also squeeze into the picture.

C – Buster Posey has this one locked up, though Dodger fans like the job Yasmani Grandal has done this season. Yadi Molina is fading but a young Philly named Jorge Alfaro is gaining fast.

American League

1B – Swimming above the surface while his White Sox teammates sink, Jose Abreu deserves to go the July 17 game in Washington.

2B – There’s just no stopping defending American League MVP Jose Altuve, the biggest little guy in baseball. Dee Gordon has been a spark for Seattle since displacing the suspended Robby Cano but he’ll just be a reserve who can pinch-hit, pinch-run, and play several positions.

SS – Andrelton Simmons, always angelic in the field, has found his niche as a hitter this season. He deserves to start his first All-Star Game ahead of Francisco Lindor, the Cleveland star; free-agent-to-be Manny Machado; and Didi Gregorius, whose roller-coaster season keeps Yankee fans wondering.

Andrelton Simmons could reach Cooperstown on his defense alone

3B – Jose Ramirez, overlooked in the MVP voting last year, is proving writers made a mistake. The up-and-coming Alex Bregman vies with future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre as his backup.

OF – Want power? How about an outfield of Aaron Judge in right, Mike Trout in center, and Giancarlo Stanton in left? But where would that leave Boston bomber Mookie Betts, who’s had a pair of three-homer games this year while leading the league in batting and runs scored? Also to be considered is 2017 World Series MVP George Springer.

DH – Though it’s long past time to dump the DH, it is used in the All-Star Game to generate more interest. In the American League, where it actually exists, J.D. Martinez of the Boston Red Sox is the obvious choice but Edwin Encarnacion has been a godsend to the Cleveland Indians.

C – Gary Sanchez may never win a Gold Glove but his power will place him in the All-Star lineup for the American League. He also doesn’t have much competition at his position.

If you do vote, do yourself a favor: don’t waste time voting 35 times for the same player. One person, one vote — a concept that used to mean something in the United States of America.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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