Puig a Final Vote candidate, Longoria snubbed as NL outshines AL on All-Star selection day
For all of the concern about how the National League All-Star roster was going to pan out, from a problematic fan vote, to the Yasiel Puig debate, the roster announced Saturday evening, a collaboration between the fans, players, and NL manager Bruce Bochy, is surprisingly satisfying and lacking in significant snubs. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the AL roster.
As hoped, Bryce Harper surpassed Justin Upton in the fan voting for the final NL outfield spot between the last update we received Tuesday and the end of voting at midnight Thursday. Meanwhile, Puig has been included on the Final Vote ballot for the 34th roster spot, allowing fans to put him on the roster. That was expected. What wasn’t expected was the NL players and Bochy doing such a good job filling out the remainder of the NL roster. There really is no other player on that final ballot who demands inclusion over Puig.
On Friday, I attempted to flesh out the NL roster in this space, assuming Harper would pass Upton and being sure to properly construct the roster and represent every team. Much to my surprise and delight, the final NL roster doesn’t differ tremendously from the one I assembled.
Most surprisingly, the actual NL roster includes just three relievers, as mine did. Two of those relievers differ from mine, but Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman are acceptable alternatives to Edward Mujica and Mark Melancon, particularly if you favor star power over first-half performance. Limiting the roster to three relievers means more room for far more valuable starting pitchers, who are well represented here, even with the surprising inclusion of Madison Bumgarner, a pitcher who wasn’t even on my All-Star radar.
In fact, the only NL picks that are at all problematic to me are Giants Bumgarner and Marco Scutaro. We don’t know yet if those were Bochy’s picks (the NL manager only gets nine picks, many of which are usually needed to make sure each team is represented), but even if they were, one of the privileges of being the All-Star manager is getting to take one too many of your own men. Either way, Bumgarner and Scutaro are far from awful choices, even if I’d rather see two of Ian Desmond, Russell Martin, Gerardo Parra, or Jorge De La Rosa in their place. Desmond is included in the Final Vote, as is Freddie Freeman, who was my lone Braves representative in place of Kimbrel. I’m still voting for Puig.
The NL’s strength is the source of the AL’s shortcomings. The AL has too many pitchers (15 to the NL’s 13) and too many of those men are relievers (six to the NL’s three). That means less room for both starting pitchers and position players and thus problematic snubs, a situation made worse by poor choices elsewhere.
Correction: Two of the AL’s pitchers are injury replacements for Clay Buchholz and Jesse Crain, so the two squads both have 13 pitchers, but the AL still has five relievers to the NL’s three.
The most egregious error is the selection of Ben Zobrist, instead of Evan Longoria, as the Rays’ lone representative despite Zobrist being the fourth second baseman (or seventh outfielder) on the AL roster. Longoria and Josh Donaldson, who is also missing from the AL roster, are both among the top eight position players in the league according to Baseball-Reference’s wins above replacement. Yet somehow, the AL roster wound up with five relievers none of whom is his team’s lone representative, and neither Longoria nor Donaldson. Apparently the AL just couldn’t do without Brett Cecil and Glen Perkins.
Nor without the winner of the Final Vote ballot, which is comprised entirely of set-up men (the winner will be that fifth AL reliever). That ballot shows contempt for the system, which wasn’t in place the last time AL manager Jim Leyland was an All-Star skipper in 2007. That ballot should contain the names of the most deserving players who, for whatever reason, were either snubbed or just didn’t fit. Players like Longoria, Donaldson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Beltre, Carlos Santana, Howie Kendrick, even James Loney. Not one of those players is on the ballot. Instead we get more relievers, including Joaquin Benoit, who would be the seventh Tiger on the roster if voted in by the fans.
With regard to those Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer and Jhonny Peralta all deserve to be All-Stars, and I suppose it’s hard to argue Prince Fielder or Justin Verlander shouldn’t be, but neither of those last two is performing up to his established standard this season. Torii Hunter is a questionable choice as well. Again, we don’t know how many of those, save for Cabrera, who was rightly voted in by the fans, were Leyland’s picks (he only gets eight), but we do know he was involved in picking the candidates for the Final Vote.