With the first month of the 2014 season now in the books, we’ve had a big enough sample size to evaluate which players could have a shot at playing in the annual All-Star game at Target Field in Minnesota on July 15. The interesting part of the balloting, which is already underway, is whether or not PED suspensions handed down by MLB to more than a dozen players last year will affect how fans cast votes for said players.
While PED poster boy Alex Rodriguez headlined last year’s suspensions, there are a lot of players who were also suspended 50 games or more for use, some of which are having seasons that are on track to garner votes on this tears MLB All-Star ballot.
While browsing MLB.com yesterday I noticed the icon for voting already in full swing, so like any other fan of the game, I took a gander to compile my early season thoughts on the matter. I had a few guys in mind for certain positions in each league, but it’s always worth crunching a few numbers to make sure you’re making a legitimate choice as opposed to the voting being a popularity contest. For example, I’ve been an Atlanta Braves fan all my life, and I love Freddie Freeman’s game, but I voted for Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers, because statistically he’s having the better season.
Another thing I always try to do is keep my emotions and personal feelings out of it, and vote for the best player. For instance, I hate the Philadelphia Phillies, and have never really cared for Chase Utley. However, he got my vote for NL second baseman because he’s tearing it up so far this season, and it wasn’t really that close.
Honestly, my biggest dilemmas centered around two players who were suspended last year (Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz), and one guy (Melky Cabrera), who was suspended in 2012. These three players collectively got me to thinking about one simple question…do I want to vote for these players after they were suspended for cheating the game I love? No. After a few minutes I came to the conclusion that I would rather cast my All-Star vote for guys who seem at least at the current time to be doing things the “right way.”
What bother’s me the most, is that fact that all three players are having tremendous starts to their respective 2014 campaigns, and that they created such a question in the first place. My philosophy on life has always been to do your best…work hard and earn things…don’t take shortcuts. Personally, I just felt like I couldn’t reward these guys so soon after being punished for cheating.
It’s a shame too, because based on the numbers, they all three probably should be there. However, based on all the other unfortunate junk that often overshadows the game, I went with guys I felt deserved the nods this year.
With his 6HRs, 18RBIs, and his .318/.361/.591 slash line, Braun would have easily been in my starting outfield if not for getting busted last year, one year after he made a spectacle of himself and the process. Instead, I gave my vote to San Francisco’s Michael Morse to go alongside Justin Upton of Atlanta and Charlie Blackmon of Colorado.
Cabrera is having a hell of a year north of the border, and just set the Blue Jays franchise record for hits in the month of April. As if his one miserable year in Atlanta wasn’t enough to make me shake my head at the guy, him being busted for 50 games late in 2012 after being named All-Star game MVP really creates even more of a compelling argument for leaving him off this year’s team. The karma in his 2012 case was the fact that his teammates went on to win the World Series without him. Nevertheless, Cabrera was able to parlay his work with the Giants into a lucrative deal with the Jays, so more power to him. With his 5 HRs, 11RBIs, a .342/.368/.567 slash line and 41 hits in his first 27 games, Cabrera’s numbers right away jump out as those worthy of a trip the mid-summer classic, but I instead gave his spot to Detroit’s Torii Hunter alongside Toronto’s Jose Bautista and L.A.’s Mike Trout.
Although he was a late sign by Baltimore, Cruz has fit in nicely and is mashing for the O’s so far this season. With this year’s game taking place in an American League city, the ballot allows for a DH vote, and given the numbers Cruz almost certainly would have garnered my initial vote with his 7 dingers, 25 RBIs and .289/.373./.557 slash line. In light of the circumstance though, I decided to give the nod to Detroit’s Victor Martinez.
There’s no right or wrong answer really, it’s just each fan’s preference. If you’re able to look past the PED stuff and chalk it up to the era we’re in right now where guys will do what they have to do put up enough numbers to get paid, then cool. I’m just a little more old-fashioned I guess. I’d rather not reward the guys with bonuses, and the chance to play with the best in the game if they had to cheat to get there.
It’ll be interesting to see how the voting shakes out as the season progresses, and whether or not fans care about the mistakes these players have made in seasons past.
National League ballot:
Catcher: Yadier Molina (STL), 1st Base: Adrian Gonzalez (LAD), 2nd Base: Chase Utley (PHI), Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki (COL), 3rd Base: Nolan Arenado (COL), OF: Justin Upton (ATL), Michael Morse (SF), and Charlie Blackmon (COL).
American League ballot:
Catcher: Matt Wieters (BAL), 1st Base: Jose Abreu (CWS), 2nd Base: Ben Zobrist (TB), Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez (CWS), 3rd Base: Josh Donaldson (OAK), OF: Jose Bautista (TOR), Torii Hunter (DET), Mike Trout (LAA), and Designated Hitter: Victor Martinez (DET).