With just under a month remaining in the All-Star voting, Major League Baseball released a list of the top five vote totals at each position (top 15 in the outfield) in the American League on Saturday and the National League on Sunday, and it looks like the fans have a lot of work to do to make this year's NL starting lineup properly representative of the league's top performers.
One thing the update revealed is that the Giants, Cardinals, Braves, Rangers and Orioles have been very successful at getting out the vote. San Francisco has a player in the top three in the voting at all four infield positions and catcher, and all three of its outfielders are in the top 11. St. Louis has a player in the top four at all four infield positions and catcher, and all three of its outfielders are in the top 14. Atlanta has a player in the top five at catcher and every infield position except second base (where the list released only includes four names), and both Upton brothers are in the top 13 in the outfield. Texas has a player in the top five at every infield position, catcher and designated hitter, and Nelson Cruz is sixth in the outfield voting. Baltimore has a player in the top two at catcher and every infield position but second base, and all three of its outfielders are in the top seven.
I personally loathe the get-out-the-vote campaigns around baseball, as they make All-Star voting about homerism rather than about actually selecting the best players in the league. As a result, Pablo Sandoval has a six-digit lead over the far more deserving David Wright at third base, and Carlos Beltran is one of the top three vote-getters in the outfield, while Carlos Gonzalez and Carlos Gomez linger at seventh and 12th, respectively.
Another aspect of the All-Star voting that drives me crazy is how early it starts. The All-Star voting begins in late April, which is surely part of the reason that Justin Upton, who led the majors in home runs that month but has hit .208/.329/.296 with two home runs since the start of May, leads all NL outfielders in votes. One side effect of starting the voting that early is that teams have to submit their starting lineups before the season starts, leading to a ballot that doesn't even properly reflect the list of candidates. For example, you can't find the Diamondbacks' Gerrardo Parra, who is third in the NL in wins above replacement, on the ballot, but you can vote for ex-Astro Rick Ankiel, who was just designated for assignment by the Mets, to represent the AL. Personally, I wouldn't start the voting until June. Given the ease of on-line voting, there's no reason to have fans punching out ballots at the ballpark when the season is just three weeks old.
As for the vote totals released over the weekend, here's a quick guide to where the work needs to be done to make this year's All-Star game actually reflect what we've seen thus far in 2013.
Generally speaking, American League fans have done a far better job than their NL counterparts. Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer and David Ortiz are obvious choices, and the fans have done well to recognize Chris Davis at first base. I'd like to see Dustin Pedroia and Jhonny Peralta a bit closer to leaders Robinson Cano and J.J. Hardy at second base and shortstop respectively, but I have no complaints about Cano or Hardy leading their positions. The AL outfield is a tougher nut to crack. Adam Jones and Mike Trout currently have a big lead on the rest of the field, with Torii Hunter squeaking into the final spot ahead of Nick Markakis. Trout clearly belongs, and Jones is as good a choice as a handful of others, but Jose Bautista, who is currently fifth, should probably have that final spot. The good news is that he's close enough in the voting that he very well could get there.
The National League is far more problematic. Troy Tulowitzki is an obvious choice at shortstop, and Joey Votto is a deserving pick at first base, even if Paul Goldschmidt, who only just slipped past Brandon Belt into second place, should be making that race much closer. Yadier Molina and Buster Posey are battling it out at catcher, and while Molina is having the better season, Posey is the defending NL MVP and having another strong season. The rest of the field is a mess, however.
The Giants' get-out-the-vote campaign is the source of much of my ire here. Molina should be closer to Posey, whom he trails by nearly 300,000 votes. Belt shouldn't have warranted mention in that previous paragraph. Sandoval should not be leading Wright by 200,000 votes (heck, he shouldn't even be trailing him by 200,000 votes), and not that it matters with Tulowitzki the clear starter at the position, but Brandon Crawford should not be ahead of Jean Segura in the shortstop voting.
Yet, despite all of that, in the one place where the Giants' ballot-box-stuffing might have come in handy, second base, they've fallen sort. The two best second basemen in the NL this season have been the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter and the Giants' Marco Scutaro. Those two are hard sells as All-Star starters, but Scutaro also starred at the position for the Giants down the stretch last year with numbers very similar to those he's put up so far this year. So, in the absence of a strong season from an established star, Scutaro would be an acceptable vote-leader, but he's second and Carpenter is third while the Reds' Brandon Phillips leads the pack. Phillips isn't a terrible choice -- he's certainly a better one than Dan Uggla was last year -- but he's still been only the third-best second baseman in the league thus far this season.
Finally we get to the NL outfield, where Upton, Beltran and the injured Bryce Harper hold the top three spots, with Ryan Braun ranking fourth as a potential alternate to Harper. To my eye, the two best outfielders in the NL this season have been Carlos Gomez and Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who was an All-Star last year as well, should be an easy choice for the fans. Gomez might be a harder sell, but, like Scutaro, he's building off a strong finish to 2012 and, unlike Scutaro, he's young enough (27) that he might legitimately be making the leap to stardom.
After those two there are a variety of deserving candidates, including Shin-Shoo Choo, Domonic Brown, Parra (who can be written in) and Dexter Fowler. I understand the support for Harper, who was having an outstanding season before running into the Dodger Stadium wall, and for Braun, who is perennially one of the best players in baseball, but has been slowed by nagging injuries this season, but Upton and Beltran do not belong. Gonzalez has been climbing on the list, but he is still out in seventh place, roughly 600,000 votes behind third-place Beltran. Gomez, meanwhile, is mired in 12th place between Gregor Blanco (0 home runs) and B.J. Upton (.158 average) of all people. The good news is that you can fix this. The voting doesn't end until a minute before midnight on July 4. Vote on-line or at the ballpark, but don't just vote for your favorite players, vote for the best players. It's the All-Star game, not the All-Giants game.