Every year, the All-Star team selections create debates all over the diamond, and it will be no different this season. Should the Twins' Justin Morneau or the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera get the start at first base in the American League? Should it be the Padres' Adrian Gonzalez or the Cardinals' Albert Pujols at first base for the National League -- or perhaps even the Reds' Joey Votto or the Braves' Troy Glaus?
An anti-All-Star team is just as difficult to pick. Take second base in the American League for instance. The White Sox' Gordon Beckham has certainly earned a spot on such a team of dishonor by being the antithesis of the fine player he was as a rookie last year. But Seattle's Chone Figgins, Toronto's Aaron Hill and Baltimore's Julio Lugo have been arguably as bad in their own right, so it's a tough call there.
With that in mind, here is my annual "No Stars" teams for 2010:
1B: Casey Kotchman, Mariners. He truly is a beautiful fielding first baseman, but with his kind of production, who needs it? He has a .184 batting average and a .551 OPS, unfit numbers for a utility middle infielder, much less an everyday corner infielder.
2B: Beckham, White Sox. Last year's Rookie of the Year candidate would be this year's winner of the less-heralded Sophomore Jinx award. Apparently, pitchers have adjusted to him because he has a .210 batting average, .263 slugging percentage and an absurdly low .552 OPS. It's amazing that Figgins, who signed a $36 million contract with the Mariners in the offseason but has just a .617 OPS, can't crack the starting lineup on this team. Or even Hill (.197 BA). Or how about Lugo, who has a .210 batting average, and a .210 slugging percentage -- yes, that's zero extra-base hits in 105 at-bats.
SS: Jason Bartlett, Rays. Bartlett looked like an emerging star when he made his first All-Star team last year but he has fallen into an abyss in the midst of an otherwise great year for the Rays. He has just one home run and a .231 batting average. Oakland's Cliff Pennington (.216 batting average, .627 OPS) isn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard either. The Orioles' Cesar Izturis (.239 slugging percentage) isn't even hitting to his standards, and when combined with Lugo is downright deadly.
3B: Jose Lopez, Mariners. He made the switch to third base, so his numbers, such as they are, are compared to some great hitters. He has a .258 on-base percentage and a .571 OPS, which is bad for any position. The Angels' Brandon Wood could be on his way to an LVP (Least Valuable Player) with his .152 batting average and .372 OPS but he gets a break here because he's getting experience.
C: Gerald Laird, Tigers. He's a defensive specialist. But that .178 batting average and .497 OPS just aren't cutting it. Lou Marson (.191) recently lost his job in Cleveland to heralded rookie Carlos Santana.
OF: Juan Pierre, White Sox. Lovely man has hit hard times. And little else. The fact that he has just eight RBIs at this point is hard to believe.
OF: Carlos Quentin, White Sox. The former MVP candidate is hitting .201 with a .681 OPS. At least his temper appears to have improved.
OF: B.J. Upton, Rays. Upton is better than this. Actually a lot of people are. He's hitting .239 in what was expected to be a bounce-back year after he slumped to .241 with a .313 on-base percentage in 2009.
DH: Adam Lind, Blue Jays. If he was performing anything close to his 2009 output, the Blue Jays would be unstoppable. But he's not. Lind had 35 home runs and 114 RBIs in 2009 and this year he's not going to approach those numbers. Get this: He's hitting .211 and his .636 OPS is nearly 300 points lower than the .932 he posted last year. Cleveland's Travis Hafner would be in the running, too, if anyone could find the real Hafner.
SP: Ryan Rowland-Smith, Mariners. He's 0-6 with a 6.63 ERA that is especially bad in Safeco Field, a place that is usually safe for pitchers.
SP: Gil Meche, Royals. That over-the-top $55-million contract he signed before the 2007 season has finally caught up to the Royals. He his 0-4 with a 6.66 ERA and has 30 strikeouts against 34 walks.
SP: Rick Porcello, Tigers. The Rookie of Year candidate from 2009 isn't having a sterling sophomore year, with just 29 strikeouts and a 6.09 ERA, including 9.78 on the road.
RP: Kerry Wood, Indians. He just hasn't pitched to his rep or his contract since moving to Cleveland before the 2009 season. He has an 8.74 ERA and a $10.5 million salary. Bullpen-mates Tony Sipp (7.48 ERA) and Rafael Perez (2.02 ERA) aren't helping the Indians, either.
RP: Scot Shields, Angels. His return was supposed to make a big difference in L.A.'s pen, but he has an uncharacteristic 2.03 WHIP
RP: Chad Gaudin, Yankees. Maybe the Yankees had it right the first time. He's been let go by first them and then the A's since late March, and now that he's back in New York, he is 0-3 with an 8.20 ERA combined.
1B: Lance Berkman, Astros. He wants his $15 million option for 2011 picked up to agree to a trade. No shot of that. Berkman has rallied from slow starts before, but his .238 batting average and .392 slugging percentage are especially unbecoming for a player of his skill. The Cubs' Derrek Lee (.225./688) isn't helping his free agency cause either. Jeff Clement (.189 batting average) isn't exactly tearing it up for the Pirates, either, though the standards are lower for him.
2B: Akinori Iwamura, Pirates. With that .181 batting average and .558 OPS, it's understandable he lost his job. The league switch obviously did nothing for him.
SS: Yunel Escobar, Braves. Not only is he a space cadet who frustrates Bobby Cox almost daily, he is putting up ridiculously awful numbers. Has zero home runs, a .247 batting average and a .296 slugging percentage. It hasn't been a good year for guys named Escobar, as Alcides is hitting .251 with a .303 on-base percentage for Milwaukee.
3B: Aramis Ramirez, Cubs. Is this the same guy who won the Hank Aaron award as the NL's best hitter only a couple years ago? Rarely has a former All-Star performed at this low level at this early an age. The 31-year-old Ramirez is batting .168/.232.285, numbers that are nothing short of stunning. His struggles keep the great Chipper Jones (.233 BA, .366 slugging percentage), who may be retiring at year's end, off the team.
OF: Cameron Maybin, Marlins. The stardom that was predicted has been slow to come. He has 56 strikeouts and a .631 OPS.
OF: Aaron Rowand, Giants. Just has not lived up to the $60 million contract he signed before the 2008 season, or even one-tenth of it. He has a .222 batting average and .266 on-base percentage. Rowand was better in hitters parks like Citizens Bank and U.S. Cellular.
OF: Raul Ibanez, Phillies. His big start to 2009 is long forgotten. Now, he's just the guy having the worst year of all the struggling Phillies, batting .250 with just four home runs. He could be squeezed out, certainly by next year, with top prospect Domonic Brown coming.
SP: Charlie Morton, Pirates. You can't even say he's unlucky to be 1-9, not with that 9.35 ERA.
SP: Jeff Suppan, Cardinals. Truly terrible with the Brewers, he qualifies for this team because he's back in a rotation, for St. Louis. Had a 2.00 WHIP and 7.84 ERA in Milwaukee. Pitched four innings of one-run ball Tuesday night in his first start back with the Cardinals, so not all hope is lost. Maybe magical pitching coach Dave Duncan, under whom Suppan thrived from 2004-2006, will solve him.
SP: Wandy Rodriguez, Astros. Coming off a very nice 2009 season, he hasn't helped hapless Houston at all, going 3-9 with a 5.60 ERA.
RP: Trevor Hoffman, Brewers. It's a shame to see a future Hall of Famer on this team. But it looks like the end is near for this alltime great who currently has a 9.90 ERA. He's blown five of 10 save chances, which earned a demotion for the career saves leader.
RP: Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks. Qualls, who was just demoted from closer in favor of Aaron Heilman, has a 2.19 WHIP and .379 batting average against are emblematic of the Diamondbacks' bullpen woes.
RP: George Sherrill, Dodgers. Sherrill switched from the AL to the NL last July when the Orioles traded him to L.A., and he still seems to be suffering from the switch. He has 16 walks against just 10 strikeouts to go with a 7.31 ERA and 2.31 WHIP.
Jimmie Lee Solomon lost his spot overseeing umpires and security as Executive VP of baseball operations in part because of some noticeable umpiring slipups over the past couple years, and because the pace of the game slowed slightly under his watch, an issue that's near and dear to commissioner Bud Selig. But it was more than those problems, people familiar with the situation say. Ultimately, they concluded he just wasn't right for the huge seven-figure job.
Solomon was hurt by a failure to form relationships within baseball. And ultimately, Solomon was also damaged by his failure to meet the high standards set by his predecessor, Sandy Alderson, who is widely respected in baseball circles. Alderson is currently entrusted to clean up the mess that goes on during signings of sought-after Latin American prospects. That's an important task. But don't be surprised to see Alderson gain another even bigger job in MLB. Solomon's failures have reminded everyone of Alderson's vast abilities.
• One competing GM said a few days ago he heard the Diamondbacks may "blow things up,'' and indeed, they started by trading outfielder/first baseman Conor Jackson to the A's on Tuesday. A story in this space last Friday suggested they were considering anything and everything. It's clear Arizona wants to remake the personality of the club. They want to have more gritty players like third baseman Mark Reynolds, one of a very few select group of players who appears safe from possible trades. The others are franchise outfielder Justin Upton and cost-efficient starting pitcher Ian Kennedy.
• There is concern that Alex Rodriguez, a very tough guy, has now missed four games due to hip soreness. It's the same hip that was surgically repaired last year, but Yankees people are saying they are hopeful because it doesn't appear to be the same issue. He is expected back in the lineup Wednesday, though.
• While the Rangers have been rumored to be in on Roy Oswalt trade talks, baseball people see that as an extreme long shot considering the team was in bankruptcy court Tuesday. The Rangers have been given a budget by MLB, and technically they can make trades if they can remain within that budget. But it's hard to imagine how the team that failed to meet payroll multiple times last year (MLB fronted the money) can squeeze a $15-million-a-year player onto its roster.
• The Cubs' Kosuke Fukudome is reportedly available, but with an $11 million salary, here's another player worth far less than his contract despite his decent start to the season (.281/.373/.456). It is funny how the Cubs are making a big effort to find more at-bats for hot rookie Tyler Colvin right after White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone criticized them for failing to do so. But it's probably just coincidental.
• The current controversy in the All-Star vote is Texas' Taylor Teagarden being fourth for AL catchers even though he is currently in the minors, and rightfully so -- he was sent down after striking out 17 times and getting just one hit in his first 27 at-bats (an .037 batting average). That doesn't say much for the knowledge of some fans. There little chance he'll beat out Joe Mauer for the starting spot for the Midsummer Classic anyway, though.