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July 14, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

The Right All Stars

I don't know if you've picked up on this yet, but Bud Selig isn't exactly the most visionary leader in professional sports. Oh, sure, he's quite good at getting the rest of the owners together to try and screw the players and George Steinbrenner over whenever possible, but he isn't very forward-thinking. He makes decisions designed to maximize profit NOW, without an understanding, or at least without regard, for the negative impact those decision will have on the game, and more importantly, the business, in the future, even when it's the very near future.

It was Selig who instituted interleague play, in the process eliminating the league offices, and turning the American and National leagues into conferences in all but name. At first, the gimmick was successful; fans were drawn to matchups between teams that had never played before in a game that counted, or had not played in years. The most successful games, however, were the regional rivalries, and so Selig had each division play their interleague counterpart every year, to preserve these lucrative matchups. When that grew stale, teams began to cycle divisions, but several retained their regional rivalry.

By now, the appeal of interleague play is all but gone. The Yankees and Mets played in the World Series in 2000, with the Yankees claiming the ultimate bragging rights. Since then, the six games they play each year have lost their luster; the Yankees don't compete with the Mets in the standings, and until the Mets become a good team again, they don't compete for regional supremacy, either. They're just six games on the schedule.

But the biggest casualty of interleague play has been the All Star Game. One of the greatest appeals of the Midsummer Classic was that it featured matchups you were unlikely to see otherwise. With interleague play, most of the players had faced off against each other in the past two seasons, and the problem was exacerbated by the fact that the interleague games were usually sandwiched around the All-Star break itself. Added to the increased availability of out-of-market games through satellite dishes and digital cable, and the frequent movement of star players through free agency, and the All Star Game had lost most of its appeal. The effect of this was exacerbated by the decline of ratings throughout television, as cable networks became more plentiful and popular.

Selig saw that something was wrong, and determined that he would do something to fix it. But being the unrepentant dolt that he is, he was unable to see that the problem was caused by him, and did not consider eliminating the cause of the problem, interleague play. Instead, he concluded that the problem was that the players weren’t taking the game seriously, and that the fans were turned off by that indifference. His solution? Make the game worth something, by awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the league that won the game. “This time it counts”, was the battle cry of MLB and FOX. The impact on ratings is certain to be negligible, but it is even more certain to be declared a complete success by Selig.

Of course, the MLBPA wasn’t going to just roll over and let MLB change the rules without negotiating first, and in exchange for agreeing to Selig’s idiotic scheme, they received a vote on who would participate in the game.

This was a good idea.

The implementation was awful, as players voted as though they were selecting starters, rather than backups, and the result was that some undeserving players made the team, and some deserving players were left off. That’s baseball for you. “This time it counts, but we’re gonna act like it’s a dress rehearsal.”

Anyway, regular readers know that I was casting a ballot for the All-Star Game every week. My selections for the National League were actually not terribly dissimilar to the actual picks of the fans, though the choices I made in the AL often were drastically different. Tonight, I’m going to list my choices for the most deserving players for the All-Star team.

I used no particular system for determining these teams, the choices are subjective and thus are up for open debate. I looked at statistics while making my picks, but did not base them solely on the numbers. I adhered to three simple rules. The first is that every position must have an adequate number of players to allow substitutions throughout the game. The second was that every team must be represented by a player. I have no problem with this practice in MLB, because I believe that the All-Star team cannot be truly representative of the league if there isn’t a player from each team present. This caused one problem, when Jeromy Burnitz was traded to the Dodgers earlier today, eliminating the Mets’ only player. I rationalized not replacing him three ways:

- I had already selected him for my team before he was traded

- In MLB, if the only representative of a team is traded after the selections are made, they don’t select another player from the team

- Fuck Cliff Floyd

If you really think that the Mets need a representative on the team, you can drop Burnitz for Floyd, and hopefully sleep better. The last rule was that each team would be represented by their best player, in my judgement, even if a more worthy player needed to be dropped from the roster to accommodate him. I couldn’t live with myself if I put Lance Carter and Mike Williams on the teams, just to fill the team slot so the best reserves at all the other positions would make it. I view these teams as being composed entirely of worthy All-Stars, though not necessarily the 64 most worthy.

Feel free to tell me how very wrong I am. Now, without further ado, here is the First Annual Replacement Level Yankees Weblog All Star Team. Pretentious name, isn’t it? I included arguments for each player being on the team if I felt it was warranted.

Starting Lineup

Jorge Posada, New York Yankees; .252/.402/.482

I know very well that there are a great many Red Sox fans reading this, thanks to Art Martone’s plug, who will dispute this selection vociferously. Just a quick glance at the OPS’s of Posada and Varitek shows that Posada is a wholly unworthy selection to start. Posada is at .884, Varitek at .958. No contest, right? Well, not quite. OPS is a blunt tool, a couple of fairly easy-to-find stats jammed together that make a decent estimate of run scoring. The biggest problem with OPS is that is weighs OBP and SLG as equals, which they are not. OBP * 1.56 + SLG is considered a more accurate formula, and in Moneyball, Paul DePodesta claimed that a marginal point of OBP is worth three marginal points of SLG. Posada’s strength is OBP, Varitek’s is slugging. Looking at other statistics that weighted events more evenly, the numbers are still very, very close, which Varitek still usually having a slight edge in rate, and Posada a slight edge in volume, as he has played far more often. The conclusion I came up with is that the two players are very, very similar in the value of their performances thus far this season. I chose Posada because his career prior to this season has been far better than Varitek’s. I did not choose Carlton Fisk because he’s sucked so far this season.

This is not to say that Varitek is not as good as Posada, or will not be as good or better going forward. It is merely to say that Posada is more deserving of the start than Varitek this season.

First Base:
Carlos Delgado, Toronto Blue Jays; .313/.424/.629

Second Base:
Bret Boone, Seattle Mariners; .313/.373/.591

Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox; .319/.357/.541

Third Base:
Bill Mueller, Boston Red Sox; .332/.405/.551

You just can’t ignore those numbers. No wait, apparently you can. Well, I couldn’t. Maybe the Red Sox fans could remember that I picked three Red Sox to start and only one Yankee before they start tearing into me for myopia and bias.

Melvin Mora, Baltimore Orioles; .349/.443/.560
Milton Bradley, Cleveland Indians; .328/.435/.502
Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox; .319/.413/.571

A high OBP and doubles power caused Milton Bradley to slip under the radar of voters, but he deserved to start. Instead, he’s not even at the game. His attitude can’t be helping.

Designated Hitter: Edgar Martinez, Seattle Mariners; .304/.408/.546

Starting Pitcher:
Esteban Loaiza, Chicago White Sox; 11-5, 2.21 ERA, 3.25 QDIPS (Quick DIPS ERA)

Where the hell did that come from? No matter, he’s a worthy choice to start, and that’s before you consider that the game is in U.S. Cell…New Comiskey. Fuck corporate sponsorship.

Jason Varitek, C, Boston Red Sox; .306/.369/.588
Jason Giambi, 1B, New York Yankees; .267/.419/.547
Mike Sweeney, 1B, Kansas City Royals; .321/.440/.540
Alfonso Soriano, 2B, New York Yankees; .292/.345/.511
Alex Rodriguez, SS, Texas Rangers; .285/.373/.544
Corey Koskie, 3B, Minnesota Twins; .298/.390/.495
Aubrey Huff, OF, Tampa Bay Devil Rays; .304/.361/.539
Garret Anderson, OF, Anaheim Angels; .316/.345/.597
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Seattle Mariners; .352/.390/.476
Dmitri Young, OF, Detroit Tigers; .283/.358/.542
Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto Blue Jays; .299/.338/.556
Frank Thomas, DH, Chicago White Sox; .269/.407/.545

Mike Mussina, SP, New York Yankees; 10-6, 3.26, 3.18 QDIPS
Roger Clemens, SP, New York Yankees; 8-6, 3.68, 3.48 QDIPS
Pedro Martinez, SP, Boston Red Sox; 6-2, 2.36, 2.54 QDIPS
Roy Halladay, SP, Toronto Blue Jays; 13-2, 3.41, 3.73 QDIPS
C.C. Sabathia, SP, Cleveland Indians; 8-4, 3.23, 3.86 QDIPS
Mark Mulder, SP, Oakland Athletics; 12-6, 3.03, 3.62 QDIPS
Tim Hudson, SP, Oakland Athletics; 7-3, 2.71, 3.54 QDIPS
Jamie Moyer, SP, Seattle Mariners; 12-5, 3.02, 4.12 QDIPS
Shigetoshi Hasegawa, RP, Seattle Mariners; 1-0, 0.77, 3.38 QDIPS
Brendan Donnelly, RP, Anaheim Angels; 0-0, 0.38, 1.78 QDIPS

Starting Lineup

Javy Lopez, Atlanta Braves; .307/.352/.636

First Base:
Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies; .349/.441/.637

Second Base:
Jose Vidro, Montreal Expos; .332/.418/.516

Edgar Renteria, St. Louis Cardinals; .331/.382/.485

Third Base:
Scott Rolen, St. Louis Cardinals; .278/.379/.534

Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants; .316/.496/.719
Jim Edmonds, St. Louis Cardinals; .303/.398/.668
Gary Sheffield, Atlanta Braves; .327/.423/.596

Designated Hitter:
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals; .368/.432/.690

Starting Pitcher:
Jason Schmidt, San Francisco Giants; 9-4, 2.37, 2.82 QDIPS

Ivan Rodriguez, C, Florida Marlins; .300/.375/.515
Jim Thome, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies; .266/.390/.541
Richie Sexson, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers; .263/.376/.513
Ray Durham, 2B, San Francisco Giants; .300/.386/.440
Mark Loretta, 2B, San Diego Padres; .310/.372/.430
Rafael Furcal, SS, Atlanta Braves; .282/.344/.473
Mike Lowell, 3B, Florida Marlins; .275/.351/.586
Morgan Ensberg, 3B, Houston Astros; .312/.418/.613
Brian Giles, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; .306/.444/.515
Jeromy Burnitz, OF, New York Mets/Los Angeles Dodgers; .274/.344/.581
Luis Gonzalez, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks; .310/.393/.560
Jose Guillen, OF, Cincinnati Reds; .337/.389/.616

Dontrelle Willis, SP, Florida Marlins; 9-1, 2.08, 2.76 QDIPS
Kevin Millwood, SP, Philadelphia Phillies; 10-6, 3.60, 3.50 QDIPS
Kerry Wood, SP, Chicago Cubs; 9-6, 3.19, 3.76 QDIPS
Mark Prior, SP, Chicago Cubs; 8-5, 3.01, 2.88 QDIPS
Woody Williams, SP, St. Louis Cardinals; 12-3, 3.01, 3.46 QDIPS
Kevin Brown, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers; 10-4, 2.30, 2.81 QDIPS
Hideo Nomo, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers; 9-8, 2.97, 4.10 QDIPS
Brandon Webb, SP; Arizona Diamondbacks; 7-2, 2.41, 3.46 QDIPS
John Smoltz, RP, Atlanta Braves; 0-1, 0.95, 1.83 QDIPS
Octavio Dotel, RP, Houston Astros; 6-3, 2.52, 3.16 QDIPS

I’m not a big NL fan, so I relied on stats a bit more to make these decisions. Picking a player for San Diego and Milwaukee was an especial pain, and I relied more on Wolverton’s reliever ratings to select Dotel over Gagne, though I would have had him on the team if I could have picked one more player.

Looking at Pujols and Barry, I can’t help but think that Bonds is going to get screwed out of another MVP this season, because his numbers aren’t as extraordinary as in past years--even though they’re still better than everyone else’s. Stupid writers.

So, what do you think?