I was all set to do a preview of the All Star Game today, with my picks for who should and should not make it in, based on fan voting. But that's been done and done again...and I really have nothing new to add.
So I decided to take a look at some pitchers who should be chosen to the game, and I'm looking at the snubs before they happen - because you know some deserving player is going to get passed over for the All Star Game because someone from the San Diego Padres has to make the team.
Without taking into account who is on the proper rest or anything like that, let me start with the starters. I think it's hard this year to pin down the best starter in each league. Can the National League's best pitcher really be Edinson Volquez? He's 10-3, with a 2.24 ERA and 113 strikeouts. His past two outings haven't been his best, but it looks like he gets the nod for the National League - his ranks in wins, ERA, and K's are 3, 1, and 2 in the NL - you come that close to the pitching triple crown, I think you deserve an All Star start.
For the American League, I think Cliff Lee will get the start, even though I feel like he will fall apart in the second half of the season (but that doesn't factor into what he has done the first half of the season). Joe Saunders of the Angels is having a great year, and Justin Duchscherer of Oakland, a converted reliever, is having a great season without the wins to show for it, so they both deserve spots on the team, but Lee probably starts.
I'm not sure how the politics will work here either - Terry Francona will be managing the AL team - does that mean he shortchanges the Yankees (in Yankee Stadium no less), or puts a couple of Yankee pitchers on his team to save his Red Sox arms? Either way, I think Mike Mussina deserves a spot on this team, and if I had to choose between him and Andy Pettitte, I'd go Mussina. Mariano Rivera makes the team as a reliever, and the Yankees pitchers will be well-represented on their home mound.
Interestingly, I don't think too many pitchers will get snubbed, because of injuries. Shawn Marcum and Felix Hernandez will both probably get named to the team, but both are hurt, and won't play - so two people should take their spots. I think that results in a well-earned nod for Zach Greinke of the Royals, and maybe Matt Garza, the second Rays pitcher, after Scott Kazmir, who I think will get named despite an early injury that limited his innings.
I also want to take this opportunity to note that despite a 9-1 record and 3.21 ERA, Daisuke Matsuzaka has not pitched like an All Star this year - those are very deceptive numbers. I don't think he deserves to be on the team - again, we'll see how Francona approaches that.
I think the National League gets dicey, and to be completely honest with you, I feel more knowledgable about it, so I'm more comfortable naming the snubs here. I'll start with the Mets - if no Met made the team, I'd say no one got snubbed. That's how bad they've been - no one has been stellar either. Billy Wagner might be the only player to merit a spot, but he's been spotty. If you twisted my arm, I'd say David Wright and Jose Reyes have earned a spot, but I don't mind seeing them sit out a year as punishment. Even Johan Santana hasn't been super-special...but I guess that's a product of the way the team has played.
The one guy I'm kind of campaigning for, and built this entry around, is Jon Rauch. He should be a set-up guy for the Nationals, not their closer. But when Chad Cordero got injured (again), he stepped up and has been pretty reliable all year. I don't know that anyone else on the Nats gets the automatic bid ahead of him, so he probably will make the team, but I think he's the most deserving.
For the most part, the voters have the positions right (in both leagues) - and the players who are on the fringe will most certainly get the at-large selections (I'm thinking Ryan Braun, 4th among outfield voting, or anyone in the AL DH voting, over the undeserving [this year] David Ortiz).
The Giants will see a pitcher get snubbed - Tim Lincecum will be the player selected from their team, but you can make a case for Matt Cain as well - his 5-6 record will cost him, even though he has a 4.13 ERA and is third in the league with 107 strikeouts. Their closer, Brian Wilson, leads the league in saves with 23, but I don't think he'll make the team - he has a 4.41 ERA.
There will be a couple of closers who will get left out - I bet Brad Lidge gets in at the expense of someone like Kerry Wood. Or vice versa. Or they both make it, and Jose Valverde of Houston gets left off because Lance Berkman already made the All Star team representing Houston.
Speaking of first base, which should (deservedly) go to Berkman - Adrian Gonzalez is a deserving member of a spot from San Diego. He should be their lone representative - I don't think he'll get snubbed (at risk of a plethora of NL first baseman - one can DH, I guess), but if he doesn't make the team, that would be a snub.
Selecting the team must be a hard job, making sure every team has representation while trying to make sure all of the deserving players get recognition. There are certainly going to be good players watching on TV next week...I'll let you know who the others are when it's not such an abstract concept as making these predictions is.