It was easy for the better part of two decades to check the box next to Derek Jeter‘s name when it came time to select the shortstop who would represent the American League at the annual All-Star Game. What a fun-filled mess we have now, though.
Typically, when the fans vote for the MLB All-Star position players, they usually get it right, and controversy only settles in when the opposing managers make their picks to fill out their team. 2018, however, is shaping up to be a royal battle at the shortstop position, the likes of which we have not seen before. For a moment, consider having to choose (only) one of these All-Star caliber shortstops:
The above chart ranks the players by batting average, but you’ll notice Didi Gregorius and his 2.2 WAR leading the pack as well as Manny Machado and his .450 On-Base Percentage. The stats are sortable on this ESPN link, and you can knock yourself out trying to find the best among the best, or you can do what most of us will probably do, and that’s to locate the stats that make our guy shine brighter.
But no matter how you shake it out, only one of these players will be introduced in Washington, D.C. as the starting shortstop for the American League. I should note that Francisco Lindor of the Cleveland Indians is showing signs of waking up, and if he goes on a tear, that impact will be felt as well.
To my knowledge, MLB has never made known the split between ballots cast at the ballparks versus the corresponding on-line voting. I suspect that home-town fans vote for home-town players at the ballpark, while that may or may not be the case with more discerning fans who vote online.
For example, a fan voting in a National League park still has the opportunity to vote for players in the American league and vice-versa. So it’s possible a Brewers fan will look at the stats judiciously before picking an AL shortstop. Even more likely though, the same fan may go through the AL ballot checking names off solely by player recognition.
Regardless, the selection method is far from scientific. Which, while adding some fun and intrigue to the process, also can quickly dilute the results.
As an example, I’d take two of the five players and immediately throw them out of the competition, though for different reasons. The Baltimore Orioles are off to a horrid start and fans are continuing their desertion of Camden Yards, leaving Manny Machado nowhere regarding support within the voting at ballparks.
Andrelton Simmons, through no fault of his own, plays for the Seattle Mariners – the team most are likely to recall with – Oh, yeah, they play…let me think…uh…let me guess…they play…uh.
Conversely, though, both Carlos Correa and Didi Gregorius play in two of the most significant baseball markets. Attendance continues to soar at Yankees Stadium and Minute Maid Park, and fans of each play are rabid about “their” shortstop.
But that’s not all, because the most significant challenge once the voting dust has settled is going to be left to AJ Hinch, who as the manager of the reigning World Champions, wins the prize of choosing the balance of the MLB All-Star team.
With that, the first question arising is how many shortstops does the American League need to play one game? Two maybe, but three? And if Hinch chooses the obvious “smart thing,” giving the American League their best chance to win the game (not that it matters anymore), selecting all three shortstops (Machado, Gregorius, and Correa), it follows that something and someone has to give at the other end.
All three are deserving, no question – right? Baseball is blessed to have this level of talent at one position, so how can that be a bad thing?
In fact, when you look at two stats recently being bandied about in the media, these three players rise into the stratosphere of MLB baseball today.
Consider this. For the first time in major league baseball, there are more strikeouts than hits. I’ll repeat that, more strikeouts than hits. Add the corollary, the overall batting average (average) in the big leagues is now a puny .243 among all players, leaving me wondering what the five-tool Mike Trout type player been reduced to? And more significantly, what does the average fan of baseball think about these developments?
We’ll tackle that one another time, but for now, it’s time for baseball to shine a light on three of the best players in the game today in our nation’s capital come July, no matter how the voting for the top spot turns out or the fact they all play the same position. Mr. Hinch, sorry but it’ll be your move.