As the MLB 2006 All Star game in Pittsburgh approaches on July 11th, it is time to look over the leading vote getters in the American League balloting and determine whether or not their popularity ties into how well they are doing statistically. On the whole, the choices below are in the top five of balloting, but for reference sake, the leading vote getter for each position is in parentheses. It is obvious that in bigger places like Boston and New York, their players are going to get more votes from their fans around the nation. However, a look at those near the top statistically at these positions shows that the All Star game could be much more balanced.
First Baseman- Travis Hafner (David Ortiz)- Hafner, the first baseman for the Cleveland Indians, is currently fourth in the voting for first basemen in the American League in 2006. However, Hafner has been impressively patient for a young batter, walking 62 times in 248 at bats. As well, Hafner is a solid run producer with 19 home runs and 58 RBIs. Ortiz is a popular player who can hit the cover off of the ball, but Hafner has been more consistent this season.
Second Baseman- Robinson Cano- Cano is the leader in votes for second basemen in the American League and his statistics are fairly impressive for the overachieving Yankees. Cano has hit .325 and he is becoming a shining star for the Yankees among names like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Cano is still a young player and he should get plenty more opportunities as a Yankee to get to the All Star game.
Shortstop- Miguel Tejada (Derek Jeter)- Tejada is finally getting back to the All Star potential that he showed in Oakland before signing a big deal with the Baltimore Orioles. With a .516 slugging percentage, Tejada is showing he has the rare combination of athleticism and power at the shortstop position. As well, he has been a solid run producer, with 16 home runs and 54 RBIs so far in the 2006 season. Jeter is having a fine season but Tejada is the better shortstop in 2006 and deserves the All Star spot.
Third Baseman- Joe Crede (Alex Rodriguez)- Joe Crede, one of the heroes of the 2005 World Series, is having an outstanding season so far for the Chicago White Sox. Crede is hitting .307 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs and is one of the team leaders for the South Siders. Alex Rodriguez, like Derek Jeter, is benefitting from name recognition but insiders and fans know that Crede is a solid third baseman who deserves All Star recognition.
Outfield- Manny Ramirez, Vernon Wells, Ichiro (Vladimir Guerrero, Ramirez, Ichiro)- The trio of Ramirez, Wells, and Ichiro would be an outstanding All Star grouping and the three are playing well in 2006 statistically. Ramirez, who is second in AL All Star balloting for outfielders, has hit 20 home runs and 51 RBIs and has become a reluctant leader of the Boston Red Sox. Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays has hit 20 home runs and 62 RBIs, with a .625 slugging percentage and is setting the pace for the resurgent Blue Jays. Wells is good enough this season to beat out Vladimir Guerrero for the third outfield spot on the All Star team. Ichiro has been his typically outstanding self in 2006, with a .360 batting average, 117 hits so far this season, and 24 steals on 26 tries. This grouping of All Star outfielders would make the All Star game itself more interesting, simply because of their talent.
Catcher- Joe Mauer (Jason Varitek)- While Jason Varitek is the more popular player than Mauer (Mauer is only fifth in AL balloting for catchers), Mauer has had an outstanding season and has a tremendous future in the Major Leagues. Mauer has hit 5 home runs and 31 RBIs, but more impressively is hitting .368 with a .506 slugging percentage. If statistics and real measurements of excellence were used to determine the All Star game, Mauer would need to get used to starting at catcher year in and year out for the next decade.
Pitcher- Johan Santana- Santana is having another All Star type year for the Minnesota Twins, blowing away batters for a struggling Twins team in 2006. Santana has 115 strikeouts to 17 walks, an impressive ratio for a starter. As well, he has a 2.75 ERA and his consistency as a starter makes him a good choice to start the All Star game.
Bench Player- Paul Konerko- Konerko was bumped off of this All Star team by Travis Hafner but Konerko’s numbers are excellent in 2006 and his popularity in Chicago makes him a necessity on the 2006 AL All Star team. Konerko is hitting .315 with 18 home runs and 59 RBIs so far in the 2006 MLB season and he is well known enough that putting him in the All Star game would not offend any fans’ sensibilities. Konerko gives the White Sox and the AL All Star team some extra power in the lineup.