Mark George and I have already submitted our ballots, taking differing approaches to the online option that allows you to vote up to 25 times.
While I cast my ballot once and left it at that, Mark took full advantage of his quota to make sure his picks had the best chance of making it into the starting line-ups in Kansas City. Considering the way the voting has gone so far – Texas Rangers fans are doing their team proud with David Murphy being the sixth highest vote-getter for AL outfielders at time of writing – Mark’s approach was probably the right way to go.
Here is how we cast our ballots. Starting with the reigning All-Star Game champions: the National League.
Mark George’s selections.
C: Ellis. I’m going to let my heart rule my head here, as Ruiz, Molina and Posey are also deserving, but Ellis has been such a pleasant surprise and a likeable guy (see the Between Two Ferns clips on MLB.com) I can’t not vote for him.
1B: Votto. So much easier to pick him when Albert and Prince aren’t in the way!
2B: Phillips. Close between him, Uggla and Hill, but Brandon’s glove makes the difference.
SS: Lowrie. If he’s healthy, he’ll hit and Houston are benefiting.
3B: Wright. Superior average gives him the nod over Freese.
OF: Kemp. He may well not play, but he still gets my vote.
OF: Beltran. Superb talent easing the loss of Pujols in St Louis.
OF: McCutchen. Excellent all-round season, plus I don’t feel comfortable votng for Braun.
Matt Smith’s selections.
C: Molina . Carlos Ruiz has been a rare bright spot for the Phillies this year and certainly has a genuine case to make his first All-Star game at 33 years old. I’m sticking with Yadi Molina though as he’s had a very good first half and should rightly represent the World Series champion Cardinals at the Mid-Summer Classic.
1B: Votto. Votto is arguably the easiest selection on the entire ballot. Outstanding again for the Reds this season.
2B: Phillips. Dan Uggla has had a good first half and the diminutive Jose Altuve has been a great story for the Astros, but I’ve given the edge to Phillips on account of his solid bat and flashy glovework.
SS: Castro. With Troy Tulowitzki side-lined through injury and Jose Reyes scuffling a bit after an excellent 2011, I ended up picking a bit of a wild card in Castro. He’s still prone to making silly mistakes, but he’s an exciting young talent and could light up a game with his fielding alone.
3B: Wright. Wright is up there with Votto as one of the easiest picks on the ballot. He’s been excellent for the Mets and a big reason why they have had such a positive start to this season, despite losing Jose Reyes over the winter.
OF: Kemp. Injury woes are nowhere near enough to make me shy away from putting him on my starting lineup (even if he might not actually take up that spot).
OF: Braun. Braun’s drug-test drama potentially puts a question mark against him the in popularity stakes, but he’s one of the best players in the game and (perhaps wrongly) I’m not convinced there’s anything other than talent and hard work behind that.
OF: McCutchen. While other players (especially Votto) may be more overwhelming selections due to their performance and competition for the respective position, I don’t think there’s a player that deserves an All-Star starting spot more than McCutchen. His brilliance almost goes unnoticed while playing for the Pirates and he deserves this moment to recognise that he’s one of the best outfielders around.
On to the American League …
Mark George’s selections.
C: AJ Pierzynski. Surprised myself with this, but best combo of power and average available.
1B: Konerko. Tough to ignore Dunn’s power, but Konerko has been a class act for the umpteenth year in a row.
2B: Cano. Kipnis a very close second here.
SS: Andrus. May lose out to the slugging options of Hardy, Aviloes and Cabrera, but Elvis is having a great year.
3B: Cabrera. Tough call between Cabrera, Trumbo, Beltre and Moustakas, but Miguel’s still the man for me.
OF: Hamilton. No explanation needed!
OF: Trout. We have to find room for an incredible talent.
OF: Adam Jones. Could have gone for Bautista or Trumbo’s power here, but Jones has been excellent for the surprising Orioles.
DH: Encarnacion. Who knew? Toronto’s knack for finding sluggers continues.
Matt Smith’s selections.
C: Mauer. He’s probably never going to get close to his 28 homer mark of 2009 again, but Mauer is a class act and deserves the All-Star start behind the dish this season, even though Pierzynski has had a very impressive first half.
1B: Konerko. The AL first baseman selection was supposed to be ridiculously tough coming into the season with Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder joining an already impressive group. Neither of those two has really hit the heights so far, so I’ve gone with the veteran Konerko who continues to impress as the lead bat in the White Sox’s offence.
2B: Cano. The star of last year’s Home Run Derby, Cano is simply one of the best all-round players in the game.
SS: Andrus. Derek Jeter will make the AL team of course and I don’t have any problems with that, but I’d prefer to see Andrus make the start as he is very good defensively and has performed well at the plate so far this season too.
3B: Beltre. Beltre joins up with Andrus for an all-Texas left-side to the infield on my ballot, edging Miguel Cabrera thanks to his defence. Evan Longoria would have been a strong contender had he not been on the DL and the up-and-coming Brett Lawrie and Mike Moustakas may be in the running as early as next season.
DH: Ortiz. I generally don’t like the DH spot because it often leads to someone making the AL’s starting lineup ahead of a first baseman or two who is more deserving. However, this time I don’t have any concerns with Ortiz taking his place as he’s been one of the more valuable bats in the AL so far this season and his track record speaks for itself.
OF: Hamilton. June has been a tough month for Hamilton, but at the time of writing he still has a 1.035 OPS and is sure to spark back into life soon.
OF: Bautista. He’s been the MLB home run leader over the last two years and leads the way again in 2012. In contrast to Hamilton he has recovered from a slow April with a very good May and an absolutely torrid June.
OF: Trout. Trout was my write-in selection. He is an outstanding young talent who has performed brilliantly for the Angels since his call-up. The All-Star Game should in part be about selling the sport to casual sports fans and newcomers and Trout is exactly the sort of young talent that MLB should be promoting (and I write that as an A’s fan who suspects that Trout will become a living nightmare for my team over the years ahead). Pick him and chances are he will do something memorable. Adam Jones is unlucky not to make the team, Curtis Granderson is always hard to overlook in the popularity stakes, while Jacoby Ellsbury clearly would have been a prime contender if he had been healthy this season after his remarkable 2011 campaign.
Other points not on the official ballot
Mark George: If I could vote for a National League DH I’d pick Carlos Gonzalez. As for the starting pitchers …
National League: Dickey. Plenty of good options here, as you could make strong cases for Hamels, Lynn, Cain, Gio Gonzalez, Cueto and Strasburg among others, but Dickey has been that good and it would be fun to see a knuckleballer start.
American League: Verlander. I expect Verlander to start, but Chris Sale would be a very close second.
Matt Smith: National League starting pitcher: Stephen Strasburg. I suspect the Nationals wouldn’t be overly pleased with him using up an inning of his 2012 season in the All-Star Game, but in terms of form this season and ‘star’ quality, Strasburg would be my starter.
American League: Can’t look past Verlander, particularly as it seems as though the game would fit within his normal rotation schedule and so he should be fine to actually take the mound.
Over to you:
If you have cast your ballot, feel free to pass on your picks, or to comment on ours, in the Comments section below.