All-Star Yankees

From 1999-2002, Joe Torre was manager of the American League All-Star team, having guided the Yankees to the World Series every year from '98 to '01. With Torre at the helm of those teams, several Yankees made the squad without being voted in. And while those Yankees may have been deserving in the eyes of Torre, many others didn't agree. This year, the rules for selecting reserve players have changed making it more likely that only the most deserving of players will be taken.

With that, we take a look at who on the Yankees actually deserves the honor of being called an All-Star.

Last year, six Yankees headed to Miller Park in Milwaukee to participate in the All-Star festivities – but only three of the six were voted in by the fans. Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada and Alfonso Soriano were starters in the game, but Joe Torre hand-selected Derek Jeter (one of four shortstops on the AL roster), Robin Ventura, and Mariano Rivera. Six Yankees seemed like a lot at the time, and several media sources expressed the opinion that Torre was playing favoritism.

Well this year, Joe Torre has just a small effect on the All-Star game. The reserve players and pitchers will now be selected by a vote between managers, coaches and players. So with safeguards against favoritism in place, only the best will (hopefully) be at the game.

Here's the rundown of who deserves to be in Chicago on July 15 (all stats and ballot standings through Monday):

Catcher: Jorge Posada currently leads the balloting at the AL catcher position, and for good reason. Posada leads AL catchers in runs scored, homeruns, RBI, walks and OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage). Since Ivan Rodriguez left the American League this season, Posada has very little competition at the top. Minnesota's A.J. Pierzynski (batting .299 with as many RBI as Posada) is second in the balloting, but by a large margin. Posada will start the All-Star game in 2003 for the second straight year.
Also Deserving: Pierzynski

First Base: Jason Giambi was recently passed by Toronto's Carlos Delgado in the fan voting for first base. Giambi, who started the All-Star game last year, is having his worst season ever with the stick, batting a meager .242 (63 points below his career average). His homerun and RBI numbers are right on track however, and he is still walking at a Giambi-esque pace.
Deserving: Delgado is far and away the best first baseman in the game this season. He is hitting .316 with 22 homeruns and a mind-bending 76 RBI and he owns an OPS over 1.000. Giambi could make the squad as a reserve, but Kansas City's Mike Sweeney and Texas' Rafael Palmeiro have both put up better numbers.

Second Base: Soriano, despite not necessarily having the best numbers at his position (Bret Boone is better in several areas) seems to have made a name for himself with the fans. Soriano, who just missed 40 homeruns and 40 steals last year, not only leads the second base voting, he leads all players in both leagues in all positions. Despite Boone's 11 extra RBI and higher batting average, he doesn't have the speed to match Soriano in the stolen base department. Soriano is a legitimate 40-40 threat again in 2003 and deserves to start this All-Star game.
Also Deserving: Boone. Boone has 54 RBI to lead AL second baseman, but he generally bats third in an excellent lineup, whereas Soriano is a leadoff hitter. Boone leads second basemen in OPS (.973) and should not be short-changed in Chicago.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter has not been Derek Jeter so far this season. Whether it's lingering problems from his injured shoulder, or he is just continuing a downward trend, Jeter hasn't dazzled anyone this year. Last year, he was one of five shortstops to make the team and probably the least deserving (Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Miguel Tejada and Omar Vizquel were the others). This season, Jeter doesn't deserve to be there, and he shouldn't.
Deserving: Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar leads AL shortstops in RBI, batting average and OPS, and he is second to A-Rod in homeruns. A-Rod leads the balloting though, so it's probable that he will be the starter, but Nomar – and his major league-leading 12 triples - deserves to be there one way or another.

Third Base: Robin Ventura has been good, but he's not an All-Star, just like he wasn't really an All-Star last year. A .270 BA and 33 RBI are good, but they aren't great. All-Stars should be great.
Deserving: Troy Glaus and Hank Blalock. Anaheim's Glaus leads the 3B balloting by a slim margin over Oakland's Eric Chavez, but Chavez has been very poor so far this season. Glaus has 14 homeruns and 43 RBI to go with his .276 average, as well as seven stolen bases. Texas phenom Blalock is also a prime candidate, and should be picked by the Player Ballot. Blalock has a .341 average this season with as many RBI as Glaus. He also leads AL 3Bs with a .956 OPS.

Outfield: Bernie Williams leads the Yankee outfielders in the voting despite not having played in a game since May 21. I'm a huge opponent of injured players making All-Star teams. It's not a popularity contest, it's an All-Star game. The best of the best should be there, and a player is not the best when he isn't playing. That being said, neither Raul Mondesi nor Hideki Matsui deserves to be there, though you could make a case for either one. Going by OPS, there are 12 outfielders better than Mondesi, and 22 better than Matsui.
Deserving: Ichiro Suzuki, Manny Ramirez and Carl Everett, among others. Ichiro may not sport the massive OPS that Ramirez does, but there is no question that he has more influence on a game than any other player in the Major Leagues. Ichiro might just be the toughest out in all of baseball. Ramirez is dominating again this season with 15 homeruns, 53 RBI and a .323 batting average. Everett seems to have resurrected his career in Texas, with 17 homeruns and 47 runs scored. The biggest surprise here has been the play of Baltimore's Melvin Mora, who is almost guaranteed to make the All-Star team because he is an Oriole, and because he has an OPS of 1.050. That OPS leads all American League outfielders, as does Mora's .360 batting average. The utility player has really stepped up his play this season, with ten homeruns, 31 RBI and a whopping 35 walks.

Designated Hitter: If Nick Johnson had stayed healthy, he'd be right in the mix of the DH "race" in the AL. Todd Zeile and his .206 batting average don't deserve to even be mentioned in the same sentence as All-Star. The AL's DH won't be from New York in 2003.
Deserving: Edgar Matinez is the best DH in history, period. He is leading DHs in votes so far this year, but Frank Thomas has been making some noise this year (though he has recently returned to first base). Martinez has 14 homeruns, 48 RBI and a .302 batting average. Thomas has 16 round-trippers, 35 RBI and a .275 average. Martinez will start, but Thomas might just sneak his way in.

Starting Pitchers: The fans don't decide the pitchers of the All-Star game, this year the Players Ballot will, but nevertheless they deserve to be in this discussion. Mike Mussina is an obvious choice here. He started the season by rolling off seven consecutive wins and he currently stands at 9-4 with a 2.99 ERA. David Wells is 8-2 with a 3.63 ERA and deserves consideration, but there are better pitchers out there. Roger Clemens also might garner some votes, but his 3.73 ERA is 16th in the AL.
Deserving: Esteban Loaiza, Pedro Martinez, Jamie Moyer, Gil Meche, Barry Zito. Loaiza is having a career year in Chicago and could very well start the All-Star game at home. Loaiza leads the AL with a 2.24 ERA, and he also has a 9-2 record. Pedro has just four wins, but he's been troubled by injuries and a terrible bullpen. His 2.63 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings are top-notch. Moyer leads the league in wins with 10 and has a 2.99 ERA. Meche has emerged as a front-line starter with Moyer in Seattle. Meche is 9-3 with a 3.13 ERA and 63 strikeouts. Zito is the best of a good rotation, with seven wins and a 3.01 ERA.
Also Worth Consideration: Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Roy Halladay, Sidney Ponson.

Relievers: The Yankees bullpen hasn't been a wonderful story this year, but Mariano Rivera is still the best in the business. He'll be on the All-Star team again this season with his 1.98 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and nine saves in ten chances. Antonio Osuna deserves a look, with a 2.00 ERA, but he shouldn't really be on the team.
Deserving: Eddie Guardado, Lance Carter, Johan Santana, Ugueth Urbina, Arthur Rhodes. The American League relief corps hasn't been particularly dazzling this season. Santana is the best of the bunch and has since moved into Minnesota's rotation. He has a 2.32 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 54 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings. "Everyday" Eddie Guardado is enjoying his second straight dominant year as closer for the Twins, with 19 saves and a 2.83 ERA. Carter is a good story, returning to Tampa Bay and bolstering a bad bullpen and notching 11 saves. Urbina has been extremely good in Texas, leading the AL with 18 saves, and Rhodes has been his usual dominant self.

So there it is. On July 15, the All-Star game will start and there will be a Yankee on the team (the rules say so), but with Soriano, Posada, Mussina, and Rivera all deserving, there should be at least four.

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