tclakin

Game 6 All-Star Ballot Part Deux: The NL

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2009 at 2:39 pm
The NL: Where everything's easier!

The NL: Where everything's easier!

Annnnd we’re back for Part 2 of Game 6’s Official Major League Baseball All-Star Ballot. Let’s head on over to the National League,  where the grass is always greener and the pitchers have to hit!

Life is simpler in the NL. There’s no designated hitter, teams manufacture runs, and pitchers entertain us nightly with painfully awkward at-bats. Everything is just easier in the National League; Well, everything except for the All-Star voting, of course. Lots of tough choices to be made, so let’s get started. 

First Base: Ryan Howard, PHI

I agonized over this choice for a while, after narrowing the field down to two guys: Howard and Albert Pujols. (Unfortunately one of my favorites, Prince Fielder, is having a down year so I couldn’t justify a vote for him). I don’t know what it is about Pujols – his weird, taking-a-dump stance, or my own personal HGH suspicion (based on 0% evidence and 100% shameless, broken-hearted cynicism) – but whatever the reason, I’ve never really liked the guy. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a tremendous hitter with all kinds of power. Same with Adrian Gonzalez, the league leader in home runs and an up-and-coming star. But I just like watching Howard more. He’s got the sweetest of swings – really the only left-handed swing that can stand in the same room with Junior’s – and I flat out enjoy watching him pound home runs. Here’s hoping that he hits one or two on the night of July 14th. 

(Plus, I found this great YouTube video of Howard mashing home runs on a golf course that I’ll post below, and it really put him over the top on my ballot). 

Second Base: Chase Utley, PHI

I don’t love the fact that I have 2 Philadelphia Phillies in the first two categories here, but I do love Chase Utley so I guess it’s a good trade off. Utley is off to a great start, hitting .299 with 12 homers (to lead all second basemen) and 36 RBI’s. He’s putting a nice little year together and I’d like to see him in the All-Star game over a guy like Orlando Hudson who will certainly have his opportunities in the future. And, although I love Rickie Weeks, he’s just not having a good enough year comparably (.272, 9, 24)  to justify a vote. He’s currently second in voting, however, so hopefully he’ll sneak in as a backup. Update: Apparently Rickie Weeks had left wrist surgery recently and is out for the season.  Maybe it would be better if he didn’t win…  Just goes to show you, I generally have no idea what I’m talking about

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, FLA

Let me make this clear: Hanley Ramirez is one of my 5 favorite players in the league. I wish every day that he was still on the Red Sox, manning the shortstop position instead of Julio “The Cup Adjuster” Lugo. And not only is Ramirez having a phenomenal year (.346, 8, 25), he’s also easily the coolest guy in the category. I mean, who else are you going to vote for? Miguel Tejada? Sure, he’s hitting .362 but I’m sure that’s only because he’s gotten his hands on some untraceable strain of HGH or something (again, zero evidence – only past testimony, Mitchell Report data, and like 7,000 other stories). In any case, this category took me 5 seconds and Hanley’s the guy. 

Third Base: Chipper Jones, ATL 

Chipper Jones: The Ultimate Male

Chipper Jones: The Ultimate Male

Well, that was easy. Even easier, in fact, than the last category. How can you not vote for Chipper Jones? He is basically the ultimate male. He’s a prodigious hunter, an avid fisherman, a compulsive dipper, and one helluva damn good ballplayer. He’s one of those guys you hear old sportswriters talking about who “plays the game the right way.” Jones is a throwback to an earlier era, where guys like Mickey Mantle hit home runs with beer muscles. Never a huge bulky guy, Jones still managed to slug 413 homers and 2, 320 hits with another one of the prettiest swings in the game. Chipper didn’t need steroids to dominate – he built a Cooperstown career on nothing more than heart and Skoal. That’s why he’ll always get my vote. 

Catcher: Brian McCann, ATL 

McCann is another in the long line of gritty Good Old Boys to play for the Atlanta Braves. A local guy from Athens Georgia, McCann is having a solid year (.306, 5, 18) and is close to the top in all major hitting categories. You have to feel for the guy, though – McCann now has to wear specially-made Oakley corrective glasses every game since suffering blurry vision after 2007 Lasik surgery (reason no. 1,273 why I would never get Lasik surgery even though I hate contacts). His production suffered, obviously, but since that down year in 2007, he has rallied back to almost-100% and continues to put up great numbers for the Braves. What can I say – I’m a sucker for a comeback story. 

Outfield: Ryan Braun, MIL; Raul Ibanez, PHI; Manny Ramirez, LAD (I might as well put Manny’s name in red because when everyone reads this that’s all they’re going to see anyway)

This was a really tough category. It turns out the National League has a wealth of boring outfielders. Remembering that my voting policy is “vote for the guys you most want to watch,” I soon realized that some of the league leaders are guys that I have no interest in watching. Like Carlos Beltran, for instance, who is hitting .352 with 6 home runs and 31 RBI’s. Those are All-Star numbers, but I don’t want to watch Beltran. I think he’s boring. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a Businesslike Ballplayer – guys like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez who play the game with no emotion, stepping on the field like they’re just strolling into the office. To me, Beltran is one of those guys. Ryan Braun, however, is not. He’s a fiery player, a guy who plays the game with a head full of steam and a big helping of passion. So there’s one vote. Raul Ibanez was a fairly easy guy to vote for because he’s 37 years old and in the middle of a monster year. He’s hitting .340 with 19 homers and a league-leading 51 RBI’s after hitting only 23 homers and 110 RBI’s all of last year, and we’re only through 2 months of the season! That’s insane for an old man. Thirty-seven year old guys aren’t supposed to be better than they were at 36. It makes no sense and, in my mind, it’s one of the best early season storylines of 2009. 

The Youth Services League?

The Youth Service League?

Finally we come to my last vote, a vote cast for one Manuel Aristides Ramirez. (That sound you just heard was Skip Bayless’s head exploding). I know a vote for Manny isn’t going to be a popular vote, in light of his recent performance-enhancing drug suspension and the general public consensus (outside of LA) which seems hold this as an example of a spoiled brat finally getting what he deserves. Do I think suspended players should be allowed to play in All-Star games? Probably not. Do I think that Manny has played in enough games this season (27) to warrant an All-Star appearance? Nope. Is it hypocritical that I voted for Manny for whom their is actual scientific evidence of PEDs but not for a guy like Pujols who is completely evidence-free? Not at all. But I still voted for him and here’s why: 

I’d rather watch Manny Ramirez play than anyone else in the NL Outfield category. 

That was my voting rule going in, and I’m sticking to it. Watching Manny Ramirez hit a baseball – steroids or otherwise – is unlike anything else in the game. He has the perfect swing, the best eye, and the most power. He is a hitting freak. I said the same thing about Barry Bonds, even after his head grew two sizes and you could all but see steroid juice squirting out of his pores during games. The fact is this: 99.9% of humans on Earth could juice up and maybe 10 of them would then be able to hit a baseball like Bonds or Ramirez. 

Steroids didn’t make Manny Ramirez a great hitter. God did. 

And so he gets my vote, fair or not. MLB has decided to leave All-Star voting up to the fans and I’m a fan of watching Ramirez ply his trade at the plate. So under the current circumstances and considering my own personal voting policy, I have to vote for Manny. To do otherwise would be to ignore my own rule and turn my back on the truth. And the truth is that I want to watch Manny hit on July 14th.

You don’t want me to stand up here and lie, do you?? I’m just trying to maintain a little common decency on Game 6, for crying out loud!

Unfortunately, the major drawback to a Manny appearance in the All-Star game is the incessant yammering the story would set off on Sportscenter, talk radio and the Worldwide Web. It’s almost enough to make me not vote for him. Almost, but not quite. The saving grace is that, with Manny in the game, at least we won’t have to hear about Alex Rodriguez.

And that’s always a good thing.

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