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All-Star PR Spectacular

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland

Kent, OHIO--The days of multiple Cleveland Indians in the All-Star Game are unfortunately a thing of the past. The once-proud franchise will return to such greatness someday, but for now we are left with token representation. As much as it pains me to say, it might be time to reevaluate the league's "one team, minimum one player" mandate. If this game is to be taken seriously, then pitchers with 7-7 records should probably be passed.

Fausto Carmona is a solid arm, and his Triple-A lineup does little to help his run support. However, he has a negative PR rating, ranking 96th overall. Think what you want about my stat, but it very nearly predicted the NL and AL All-Star rosters correctly. Furthermore, it doesn't take a concocted statistic to show that the Indians should not send a representative to this year's All-Star Game. The day that Shin-Soo Choo went on the Disabled List with a thumb injury is the day the Tribe should have lost its right to a token player. No one else on that team has an argument to belong, especially not a pitcher.

I partly blame the selection process. I said this when I created Pitcher Rating and will once again stick to my guns: the top 13 pitchers should trump position players. A team like the 2010 Indians--represented by a single player--should not have that delegate come in the form of an undeserving pitcher. There are only 13 spots in the pitching staff of an All-Star roster, so they should be held at a premium. Let a token player rob one of the 22 other spots on the roster. There, they wouldn't even have to play. The best 13 arms (statistically, not situationally) in each league should be there, no questions asked.

The most troubling part of the Carmona selection was that Choo's injury was not cited as the reason why he was left off the team. This says to me that AL manager, Joe Girardi, actually sought out Fausto Carmona; as if to say that even a healthy Choo would have been overlooked. For a 7-7 pitcher with a 3.69 ERA? Cue the Charlie Brown "Aaugh!"

By taking Fausto Carmona, a starter like Justin Verlander (10-5, 103 strikeouts, and a 25th-ranked Pitcher Rating) was snubbed. If Girardi would have selected Shin-Soo Choo as the Tribe rep instead, someone like Vernon Wells is the snubbed man and not Verlander. The talent decline from Vernon Wells to Shin-Soo Choo is negligible, especially when neither would start or see much action in the game. Conversely, the fall off from Verlander to Carmona is embarrassingly large. And Verlander would pitch and help his League. We will have to wait and see what Carmona can offer.

Charlie Manuel--NL manager--is not free form criticism either. Forget the Joey Votto snub; he had far more questionable moves with the pitchers. He went to the armory and forgot some of the biggest weapons in the entire Major Leagues. Not the ideal way to end a long drought of All-Star Game losses.

Had Manuel followed my Pitcher Rating-based selection, the teams represented in the pitching staff would be:
Colorado, St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego, Florida, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

This would leave Cincinnati, Washington, Houston, Arizona, and Pittsburgh in need of delegation. For the Reds, Scott Rolen is a lock at third, Votto should have been at first, and you could make an argument for second baseman, Brandon Phillips. Check mark. No pitcher's spots necessary.

For Washington, Manuel will send Matt Capps to Anaheim; leaving third basemen, Ryan Zimmerman, to wallow around in the Final Vote (which he will unfortunately lose). Staying with my theme of "best pitchers trump token representation," I would have switched those two. Zimmerman deserves to back up David Wright, Atlanta's Omar Infante does not. He should join Capps as a spectator during the Break.

Manuel took care of Houston with Michael Bourn, so there is no adjustment necessary there. Likewise, Arizona will send Chris Young. This is the way the reserves should be handled; add bench players that are speed and defense guys. If we are going to play this thing to win, you need value in pinch runners that are not liabilities in the field in the next half inning.

The last unsatisfied team would then be Pittsburgh. Because Manuel is forced to treat this stupid semi-exhibition game like a meaningful affair, he is taking a middle reliever. If this game was still a reflection of the best talents in the game, like it should be, Evan Meek would be nowhere near the All-Star Game. His Pitcher Rating is ranked 83rd. If you want to dip that low in the ratings, you might as well pick up Steven Strasburg (92).

Do not snub Billy Wagner, Heath Bell, Mike Pelfrey, and Mat Latos for a match-up relief pitcher from a last place team. I prefer Andrew McCutchen in his place. He has a better chance of stealing a base late in the game than Evan Meek will have in keeping the American League offense scoreless. McCutchen is no slouch either; hitting .294, with a .375 OBP and 20 steals.

Things I can compromise on: Tim Lincecum, Arthur Rhodes, and Tim Hudson on the roster, despite not having them in my top 13. Two of the three were reserves in my All-Star Predictor. One is the two-time reigning Cy Young Award winner, and the other two have found the fountain of youth. Rhodes and Hudson can look at these appearances as Journeymen Career Revival Lifetime Achievement Awards.

In a perfect world I would get rid of Meek, get rid of Capps. Not only will the pitching become better, but so will the National League offense (McCutchen and Zimmerman, not Infante and Jose Reyes). Add Wagner and Bell in place of those two relievers, and have either Mike Pelfrey or Mat Latos replace the injured Yovani Gallardo. That would be the best team to finally end the skid for the Senior Circuit.

The American League is far more cut and dry. Joe Girardi had most of the decisions made for him. The pitching crop is not deep, and injuries/need for rest opened the door to those who felt snubbed.

I can respect Girardi's decision to take Trevor Cahill from Oakland. He is having a great sophomore season and the A's would be a hard team to come up with a quality position player. Similiarly, I had Neftali Feliz one spot away from making the All-Star roster, so I have no problems with his selection.

Girardi had luck on his side to avoid major scrutiny that plagues Charlie Manuel. Up until Tuesday I was screaming for the insertion of the Major League leader in strikeouts (and hometown Angel) Jered Weaver as well as his own player, Andy Pettitte. With the hamstring pull of Clay Buchholz and the voluntary removal of Mariano Rivera, the two slide in nicely. Girardi is off the hook. It leaves Rays' closer Rafael Soriano as the only true snub. He has the fifth-best Pitcher Rating in baseball and for some reason will be on vacation next week.

The easy fix--to get Soriano in the game--would have been to rethink the White Sox sole representative. Matt Thorton is the American League version of Evan Meek. He is a hard throwing set-up man that would not even sniff the All-Star Game if it were not being played to win... sort of.

The problem with including middle relievers is that their sample size (i.e. innings pitched) is not large enough to really tell whether the season is All-Star worthy. Position players have roughly 300 at-bats, while Meek has not even eclipsed 48 innings pitched; Thorton has not even reached 36. If Girardi wanted to include a bridge to the American League closers, Fernando Rodney would have been a much better choice. His Pitcher Rating made him a reserve in my Predictor, and he is a member of the Anaheim Angels. You always have to try to maximize the hometown exposure. As it stood on Selection Sunday, only Torii Hunter represented the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of Planet Earth.

Rodney over Thorton, if that's how we want to play this quirky exhibition game. Neither if it is about star power. It takes a powerful feat--like Arthur Rhodes' Major League record-tying 33 consecutive scoreless appearances--for a set-up man to really turn heads. Without that, he loses serious leverage to be a member of the National League squad. A hold is a thankless stat, not one that is synonymous with All-Star appearances.

Let's play a game called "Who sounds like more of an All-Star snub?" First up: Paul Konerko or Matt Thorton? Throw out the stats and go solely on reputation and/or prior knowledge of the player's talent. If the roles were reversed and Matt Thorton were left out, he couldn't possibly consider himself a snub. He definitely would not have made the Final Vote like Konerko. You cannot pass on a guy with 20 home runs and a track record for productive offensive seasons. The rosters should at least pass an eye test and Thorton is an outlier.

Wrapping up where I began, Fausto is just as embarrassing of a blemish. It pains me to say that this one does not have a fixable solution. He is the only undeserving player that cannot be moved anywhere. Cleveland position players, aside from the injured Choo, are so bad that it had to be an Indians' pitcher. Until the Tribe gets better, they are going to rack up the All-Star appearances by .500 pitchers.

This is where I would like Bud Selig to make a change. The one-player-per-team rule has got to be amended. Like I have stated before, and will again, go with the best pitchers... period. So right off the bat, no Fausto. Then, if you select a position player--to be the token ambassador--and he happens to be injured, that team foregos its mandated appearances. Choo should be the All-Star, show up and smile to the cameras, and no Cleveland player will play. It is an honor, not a right.

Pitcher Rating July 7
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