The Insider NL roster††††††††††
By Adam Hoff
About a month ago we took an early look at who deserved a spot on the All-Star rosters.† Now that weíre closer to the game itself and the rosters are nearly finalized, letís take another look.† Here are the deserving players as of June 30, based on a healthy combination of common sense and fantasy baseball perspective.† Iím ignoring the fan voting and piecing together the best roster possible but I will adhere to the ďAll 30 teams must be representedĒ rule.† Even though it sucks.
National League ďInsiderĒ All-Star Team.
Fan voted starter: Mike Piazza.†
My starter: Mike Piazza.
Coach/player selected reserves: Johnny Estrada.
My reserves:† Johnny Estrada.
Apologies to: Jason Kendall.
Comments: So far so good!† All of John Krukís inane gushing about Estrada aside, Iím happy to see him selected as a reserve.† Jack McKeon no doubt knows how valuable a clutch hitting catcher can be after riding Pudge to a World Series title last year, so it shouldnít be surprising to see him tab the Braves backstop.† Last time I did one of these All-Star columns, Estrada was my choice as the starting catcher on the strength of his batting average and incredible numbers with runners in scoring position as well as with two outs.† Unfortunately for Johnny, I donít think heís hit a home run since.† And while his overall numbers (.332 with 47 RBI) are still good, Piazza has bolted past him in recent weeks.† Thanks to a hot streak in June, Piazza is now hitting .309 with a .929 OPS and 16 home runs.† This one turned into a blowout.† Kendall gets squeezed despite a solid .311 average and .391 OBP.
Fan voted starter: Albert Pujols.†
My starter: Jim Thome.
Selected reserves: Thome, Todd Helton, and Sean Casey.
My reserves: Pujols, Helton, and Casey.
Apologies to: Lyle Overbay.
Comments: This is the most loaded position in the major leagues.† Sean Casey makes a pretty good case for first half MVP of the National League with his .352/1.008 and 15 home runs, yet heís the fourth best guy in the group.† Pujols is the starter and Iíve got no real problem with that.† I do think Thome has been a bit better, but itís almost too close to call.† Pujols has helped lead St. Louis to the best record in the National League and is hitting .310 with a 1.015 OPS and 21 home runs and leads the majors with 71 runs scored.† Thome is hitting .299, leading the majors with 27 home runs, and is second in OPS at 1.091.† Finally, Helton continues to be a hitting machine in Colorado, posting .351/1.081 with 15 bombs.†
I agree with the general fan population that Lyle Overbay (.340 with 61 RBI and a MLB-leading 30 doubles) is getting screwed, but this is no fault of Jack McKeon.† Overbay simply plays the wrong position.†
Leading vote getter: Jeff Kent.†
My starter: Kent.
Selected reserves: Mark Loretta.
My reserves:† Loretta.
Apologies to: Nobody.
Comments: I have to say, up to this point, the combination of the fans and Old Man River are doing a great job.† My only disagreement so far has been Pujols starting ahead of Thome, and that is even debatable.† As for this position, I got called out for not putting Loretta on the roster last time and thereís certainly no denying him a spot this time around.† Heís hitting .318 with the second best OPS among NL second basemen at .820.† Kent is still the best bet here with 10 home runs, 52 RBI, a 25 game hitting streak, and a solid .293/.855 combo.† Honestly though, the position is still weak overall.† Only Jose Vidro (because heís an Expo) even gets another look.†
Fan voted starter: Scott Rolen.†
My starter: Rolen.
Selected reserves: Mike Lowell.
Reserves: Adrian Beltre and Aramis Ramirez.
Apologies to: Lowell and Vinny Castilla.
Comments: Hereís my first beef with the manager and the playersí picks.† Rolen is a no-brainer as the starter, hitting .342 with a 1.037 OPS, 18 home runs, and a league-leading 76 RBI.† Oh yeah, and he just might be the best defensive player in the game.† However, Iím tabbing two guys for the reserve spots that arenít on the All-Star team as it currently stands.† With all due respect to the players, who voted in Mike Lowell, how is he more deserving than Adrian Beltre?† The Dodgersí third sacker is superior in nearly every offensive category and is doing it all on a bum ankle.† Beltre is hitting .318 to Lowellís .297, has 21 home runs to Lowellís 19, has driven in more runs (55 to 51), and their .933 OPS marks are identical.† I know that itís close, but when you factor in Beltreís injury and lack of protection in the Dodger lineup, well, it seems like an easy choice.
No matter who you pick for the next reserve slot, be it Lowell, Aramis Ramirez, or Vinny Castilla, there has to be three third basemen on this roster.† Weíll get to the Barry Larkin/three NL shortstops travesty in a minute, but having only two third basemen on this team is just ridiculous.† Like the other corner infield position, the hot corner is stacked in the NL.† Lowell has obviously been terrific, Cash-steala has driven in 70 runs (70!), and Ramirez is hitting .326 with 56 RBI, 60 runs scored, 15 home runs, and a .924 OPS.† Iím going with Rolen, Beltre, and Ramirez, but you could make a case for the other two guys as well.† The point is, there should be three third basemen on the team.† Who they are is a secondary concern.
Fan voted starters: Edgar Renteria.†
My starter: Jack Wilson.
Selected reserves: Wilson and Barry Larkin.
My reserves: Nobody.
Apologies to: Nobody.
Comments: This is just abysmal.† Wilson remains the only deserving player at the position with his .339 average and steady defense.† I can understand the fans picking Renteria because he was so good last year, but what in the world is McKeon doing?† Is an All-Star spot the baseball equivalent of the Oscar for Best Actor?† Just as the Academy Award has become a lifetime achievement award and make-up call (just look some of the winners between 1999 and 2002), apparently so to has the All-Star game.† How else do you explain the selection of Larkin?† Iím in five fantasy leagues and heís not on a single roster!† Itís an absolute sham that heís taking a roster spot away from one of the third basemen mentioned above or one of the outfielders Iím about to discuss.† Disgusting.
Fan voted starters: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey Jr.†
My starters: Bonds, Bobby Abreu, and Adam Dunn.
Selected reserves: Miguel Cabrera, Lance Berkman, and Moises Alou.
My reserves: Cabrera, J.D. Drew, Carlos Beltran, and Lance Berkman.
Apologies to: Too many to count.
Comments: What is going on here?† How is Bobby Abreu sitting on the sidelines?† Honestly, this is one of the worst All-Star snubs in recent memory.† The guy is one of the top five players in the game.† Heís a fantasy machine and a top notch outfielder for a first place team!† What else is there?† Check out his numbers: .305 average, 1.018 OPS (8th in the majors), 57 RBI, 68 runs scored (3rd), 70 walks (3rd), .445 OBP (4th), 17 home runs, and 17 stolen bases (7th).† The guy is a statistical monster and he has a sweet afro-mullet combo.† Iím so pissed right now.††
My other two starters are Bonds and Dunn.† Barry continues to blow my mind.† Heís hitting .352, heís on pace to once again shatter his own record for walks (121, compared to only 176 official at bats), OBP (.619), and OPS (1.409).† Plus, heís scored 64 runs and hit 22 home runs.† Unbelievable.† Dunn is another guy that isnít even a reserve on the actual All-Star team, but he has rocketed into a starting spot on my squad thanks to his 1.002 OPS and 24 home runs.† Plus, heís fourth in the majors in walks (six of the top seven in the league are NL outfielders).
I agree with Cabrera (19 home runs) and Berkman (1.036 OPS), but I favor J.D. Drew over Moises Alou.† Drew has almost single-handedly kept the Braves offense intact and is 6th in the big leagues in OPS (1.034) and walks (59) and has hit 19 home runs.† Finally, weíre making some sort of exception for super stud Carlos Beltran.† It hardly seems fair to penalize Beltran for being traded, so heís landing on this team.† With 19 home runs and 15 stolen bases, he has the best power/speed combo in the majors.† Plus, did you see that catch the other day?
Now for the pitchers Ö
Likely McKeon pick for starter: Roger Clemens.
Gets my starting nod: Randy Johnson.
Other selected starters: Randy Johnson, Ben Sheets, Roger Clemens, Carl Pavano, Carlos Zambrano, Tom Glavine, and Livan Hernandez.
My starters: †Jason Schmidt, Ben Sheets, Roger Clemens, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Zambrano, Tom Glavine, and Livan Hernandez.
Apologies to: Matt Clement, Brad Penny, and Carl Pavano.
Comments:† I donít have too many complaints here.† I think Carpenter (9 wins, 1.08 WHIP, 88 Kís) has been better and more important than Pavano (9 wins, 1.09 WHIP, 73 Kís) because his emergence has changed the Cardinals pitching staff from thin and crappy to good.† But itís pretty close, so Iíve got no real problem with McKeon taking his guy.† My bigger concern is in regard to who gets the starting nod.† It seems that the whole world is clambering for Roger Clemens.† What?† Sure itís impressive that heís dominating at age 42, but there are two other NL pitchers with a much more legitimate stake at the starting spot, one of whom is also above 40.†
First youíve got Mr. Perfect Game, Randy Johnson.† Unit Randy Johnson has 10 wins, a 2.90 ERA, a league-leading .86 WHIP, K/BB ratio, and a league-leading 139 strikeouts.† Heís the starting pitcher; end of story.†
If you donít want to go with Randy, there is still a far more worthy starter than Clemens.† Jason Schmidt is 10-2, just like Clemens. He has a 2.61 ERA which compares favorably with Rocketís 2.54.† Theyíve thrown almost the exact same number of innings (109 for Clemens and 108 for Schmidt) and both have 113 strikeouts.† Itís almost creepy, really.† Except there is one major difference between these two studs: baserunners.† If you believe Rob Neyer or Billy James, there is no better measure of how truly effective a pitcher is.† Schmidt has given up 16 fewer hits and 12 fewer walks than Clemens, good for a .97 WHIP (third in the big leagues) versus Rogerís 1.20.† When you take that into account, itís not even close.
As for the rest of the staff, Ben Sheets has been filthy.† 2.42 ERA (2nd in majors), .90 WHIP (2nd) , and a ridiculous 6.94 K/BB (2nd) ratio Ö Iíd say heís arrived.† Carlos Zambrano has been the rock in Chicago with 9 wins and a 2.41 ERA.† Tom Glavine has tossed 122 innings with a 2.49 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.† Livan Hernandez makes the team over more deserving players simply because the ĎSpos need a representative.† And honestly, heís not a horrible pick.† Heís been a workhorse, leading the big leagues in innings pitched with 133 and still has solid numbers (3.23 ERA, 1.20 WHIP).†
Selected relievers: Armando Benitez, Danny Graves, Danny Kolb, and Eric Gagne
My picks: Armando Benitez, Danny Graves, Danny Kolb, and Eric Gagne.
Apologies to: Trevor Hoffman and Braden Looper.
Comments: †Well, this group was easy enough.† Benitez has 27 saves, a 1.07 ERA, and a .88 WHIP, Graves has 31 saves, Kolb has burst onto the scene with 25 saves, a .84 ERA, and a .81 WHIP, and Gagne has been his insane self. †His consecutive save streak ended last night at 84, but heís still sporting a 21 saves to go with a .83 WHIP and 50 Kís in 36 innings
There they are, my National League All-Stars.† My biggest beefs were with the inclusions of Barry Larkin and Moises Alou, the fan votes of Sosa and Griffey, and the omissions of Abreu, Dunn, and an additional third basemen.† Taking into account that the fan vote is what it is, I would have left off Larkin, Alou, and Pavano and added Abreu, Dunn, and Beltre, in that order.† And for crying out loud, let Carlos Beltran play!
Adam Hoff is a columnist for WhatifSports.com and can be reached at email@example.com or by sitemail at adamo112.†