It would solve a lot of historical misunderstandings and issues if Major League Baseball just had an all-MLB team. This would be selected at the end of the season and entirely separate from the midsummer All-Star team. It would be like an All-Pro team in the NFL, or an All-NBA team, the latter of which has become so important that it actually helps determine how much money a player can be paid. There would be a clear delineation between Player Who Appears in The All-Star Game and All-MLB. More than 60 guys can be picked for the All-Star Game. The All-MLB Team would have 13 players: eight position players, a lefty starter, a righty starter, a DH, a setup guy and a closer. There'd be a difference. There wouldn't be any confusion.
Alas, we don't yet live in that world: All we have is the All-Star Game. Thus, a whole bunch of debates and discussions that ultimately don't mean anything. We'll talk about snubs and "tough calls" and it won't really matter because it's just one exhibition game with massive rosters anyway. Being an All-Star is an honor, but not an exclusive one.
This is generally not a terrible thing. The All-Star Game is supposed to be fun, after all, and even if we shouldn't use it as the ultimately arbiter of baseball's best players, that doesn't mean it can't still be the lovely mid-July showcase it has always been. Particularly now that we've rid ourselves of the illusion that it "counts." It can just be a regular old baseball game now, one that features the most exciting players in the game.
So thus, when it comes time to fill out my Esurance All-Star Game ballot -- and I always wait until this final week of balloting to make my selections; voting ends on Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ET -- I'm not thinking about who the "best" player is, because I know that doesn't matter. I just pick the guys I want to see on the biggest platform, the game in which baseball has the stage all to itself. This is a subjective decision, of course; the players I most want to see might not necessarily be yours. But it is based not necessarily in statistics, or utility, or ability to help a team actually win. (After all, the game doesn't count.) Obviously, quality counts somewhat. I'm not going to put Lucas Duda on the roster just because it would be fun to watch him try to throw the ball to home. But quality isn't everything. It's simply the players who would make the most compelling All-Star Game, the ones most likely to provide us a memory that lasts for decades. Which is, after all, the point of an All-Star Game, and the point of sports in general.
So, here are my 2017 MLB All-Stars. Until I get my all-MLB team, this will have to suffice. These are the players we should want to be watching. If you think this is a dumb ballot, make sure to cancel it out by casting your own vote by Thursday.
Catcher: Gary Sanchez, Yankees. Now that he's back healthy and hitting homers again, no offense to Salvador Perez, but who's going to keep you in your seat when he's at the plate, Sanchez or Perez?
First Base: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. There aren't that many amazing first basemen to choose from in the AL, so I'm going to go with the guy who's going to be in the Hall of Fame.
Second Base: Jose Altuve, Astros. Obviously lots of stars to choose from here, but Altuve isn't just a fantastic player, he's exactly the sort of player you want to see in a game like this. You want someone to show your kids that anyone can make it, regardless of their shape or size or background, if they work relentlessly and have everything fall right? Here's Altuve. That he's the leader of the best team in baseball doesn't hurt either.
Shortstop: Francisco Lindor, Indians. In a parallel universe, he homers in the ninth inning of last year's World Series and is basically a god in Cleveland. Instead, he'll have to settle for a statue someday. He might be the most purely pleasurable player to watch in the game today. He makes you want to grab a glove and get out there and play.
Third Base: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays. It's tempting to go with Manny Machado here, and I would if he weren't off to such a rough start. That puts him just behind Donaldson, the player so lusted after that dozens of teams are actively cheering for the Blue Jays to lose 10 in a row so they can start making bids. Even with all this: I'm already sort of regretting not getting to watch Machado start this game.
Outfield: Aaron Judge, Yankees; Mookie Betts, Red Sox; Mike Trout, Angels. Judge is an obvious no-brainer. Betts should be on the cover of every baseball publication at least twice a year. And Trout is fighting to get back from his thumb injury before the All-Star break, but even he's in a body cast, I want to see him at the All-Star Game.
Designated Hitter: Albert Pujols, Angels. I know there are better picks here -- Corey Dickerson, Matt Holliday, Edwin Encarnacion, even Trey Mancini -- but after years of David Ortiz, I'm just used to seeing a future Hall of Famer here. One could argue that the designated hitter in every All-Star Game should be an aging future Hall of Famer. Would anyone have a problem with Ichiro as the NL's DH? It's be great, right?
Catcher: Buster Posey, Giants. Even if his team has imploded, he's the easy pick. It would behoove Yadier Molina, by the way, to start picking up some All-Star nods for when his surely contentious Hall of Fame debate comes up in the next decade.
First Base: Eric Thames, Brewers. Apologies to Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo and the rest, but even after the cool down -- and he's been coming back around lately -- Thames is one of the biggest stories of the first half of the season and exactly the sort of guy you want everyone talking about during the game the whole country's watching. (Not to mention: The Brewers are still in first place.) Plus, maybe this will happen.
Second Base: Daniel Murphy, Nationals. There probably isn't anybody better to show off the "pull the ball and get it in the air" philosophy that has taken over Major League Baseball than Murphy.
Shortstop: Corey Seager, Dodgers. There's still an argument he should have won the NL MVP Award last year, and he's better this year.
Third Base: Nolan Arenado, Rockies. There isn't a tougher call on the board here between Arenado and Kris Bryant, particularly because it's weird not to have any Cubs on the roster. (Let them fill the bench.) But Arenado is a transcendent player whose team is finally having its moment. There's no one better to represent that. He has to be there.
Outfield: Cody Bellinger, Dodgers; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins. I know it's not the Home Run Derby ... but Bellinger is the best thing baseball has going right now, Harper's the most electric player in the sport and Stanton is the hometown kid who can hit the ball 1,000 miles. Though if you chose Ichiro for Stanton's spot, I wouldn't blame you.
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