The most fun thing, for me, about the MLB All-Star ballot is how disposable it is: I can fill out a bracket in a matter of seconds, with literally zero thought whatsoever, and it counts just as much as someone who spent days breaking down every possible permutation and statistic from every possible angle.
In a matter of seconds, I can refute intelligent, thoughtful votes from Joe Sheehan, or Jonathan Bernhardt, or Tony La Russa, or Bud Selig. This is very exciting undermining! I would feel worse about this if the ballots weren't out already even though it's barely May. Remember, too, that these nominees must be chosen before the season even starts. That leads, inevitably, to some incredibly silly names being on the ballot.
This got me to thinking: What's the worst imaginable ballot I could fill out, today, May 1, 2014? What votes could I put together that would fly most in the face of sentient thought and inherent justice? How dumb can I get here?
A project this ridiculous needs specific rules:
- No write-ins. Otherwise I could just write in myself and my friends. That'd be a pretty awful team. (And a hilarious Home Run Derby.)
- Past performance counts, a little. Jose Reyes might be off to a bad, injury-plagued start, but he's obviously a good player: We're not just picking the guy with the worst stats here. That said, just because Rafael Furcal was once a World Series-winning shortstop doesn't mean we can't select him here.
- Injuries count, a little. Manny Machado is on the ballot but hasn't played this year. It still feels churlish to pick him. Furcal, who hasn't played either, however …
- In case of a tie, amusement value will be the determining factor. Sorry, I just love the name "Oswaldo Arcia."
Let's get to it:
Catcher: Geovany Soto, Texas Rangers. All right, we start out with one that's totally unfair. Soto is still rehabbing from a torn meniscus and won't be back for another month-and-a-half, but he's been an excellent player throughout his career and was fantastic the last time we saw him. That said: Catcher is tough this year. Most of the catchers in the American League are having excellent years, have a solid reputation or are currently playing. Sorry, Soto. Them's the breaks.
First base: Daric Barton, Oakland A's. In 24 games, he has been on base 12 times. Also, his video highlight features him catching a fairly routine foul ball.
Second base: Ryan Goins, Toronto Blue Jays. He was just sent down to Triple-A Buffalo last week, and with one RBI so far, he's unlikely to make the All-Star Game there, either. Gordon Beckham received some consideration here, considering his team is begging teams to trade for him.
Shortstop: Alex Gonzalez, Detroit Tigers. Minnesota's Pedro Florimon, who is currently hitting .115, would be a sterling candidate any other year, but the Tigers have already released Gonzalez. Gonzalez is almost certainly going to retire soon. ("He's had a tremendous career," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said when the Tigers cut him.) Here's hoping a successful campaign to get Gonzalez voted into the Hall of Fame will persuade him to put on the uniform one last time.
Third base: Mike Moustakas, Kansas City Royals. It was sort of difficult to come up with a pick here: David Freese, Carlos Santana and Brett Lawrie are off to rough starts, but it didn't seem right to fit them here. So how about Moustakas, who is officially in the "manager gives a vote of confidence (but also is going to do what he can to make sure that guy plays as little as possible)" mode of his career?
Outfield: Oswaldo Arcia, Minnesota Twins; Robbie Grossman, Houston Astros; L.J. Hoes, Houston Astros. Finally, some Astros on this team. Grossman was sent down two weeks ago when George Springer was called up, and Arcia and Hoes would make it because of their names even if they weren't both batting less than .136.
Designated hitter: Jason Giambi, Cleveland Indians. Logan Morrison would also work here -- turns out "Twitter" is not one of the five tools -- but c'mon, how do you not vote for Giambi, injury or not? He's currently 0-for-8 and, it's worth noting, as fun as it is to have him around, he hasn't been a good hitter for a long time. (He's had only one OPS+ season over 100 since 2008.) Though, there is always his dazzling defense.
Catcher: A.J. Ellis, Los Angeles Dodgers. Another unfair hit for a catcher: Catching is the one position the ballot seems to get right. Ellis will be back from his minor knee surgery soon. (And I am not cruel enough to put Wilson Ramos here.)
First base: Gaby Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a tough call between Sanchez and San Diego's Yonder Alonso, but Alonso at least should be hitting. (And has the job.) The Pirates just traded for Ike Davis, who is already cutting into Sanchez's playing time. Though I'll confess, part of this because it just wouldn't feel like an All-Star Game without Gaby Sanchez.
Second base: Rafael Furcal, Miami Marlins. Furcal hasn't played a game since August 2012 and earlier this week, the Marlins stopped his rehab assignment in Double A after he hurt his groin. If you think the famously brittle Furcal will be back this year, I'd like to negotiate my next contract with you. I like the idea of Furcal never playing in a game again but continuing to show up on All-Star ballots, for the rest of eternity.
Shortstop: Jordy Mercer, Pittsburgh Pirates. A backup/platoon guy for his career, Mercer has rewarded the Pirates faith in him this season with 11 hits. Lots of Pirates on this list so far, right?
Third base: Cody Asche, Philadelphia Phillies. Eventually, he might be a big-league starter at the hot corner. Right now, though? "Ryne Sandberg said playing time could be distributed among Asche, Freddy Galvis and Jayson Nix." Never a positive sign.
Outfield: Justin Ruggiano, Chicago Cubs; Ryan Sweeney, Chicago Cubs; Peter Bourjos, St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs outfield is a nightmare right now; it is possible they're all carrying their bats upside down. As for Bourjos, now that he's finally healthy … he's arguably third on the Cardinals' depth chart among center fielders. He currently has only three more hits than Adam Wainwright.
All right, get out there and get voting. There's a whole process waiting to be upended, one vote at a time.
* * *