I'm sure we all know (and adore!) the lovely rule of the MLB All-Star game that stipuates that every team must have a representative in the game. In some years, this leads to some absolutely silly scenarios, like Kevin Correia representing the Pirates last year (while all-world center fielder Andrew McCutchen was relegated to the Final Vote ballot, which he won in a landslide) or Ty Wigginton as the lone Oriole in 2010 (thanks to the inane utility player selection recently instituted). But sometimes, there's a really great player on a bad team that deserves to go to the game, and usually does without much of a discussion. But sometimes, it's really tough, and we end up with situations like "Evan Meek: All-Star".
At any rate, I'm going to take a look at the 12 teams currently under .500, and see who their token rep in the All-Star game will be…or maybe, they'll even have multiple players that are deserving.
Detroit Tigers: Prince Fielder is going to go, as he currently has a 600,000 vote lead on Paul Konerko for the AL's starting first base job. Third baseman Miguel Cabrera will probably end up making the trip to Kansas City as well, due to the dire state of AL third basemen right now thanks to a glut of injuries. Center fielder Austin Jackson also deserves an all-expenses paid trip to Kauffman Stadium, due to his three win season so far, but the 20 games or so he missed might hurt him. Reigning AL Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander is also pretty much locked into the game as well. The Tigers will get somewhere between two and four All-Stars…not so bad for a team under .500 that's been a huge disappointment this year.
Kansas City Royals: As the host team, you'd like to see the Royals get multiple players into the game in their home stadium, but only two players are standing out for me: left fielder Alex Gordon, and third baseman Mike Moustakas. Most of Gordon's value comes from his defense, and he's not tearing the cover off of the ball like he did last year. As for Moustakas, the same point that stood for Cabrera stands for him. It's a weak third base crop this year, and Moustakas is having a great year.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer is having an under the radar, typical Mauer year in a largely bad crop of AL catchers. Josh Willingham is also worth a nod after joining the Twins as a free agent this offseason. He's smashing the hell out of the ball, and his .937 OPS will probably be too much to ignore.
Oakland Athetlics: I think Josh Reddick is a lock to be the sole A's representative this year. He has twice as many homers as anyone else on the team, and is far and away the best hitter on an awful offensive team. On the mound, Ryan Cook has settled into the closer's role, and he has a 1.65 ERA while striking out a batter per inning….but his low save total will likely not get him a second glance. Jarrod Parker and Brandon McCarthy both have extremely low ERAs, but neither is a sexy pitcher who lights up the radar gun or strikes out a lot of batters.
Seattle Mariners: Remember when Ichiro was a lock to start every year due to Japanese fans flooding the ballot box? Well, Ichiro is 11th among AL outfielders in voting this year, 1.7 million votes out of a starting spot. Plus, he's not having a great year with the stick. Felix Hernandez will probably be the lone Mariner to go to Kansas City, because quite frankly, he's the best player they've got. Third baseman Kyle Seager is having a good year, but either Cabrera or Moustakas would need to get booted to make room for him, and I don't think that's going to happen.
Philadelphia Phillies: Catcher Carlos Ruiz is pretty much a lock to go to the game, either as the starter or a backup. He's having the best offensive year of any catcher in baseball, and it would be a worthy choice for him to go. Jimmy Rollins might go, due to injuries an ineffectiveness from the NL shortstop class this year. On the mound, free agent to be Cole Hamels is a lock, and Cliff Lee should go, but won't due to his goose egg in the wins column. I can see a case being made for closer Jonathan Papelbon, as he's been quite good (when actually used in games).
Miami Marlins: The most disappointing team in baseball this year has to be the Marlins, and their cadre of All-Star players has been largely ineffective this year. I don't think Hanley Ramirez will stand out enough to go as a third baseman, and their only other above average position player has been right fielder Giancarlo Stanton, who deserves a selection. Despite the effectiveness of the Marlins rotation, none of them have a sexy ERA (Mark Buerhle is the leader at 3.55), and I don't think any will be getting a slot.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun and Melky Cabrera are in a tussle for the final starting spot in the outfield, but both players will be heading to Kansas City regardless of who wins the voting. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy was looking like a great selection before he got hurt. On the mound, Zack Greinke has been awesome and is a lock to make the trip to his former ballpark.
Houston Astros: Houston's middle infield duo of Jose Altuve and Jed Lowrie are both deserving of All-Star nods, and I can see both players earning spots. No one else on the team deserves to be allowed within 500 miles of Kauffman Stadium.
Chicago Cubs: Despite an allergy to walks, shortstop Starlin Castro is one of the best young shortstops in the league, and will probably earn a selection. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano is having a good year, but there's a stigma around him due to his contract that will probably result in him staying home. First baseman Bryan LaHair started off good, but isn't even the starter anymore…say goodbye to his chances. Ryan Dempster and his sparkling 2.11 ERA looks like an excellent choice for the game, but his current DL stint may take him out of the running.
Colorado Rockies: Carlos Gonzalez is a monster in the outfield, and will get an All-Star berth pretty easily. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would also be going, but he's going to miss a couple months after groin surgery. The only other Rockie that might earn consideration is center fielder Dexter Fowler, who has been a huge surprise this year, Coors Field effect or not.
San Diego Padres: I just wrote about Chase Headley earlier today, and he's the best choice on a putrid Padres team. That is, if he's still with them in three weeks.