In order to understand the best and worst of the 2018 MLB All-Star Game rosters, as presented by Some Rando on the Internet, you have to know where that rando stands on some key All-Star issues.
The most important thing to remember about the All-Star Game is this: It’s better with players having brilliant careers. There’s a kid who attended the 1975 All-Star Game and remembers how the County Stadium crowd roared for a limping, aging Hank Aaron. There is absolutely no kid who remembers being angry that Leroy Stanton wasn’t rewarded for his stellar first half. Heck, Stanton’s kid was probably thrilled, considering he or she got to hang out with his or her dad in the summer for once. Always go for the Hank Aarons over the Leroy Stantons.
If Jesus Aguilar is really this good, he’ll be closer to the Aaron threshold, and he’ll make an All-Star team several times in the future.
If he’s not, we’ll look back at All-Star nods for Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt in 20 years — the little “AS” next to their names on Baseball-Reference — and think, yeah, that makes sense. We won’t think about the Leroy Stanton-ish first half of Aguilar almost getting the nod.
And always, always, always, remember that in a month, you won’t remember 80 percent of the All-Star roster, and you certainly won’t care.
When in doubt, though, go for the player who will make the Hall of Fame, has won an MVP, or will come reasonably close to doing both. It’s the only way to make sure that you’re not overreacting to eight hot weeks.
With that in mind, here are my bests and worsts from the 2018 MLB All-Star rosters:
Best: Nick Markakis and Shin-soo Choo making their first teams
Ah, it’s easy to draw a line in the sand when talking about HANK AARON, but what about the players who spend their careers merely helping their teams win, over and over again? Where is their reward? Of the position players who have never made an All-Star Game in the All-Star era, Shin-soo Choo is the seventh-most valuable according to WAR, and Nick Markakis might be the 10th-most valuable before the end of this week. They’ve probably deserved to go at some point.
It probably says an awful lot that only the die-hardiest of the die-hard Reds and Orioles fans can rattle off the specific snubs.
They’re here, though. Finally. It’s like they were competing in a contest to have as many good-but-not-that-good first halves in a lengthy, memorable career, and then both caved at the same time. They’ll finally get their moment in the sun.
I often think of a piece that Steven Goldman wrote years ago for this site, in which he compared Hunter Pence to Edna Ferber. It wasn’t a slight. It was just a note that the players who might seem like immortal titans we’ll never forget ... probably aren’t.
I don’t want to belabor Ferber except to say that there are people who are massively famous in their time and then vanish as newer stuff gets piled on top of them.
This is probably the fate of Markakis and Choo. The kids today don’t appreciate them, dagnabbit. The kids tomorrow won’t even know who they are.
But they’ll line up on the first- or third-base line next week and take off their hats as people cheer. That’s pretty cool. And they’ve earned it.
Worst: Andrelton Simmons not making the team
Fun fact: Of the players who haven’t made an All-Star team, Simmons also might be in the top 10 in WAR before the week is over. Except he’s just 28 and in the prime of his career.
Which means he’s a helluva lot closer to Aaron than he is to Markakis and Choo.
This is mostly a numbers game, what with the American League being filthy rotten with supremely talented shortstops. But if we’re going to list the players we’d want to watch for 30 minutes at a time, Simmons is high up on it. He’s turned himself into one of the greatest contact hitters in a sport that’s forgetting how to make them, and he’s continuing to be one of the greatest defenders ever at his position. Maybe he’ll make it through the final vote or as an injury replacement.
But if our position is that the All-Star Game is for the historically brilliant players in Major League Baseball, where in the heck has Simmons been for his entire historically brilliant career?
Best: Miles Mikolas making the team
Mikolas has thrown 109 innings this year. He’s made 17 starts. He’s firmly in the “maybe things will be different his second time around the league” territory. He’s recorded an out in the eighth inning just once this season, and it was in a complete-game shutout against the Royals, which shouldn’t count. If I’m going to blather about how Jesus Aguilar shouldn’t make it over Goldschmidt and Votto, I should probably use 700 words to complain about how Mikols made it over, I don’t know, Jake Arrieta.
Except I’m a sucker for stories about players who were cast adrift and needed to travel around the world for us to appreciate them. Like Cecil Fielder and Eric Thames before him, Mikolas needed to reinvent himself somewhere else before anyone paid attention. And while I’d rather watch Clayton Kershaw — injury-marred season and all — in the All-Star Game, that doesn’t mean a raffle ticket like this isn’t a fun story.
I’ll be right back here next year to write the same thing about Randy Messenger, too.
Best: The players’ picks
Nearly all of the worst screw-ups can be traced back to the players’ picks, which is something of a problem for my thesis. When people are mad about snubs, they’re really mad about the players’ picks.
Why is Joe Jimenez on the roster as the Tigers’ representative instead of Nick Castellanos, who is actually something close to the face of that franchise now? Because of the every-team-gets-a-rep rule, yes, but also because the players chose George Springer, a scuffling outfielder who plays for a team that didn’t need that rule. That’s what hurt Castellanos, which forced Jimenez on the roster, which pushed the AL ERA leader, Blake Snell, off.
If you think this is being too hard on Springer, who just might be the kind of all-world talent that the game is designed for, then you could pick on Michael Brantley, who is probably one tier below the Choos and Markakii of the world, but also made the team last year and probably doesn’t need more help.
It’s all a mess, if you’re a believer in the best-first-half philosophy of All-Star rosters, and you can blame the players.
The players, up and down the roster, made defensible picks, though. That defense is they’re paying less attention to the random, unexpected first halves than the fans are. They’ve heard of Charlie Blackmon and have watched him beat up on their teams for years, whereas players who aren’t in the NL Central have no idea what Aguilar is capable of. So they vote for the guy who almost won the MVP last year.
That’s very much in line with what I’ve been grumbling about, dammit. This is good. They don’t know it, but they’re actually agreeing with some nerd pounding on his keyboard.
Here’s a list of the National League players selected by their peers:
- Buster Posey
- Joey Votto
- Ozzie Albies
- Eugenio Suarez
- Trevor Story
- Christian Yelich
- Lorenzo Cain
- Charlie Blackmon
- Max Scherzer
- Jacob deGrom
- Jon Lester
- Aaron Nola
- Mike Foltynewicz
- Josh Hader
- Brad Hand
- Sean Doolittle
It’s a fine mix of young, electric players and reliable veterans. Without scrambling to their FanGraphs pages, this is a list that makes sense to me. If presented with this list before the start of the season, I would have nodded and said, “Yes, OK. Baseball is normal this year, apparently.” This is a list of players that I might write a career retrospective for when they retire. This is a list of players who could win the MVP or Cy Young next year, give or take.
If I have a complaint, it’s that the players are still using pen and paper to vote, which means they’re voting long before the teams are announced. Except, that might be saving them from themselves. They’re erring on the side of proven talent instead of hot first halves, and I’ve been proselytizing on behalf of this cause for years.
Sometimes you have to crack a few Blake Snells to make an All-Star omelette.
Worst: Blake Snell not making the team
But, OK, sometimes you have to vote for the lightning in a bottle and figure that a national audience wants to watch the lightning. Chris Archer basically did my job for me when it comes to looking up the stats, and Snell is pitching so well that he’s crossed into “OK, lemme see if this guy is legit” territory when it comes to fans who are baseball-soaked enough to watch the All-Star Game.
This is the balancing act every year. You want the legacy talents, the Vottos and the Poseys, the players who might be in Cooperstown one day, but you also want the players streaking across the quad of baseball right now.
This won’t be an egregious oversight for long, though, because it’s a given that at least one pitcher will drop out because of injury (or because they start the Sunday before the All-Star Game), and Snell will be the first pitcher chosen. He might be on the team by the time you’re reading this.
Still, do a better job separating the players having a good first half and the players having a holy-crap first half. Snell is the latter.
Best: Matt Kemp getting voted in
The fans ... they’re paying attention.
I have fond memories of punching out All-Star ballots until my sneakers were covered in chads. I also have fond memories of my brother building a board with nails that perfectly aligned with Al Oliver, Manny Trillo, and Johnnie LeMaster’s boxes, which allowed us to punch 100 ballots at a time. Those are good, tactile memories.
It’s probably better for fans to have stats in front of them on a computer while they vote.
Holy ... Matt Kemp is doing what now?
It wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago. It’s pretty cool that it’s happing now.
Worst: The Yankees and Dodgers are teaming up for the final vote, and so are the Red Sox and Cardinals, and it’s gross
These four teams are the pushing-a-full-sized-grocery-cart-around-Whole-Foods-and-just-tossing-stuff-in-ass teams of baseball. They didn’t want to team up with the Brewers or Rays. They made a cynical, smart play.
And it’s gross. The Yankees and Dodgers are sittin’ in a tree, and it’s gross. The Red Sox and Cardinals are pretending to be nice, even though they’re a couple months away from facing each other in the World Series, which will also be gross.
I’d argue that you should vote for Jesus Aguilar and Andrelton Simmons just to spite these jerks, except, wow, look at that, I sure have been caring about the All-Star Game for way too long.
Just know that in a few weeks, you’ll have forgotten all about whatever it is that you’re mad at. For now, though, always remember to err on the side of the legacy players, and you’ll have an All-Star roster that won’t embarrass you.
Although if you’re getting embarrassed by All-Star rosters, buddy, I don’t know what to tell you. This stuff will rot your brain. Maybe sit this next one out.