Baseball is a game of pointless arguments and unanswerable questions. Mays vs. Mantle. Kershaw vs. Koufax. The real answer is that all excellent baseball players are excellent, by definition, and we’re lucky to watch them. But why settle for something boring when we can have pointless arguments and unanswerable questions?
In this spirit, nothing is more pointless and essential than arguing about All-Star voting.
We all remember last year, when Hatted Man beat out Other Hatted Man in the voting for Position, and the baseball world was completely stunned. Unless we don’t remember a thing about the voting, not one single thing. But I still take this stuff seriously because I enjoy looking back at history and seeing lists like this:
That’s on the Hank Aaron page at Baseball-Reference, and it’s simply delightful. If there was an All-Star Game during the ‘60s, Hank Aaron was there. Because he was Hank Aaron. That was the end of that argument.
Here’s the Willie Mays page:
In the first half of 1963, Mays’ numbers were down. He was hitting just .271/.352/.468, which was fine, but not to his standards. He wasn’t having as good of an offensive first half as Wes Covington or Don Demeter, but he still made the All-Star Game. Because he was Willie Mays. If you wanted to start an All-Star Game for the National League in the ‘60s, your best bet was to be Mays or Aaron. And if you weren’t, you probably should have thought about becoming them.
Now, it’s not like baseball will ever have a guarantee of that kind of All-Star hegemony again. For one thing, Mays and Aaron were both historic, fantastic anomalies, and for another, there are more teams in the league now, which means more individual competition. But I love the idea of making the All-Star teams a reward for extraordinary careers, with only some recognition of first-half stats mixed in. It gives us more Hanks Aaron and fewer Bryans LaHair.
With that in mind, here is the only correct ballot for the National League All-Star Game. I’m sorry to inform you that your ballot is empirically wrong, and this one is right. With voting only lasting a couple more days, you should vote the maximum number of times to make up for being such a fool earlier.
Also, it helps that most of the excellent players we’re used to are in the middle of excellent seasons, too.
(Note: I tried to quantify this idea last year, and it just led to arguments about me ranking someone a “7” in the “Want to Watch Him” category over someone else, who got an “8.” I’m all for dumb arguments, but ...)
C - Buster Posey
This is just about the easiest choice on the ballot, but it still affords us an example to share. Posey is having a fabulous offensive season, and while he’s not exactly the Hank Aaron of catching, he’s as close as anyone’s come in his generation. He’s hitting .340, he has 10 homers, he’s a fabulous defender, and without him, the Giants’ staff ERA would be approximately 43.00. The catcher with offensive numbers that are close is Tyler Flowers.
Which is a perfect example. Say that Flowers was hitting .357 instead of .327. Now say that Posey was hitting .290 instead of .340. Give Flowers the edge in OPS, OPS+, and WAR. In this scenario, would Flowers be the obvious choice? Some voters would say yes.
I would remained convinced, however, that Tyler Flowers is Tyler Flowers, and Buster Posey is Buster Posey. I know which one I would rather watch in the All-Star Game, and there’s no disrespect intended toward Flowers. It’s just extra respect being shoveled toward Posey.
The players who get that extra shoveling of respect are the ones who do well here. Call it the Greater Shovel Theory of All-Star Voting. If a player deserves the shovel, he deserves the vote.
1B - Paul Goldschmidt
Some housekeeping, first: Cody Bellinger isn’t on the ballot, and even though he’s having the kind of season that would make him a contender on the Only Correct All-Star Ballot™, even as a rookie, he’s not going to be mentioned here. Write-in votes for the All-Star Game are some third-party nonsense, and no one cares about your moral stance.
So under the Mays-Aaron method of voting, that makes it a two-player race between Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto. Both of them are having great seasons; both of them are having remarkable careers.
Goldschmidt is having a slightly better first half, though, which makes for a fine tiebreaker. See? You can use first halves. It’s just silly to use only first halves. Goldschmidt is powering a surprising contender, and he’s on a Hall of Fame path. That’s exactly the kind of player you want starting an All-Star Game.
2B - Daniel Murphy
Last year, he wouldn’t have been here. “It’s not the All-First-Half Game,” I would have quipped, furrowing my brow and adjusting my ascot. But Murphy is clearly Rod Carew now (he’s hitting .342 after hitting .347 last season), and we need to adjust our expectations.
Also, there really aren’t a lot of exciting second base seasons in the National League. Kolten Wong has done a nice job reinventing himself, and Brandon Phillips’ season is putting a nice exclamation point at the end of his career. Maybe write in a vote for Jose Altuve is in order? Ignore what I wrote up there about write-in votes.
SS - Corey Seager
To be a young player on an All-Star ballot, you either have to be Galactus, consuming planets whole (see Bellinger and Aaron Judge), or you have to be coming off a brilliant start to your career. Seager is the latter, and it’s far more likely at this point that he’ll be in a similar column of mine in 2027 than not. He’s already a perennial All-Star, and we should just accept that.
Even though [squints] uh, Zack Cozart has a higher OPS, it’s Seager who is defining the position in his league. This could have been a close race, with Trea Turner, Addison Russell, Dansby Swanson, Orlando Arcia, and Trevor Story all scheduled to start at their position before the season started.
This was not a close race.
3B - Kris Bryant
Ah, this is a mess. Justin Turner is hitting nearly .400, and he has a career to celebrate at this point, but he’s also missed about 25 games. Jake Lamb is having another outstanding first half, and he’s playing for a contender. Anthony Rendon overcame some early struggles to rake for the Nationals, and he would also be a fine choice. Nolan Arenado is one of the greatest players in the game, which seems important.
Kris Bryant is the reigning MVP, though, and he currently has seven points of OPS on Arenado, who gets to play in Coors Field. I’m really, really torn here, but I can’t pretend like the world doesn’t care just a little bit more about Bryant. He’s not the defender that Arenado is (which is why he trails the Rockies’ third baseman in WAR), but I’ll use the MVP as a tiebreaker.
It’s a helluva tiebreaker, if we’re being honest.
OF - Charlie Blackmon, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton
Not every All-Star ballot will be stacked with hometown players. The Marlins are hosting the All-Star Game, and that’s swell, but if I didn’t stack the NL All-Star ballot with Padres last year, let’s not pretend like it’s the most important category.
It’s still a category, though. And we have a dilemma. Giancarlo Stanton is a home-run deity, a star, one of the most recognizable names in a sport that’s desperate for them. He’s having a great season, with 20 home runs and a top-five OPS among qualified outfielders. He also happens to play for the team that’s hosting the game. He’s in, right?
Except Marcell Ozuna also has 20 home runs. He has a higher average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage than Stanton, plus he’s a better fielder and runner. He also plays for the team hosting the game. So we’re in quite a pickle.
For now, though, Stanton is the star. Ozuna is the possible star that we’re still getting used to. If he shows up next year hitting like this, he’ll be a strong contender (just like Charlie Blackmon up there), even if he won’t have the hometown bonus points. It’s still just a little early for him, though, and I feel like this would be a reward for his first half more than a good-not-great career.
Stanton it is, then. The tie goes to the 27-year-old who’s almost halfway to 500 homers. There’s no point in a starting All-Star outfield in Miami without Stanton.
Harper is an obvious choice, a recognizable star having a tremendous year. He comes closest to the Mays/Aaron description up there, and just like those two, I hope he makes a bunch of All-Star Games when he’s in his late 30s and fading, too.
Blackmon makes it over other contenders like Ozuna and Michael Conforto (too new), Matt Kemp and Jay Bruce (too clompy), and Yoenis Cespedes (too much missed time). He doesn’t have the same gravitas as some of the other players on this list, but with a couple more seasons like this, he won’t need to hit .321 with 10 triples and 16 homers to merit consideration and just squeak in the final slot.
This all leaves us with a final ballot that looks like this:
C - Buster Posey
1B - Paul Goldschmidt
2B - Daniel Murphy
SS - Corey Seager
3B - Kris Bryant
OF - Giancarlo Stanton
OF - Charlie Blackmon
OF - Bryce Harper
This is not a starting lineup that would confuse future generations. This makes baseball sense. It makes historical sense.
This is the only correct ballot for the National League in the 2017 All-Star Game. You’re welcome.