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The only correct 2017 MLB All-Star ballot for the American League

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The All-Star Game isn’t just a reward for a good three months. It should be a reward for brilliant careers, too.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, I shared the only possible ballot for the National League All-Star starters. I might — might — accept a substitution at third base, but I’ll need you to put your request in writing and provide three references. As it turns out, the NL was pretty easy.

The American League is a mess. It’s going to get me yelled at.

Clean it up, American League.

Most of the historical logic behind my ballot was in Monday’s post, but I’ll give you the bullet points:

  • It was cool when Willie Mays and Hank Aaron made every All-Star team
  • I’m sure everyone was very proud of Felix Millan and Denis Menke, but when they were playing, everyone watching was saying, “Hey, where’s Willie Mays and Hank Aaron?”
  • I would rather give an all-time great an All-Star Game he didn’t deserve at the end of his career instead of miss a valid chance to include him because of two uncharacteristically poor months. This is a literary technique known as “foreshadowing.”
  • Rookies and young players can deserve a vote without the resume, but they’ll have to be historically impressive to make up for it.

Simple! And yet the AL is still a hot mess. We’ll start with ...

C - Gary Sanchez

Alex Avila is a great story. His career was once threatened by concussions, and he was an unwanted free agent who signed a modest one-year deal with the White Sox, even though his dad was the GM of his old team.

Son, I love you, but ... go over there.

He was OK with the White Sox, just fine, but after coming back to the Tigers this season, it’s clear that he fermented and chugged Joe Mauer’s MVP season.

Still, this season is an outlier. I’ll need more than a hot three months.

Salvador Perez is the steady veteran, the known quantity. He’s having his best season in years, if not ever, and he’s just seven home runs from setting a career high. His defense is stellar, and he was voted “Most Likely To Mistake a Dove for a Baseball and Randy Johnson the Hell Out of It” by his teammates. His free-swinging bat and Emanski-approved glove make for an eminently watchable player.

Gary Sanchez is the youngster, the upstart, but he’s also the best catcher in the AL now. He’s a dinger lord who’s somehow been overshadowed by Aaron Judge, but he’s still having a remarkable season, and even though he missed some time at the beginning of the season, he has a sound statistical case, too.

My main argument against Perez is that his success this season is at least partially driven by batting average. I don’t trust that. Sanchez is on pace to have 53 home runs in his first 600 major league at-bats. I trust that.

1B - Miguel Cabrera

Wait, put that ... look, I’ll need everybody to settle down ... please, one question at a ... ma’am, I’m not going to respond to you if you’re screaming obscenities, and ... please, let me explain ... just give me

Cabrera is having a rough year. His WAR is a cool 0.2, according to Baseball-Reference.com, and his current batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage would all be the worst of his career. His strikeout rate is up over 20 percent for the first time, and his defense is somewhere between “acceptable if he’s hitting” and “atrocious.” He’s even 0-for-1 on stolen base attempts.

At the same time, he’s still Miguel Cabrera, inner circle Hall of Famer. I would rather be wrong about him deserving an All-Star Game than be wrong about him not deserving one. When you go back to the days of Mays and Aaron, there were always a couple extra appearances for them in the sunset of their careers, something between a reward and an earnest desire to remember the good days.

And when I look at the options among AL first basemen, they’re all a bunch of weirdos. Logan Morrison was unremarkable for years, and now I’m supposed to believe he’s Joey Votto? Justin Smoak was unremarkable for years, and now I’m supposed to believe he’s a switch-hitting Paul Goldschmidt? Yonder Alonso was unremarkable for years, and now I’m supposed to believe he’s like the Logan Morrison of the West Coast?

No. Too soon. Come back next year. I don’t trust any of you, not for something as important as this. Give me the legend, even if he’s fading. It’s the conservative, boring choice, but I’m not ready to give up on Cabrera yet.

And if you’ll just put the coat rack down, sir, we can ... ma’am, please, I’m begging you to stop calling me that ...

2B - Jose Altuve

SS - Carlos Correa

After going long on the first two, I won’t bore you by over-explaining these obvious choices. Altuve has the track record of success, and he’s clearly the best second baseman in the AL this year. May he make this team for another 15 years.

Correa got some early competition from Francisco Lindor, and Andrelton Simmons’ offensive renaissance is tempting, but this wasn’t an especially difficult choice. I fully anticipate a brawl for this spot next year from Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, and Jean Segura, but no shortstop in the AL is currently mixing power, speed, and defense like Correa.

3B - Jose Ramirez

Miguel Sano was tempting, and he originally had the spot, but I realized that I was in the grips of Prospect Bias, in which a player’s Baseball America ranking is faintly visible above his head at all times, like a halo. Sano was the blue-chipper, and Ramirez had an unremarkable minor-league career and a slow start in the majors. So my natural inclination is to err toward Sano.

But we’re almost 1,000 plate appearances into the idea that Ramirez is special, and he’s clearly having the best statistical year. So I’ll buy into the idea that his ample tools and big numbers make him the most exciting third baseman in the league for now.

Just note that I’m keeping this spot warm for Adrian Beltre next year.

OF - Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts

These are the three leaders in WAR according to Baseball-Reference, and they’re the three outfielders I want to watch more than any other, so this works out. Please do not use midseason WAR to make any decisions yourself. I’m a trained professional.

Judge is the obvious one. My ballotology is unfairly and unreasonably prejudiced against young players. See the Miguel Cabrera paragraphs from up there, for example. It takes a monster season from a rookie to merit serious consideration. Judge’s season, well, it qualifies as a monster. It has eaten three villagers since noon. You will lose people you know to the cavernous maw of Aaron Judge’s season. Run, you idiot. Run.

The other two require some explanation. Trout needs justification because he’s hurt, but could be ready for the All-Star Game. If he can play, he should play. He might be the only outfielder in baseball who could miss 50 percent of the first half and still have a statistical case to be one of the three best in the AL. There’s no point about me continually bringing up the days of Mays and Aaron, only to leave the modern Mays off the ballot. Heck, if he misses every game until the All-Star Game, he’s my pick.

Because gimme all the Trout.

Betts’ offensive numbers aren’t as exciting as they could be, but he’s one of the most watchable players of the past decade, and I’ll hide behind the nerd numbers because they support my stance this time.

And, really, after Trout and Judge, it’s not like there’s anyone who’s super compelling. Here’s a list of all the AL outfielders who a) qualify for the batting title and b) have an OPS over 800:

  1. Aaron Judge
  2. Aaron Hicks
  3. George Springer
  4. Avisail Garcia
  5. Justin Upton
  6. Steven Souza
  7. Josh Reddick
  8. Jackie Bradley
  9. Khris Davis
  10. Mookie Betts
  11. Lorenzo Cain
  12. Brett Gardner

Of those, the only ones I’m debating putting on over Betts (or Trout) are Springer and Bradley. Everyone else either has a little too much April-May-June in them, or they have a longer career of being fine players, but are just short of getting legacy bonus points.

My final ballot:

C - Gary Sanchez
1B - Miguel Cabrera
2B - Jose Altuve
SS - Carlos Correa
3B - Jose Ramirez
OF - Aaron Judge
OF - Mike Trout
OF - Mookie Betts

I am fine with this ballot. For it is, uh, the only correct one. If you believe in the power of legacy superstars. Which I clearly do.

And, sir, please put down the rotary telephone, those are heavy and I don’t even know where you got it. This is just my opinion, and it’s not that important of a topic to act like ... please, put it d