Picking my All-Stars my way: voting for guys I like to watch (cont.)
First base: Prince Fielder, Milwaukee: Yes, I know Albert Pujols is having a year that stands in about the same relation to his usual year as his usual year stands in relation to a good year from Fielder. This ignores the crucial point that Fielder is a vegetarian, which makes him the rarest thing in baseball: a true role model. Millions of moms and dads can point to him and tell their children, "He doesn't eat meat, either, and he's so big and strong! Now finish your seitan and kale." It doesn't hurt that the sight of a full-power Fielder swing is one of the best in the game.
Second base: Skip Schumaker, St. Louis: Obviously Chase Utley would be the pick on merit, but Schumaker, the hustling nobody who made himself into a Cardinals starter through sheer grit and determination and the like, so embodies the spirit of what St. Louis fans like to think their baseball is about that it seems almost churlish not to vote for him to play in front of the home faithful. What a hand he would get!
Third base: David Wright, New York: There's no mildly ironic reason here; I just love watching Wright play. His freakish ability to maintain exactly the same value he always has while his style has changed from that of Ron Santo to that of an unholy cross between Wade Boggs and Adam Dunn has been one of the best stories of the year so far. Hopefully he'll hit .360 and strike out 200 times.
Shortstop: Jose Reyes, New York: It looks as if he may never quite make the leap that would make him a Barry Larkin-class player, but he's fine all the same and there really isn't a more exciting player in the majors. There may also not be one so taken for granted, though the shabby results that the Mets have had since he's been out with injury may do a bit to change that.
Catcher: Geovany Soto, Chicago: No, he isn't having much of a follow on to his brilliant rookie campaign, but I voted for him all the same, and this before he started a sequence of events that led to his impossibly crusty manager, Lou Piniella, admitting that he had smoked weed in his zany youth. Like Varitek there's something impossibly old school about Soto that probably just has to do with his looks but that contrasts pleasingly with his increasingly peacock-like major league peers.
Left field: Alfonso Soriano, Chicago: A difficult choice here between Soriano and Ryan Braun, a better player but one who doesn't challenge my preconceptions about how baseball should be played nearly as much. Without any real concern for what he's swinging at or where it is, Soriano has made himself one of the more reliably excellent hitters in baseball, and as much as that's attributable to freakish genetics and as much better as he might be if he learned what not to swing at, he's just fine the way he is.
Center field: Carlos Beltran, New York: If Reyes isn't the most underappreciated player in baseball, Beltran may be. In neither case is that because people don't credit them for being good, obviously, but for whatever reason neither seems to get the credit for being as good as he is. Beltran is a nice year or two away from being a really serious Hall of Fame candidate, and yet half of what you hear about him involves his unwillingness to make a fool of himself by shouting at his teammates or breaking water coolers or whatever it is players are supposed to do to show "fire." (Playing at the highest level through really nasty injuries doesn't count, apparently.)
Right field: Jeff Francoeur, Atlanta: Apologies to Justin Upton, but when baseball no longer has a place for the likes of Francoeur, a player so extravagantly talented that he can hold down a major league job despite seemingly having little more idea of what to do with that talent than a tomcat, baseball will no longer be worth watching.
Tim Marchman lives in Chicago and opines at tmarchman.com.
MLB Truth & Rumors