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NL East: Short Stopped
This season the National League East features four All-Star shortstops. Unfortunately, it appears that only one of them -- Jose Reyes -- will play in Tuesday's All-Star Game in San Francisco.
Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins, Florida's Hanley Ramirez, and Atlanta's Edgar Renteria were all snubbed by manager Tony La Russa when he put together his portion of the NL team's reserve roster. Renteria's having a season on par with that of the American League's starter, Derek Jeter, but in an NL shortstop pool as deep and talented as this year’s, he never really had a shot at making the team despite hitting .321 with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs, so we can cut him out of the discussion from the start.
I firmly believe, however, that La Russa made a terrible error -- bordering on the absurd -- in omitting both Rollins and Ramirez after the Fan and Player Ballots were complete. In fact, I would argue that both men deserve to be on the team over the fine shortstop that the players chose to back up Reyes at short, Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy.
Hardy's having a career year, hitting .283 with 18 home runs, 52 RBIs and an .856 OPS -- even if he's managed only three homers and driven in just six runs since June 1. But Rollins and Ramirez hold the top two spots in the league in runs scored, with 69 and 66, respectively, while Hardy has managed 48. Despite the fact that both Rollins and Ramirez most often bat leadoff, Rollins has only three fewer home runs than Hardy and two fewer RBIs, and Ramirez tops Hardy in OPS by more than 30 points (.889 to .856) and in batting average by nearly 40 (.320 to .283).
Then there's the matter of speed: both Ramirez (25 steals) and Rollins (15) have literally infinity times more stolen bases than Hardy, who has totaled zero. Ramirez and Rollins are two of the very best, most disruptive offensive forces in the game today; Hardy's a guy who had a hot two months.
Even though the players made his situation a bit more difficult by selecting Hardy as Reyes' first backup, La Russa could (and should) have easily carried Hardy, Rollins and Ramirez on the team. It's almost inexplicable that La Russa chose Aaron Rowand -- a player from Rollins' own club -- as a seventh outfielder over Rollins as a third shortstop, or that he picked Freddy Sanchez, whose main credential seems to be that he led the NL in batting average last season, as a third third baseman over Ramirez. (And if La Russa was looking for a player to represent the Pirates, he should have gone with starting pitchers Tom Gorzelanny or Ian Snell over the ridiculous three closers he ended up choosing, bringing the staff's total up to six.).
A manager selecting his All-Star Game reserve roster should start with a group of core players who absolutely must be included, position and other considerations be damned. That La Russa failed to select Rollins or Ramirez, or, for that matter, San Diego's Chris Young, who leads the league in ERA (2.00) but will be forced to try to win the fan vote to make the "Final Vote" as the 25th man, might speak to why the Cardinals are 38-43 in the NL Central this season.
Labels: NL East
posted by SI.com | View comments |
Rowands having the Best year as a CF this year in the NL, why shouldn't he be selected of Rollins/Ramirez/Renteria? Granted I would have not chosen Valverde and gone with a pitcher from the Pirates instead of Sanchez to let Ramirez get on, and the snub of Ramirez is really the only problem on the roster IMO.
You make great points until the final statement. Now it seems you have a personal issue with La Russa, which makes the article irrelevant for me. Rollins has had a fantastic year and is ripping it up for my fantasy team. But as you said, this is a terrifically deep year at the NL shortstop position. Rollins should be in, but to say La Russa doesn’t know what he is doing and going on to say that is why his team is not great this year is way off.
I respectfully disagree with your article. Tony LaRussa is probably the most qualified manager in the NL to understand the importance of home field advantage for the WS, his Cardinals having been twice in three seasons and not having it once, despite a better record than Boston in 04. He picked his roster to win - and not because some players were deserving. Pitching wins games. Tony understands that if he gets a lead by the 6th inning, he needs four guys to shut down the potent AL to win and secure hom-field advantage.
I do not disagree that Ramirez and Rollins are deserving. There are snubs of deserving players each year, and Gorzellany likely does belong more than Sanchez. But the All-Star game is about winning now to managers who care about the Series, and LaRussa has refreshingly picked a roster that gives the NL (who is NOT going to win by outscoring or outstealing the AL) the best chance to win.
And by the way, I'd challenge ANY manager in the game today to keep his team 4 games under .500 when he loses 4 of his starting 5 pitchers, has to fill in with converted relievers, then loses the only hold-over former cy young pitcher for half the season, and has his starting SS, CF and C out for two of the first 4 months! Your criticism of LaRussa is unfathomable.
Man you are so right about La Russa's coaching ability. I mean his team has only made the NLCS the last 3 season in a row, with 2 world series appearances, and 1 world series win. So the Cardinals are having an off year. I'm pretty sure that all franchises experience down turns at times. I agree that those guys are deserving but to question a coach's ability based on an all-star pick is rather careless. I mean we aren't talking about a coach who only has 100 career wins. We are talking about a guy that is third all time with 2,336 wins. Again, I think your correlation between coaching ability and all-star picks is way off.
talk about snubs: JOHN MAINE
Wow, can we say 'axe to grind?'
Your article started ok, but then you throw out that last line sniping at LaRussa and it loses all merit with me and, judging by some of the other comments, with others as well.
Isn't a reporter supposed to be un-biased? Because you certainly seem to have a bias against LaRussa.
Yes, John Maine is a huge omission. He has been the 4th best starter in the NL behind Peavy, Penny, and Young.
The fundamental argument regarding the omissions is sound, but the conclusion this as "LaRussa's fault?" doesn't really compute. You definitely are coming off as having a bit of axe to grind.
Talk about snubs how about rookie phenom Hunter Pence from the Astros. He's got the 4th or 5th highest batting average in all of baseball.
I understand he's not on the ballot, but come on, he's got to be a reserve.
Two words Chipper Jones! Despite his injuries he has en equal number of homers as Cabrera and Wright and not too many less RBI, while posting a higher avg, obp, slg, and ops, than either selection!!!
I think LaRussa was drunk when he made out the balance of his All-Star team....no, really, I'm being totally serious. By the way, hopefully he's hired a driving service whilst in S.F...the stoplights there are very tricky
I ws agreeing with all of the comments until I came across the one that talked about pitcher injuries, player injuries and the ability of a coach to keep a team like that 4 games under .500. Three words, Yankees and Torre. They have had pitchers falling right and left to bizarre injuries(Karstens), strained hamstrings(Wang,Hughes,Mussina).
The only snub I agree with is Ramirez, other than that, I feel it's a good roundup of players. LaRussa actually considers the All Star game a COMPETITION; it would be nice for the NL to actually have home field in the WS for a change this year. And your last sentence? You're kidding right? "...Perhaps this is why the Cards are 38-42 this year..." Never mind the fact that they've won an average of 89 games per year since LaRussa took over in 1996 and since 2000 an average of 94 wins per year. And this year he's managed around 3/4 of his rotation on the DL and other assorted injuries. You sound like a jealous little school girl. (And yes, I from St. Louis, but I think you're from Mars.)
Thats probably the same fan who thought Beltran was one of the three best outfielders in the NL. Must be nice to be able to play for the Mets, knowing you can get an all star vote for above average play.
There seems to be two types of fans. The kinds who believe that they want to see their favorite players on the field.
Then there are the ones who want to have the best players on the field. (That seem's to be Reiter's position.)
La Russa took the third path, picking the players who make the best team. All the best players don't always make the best team. (See Yankees, New York)
As for choosing Sanchez, La Russa absolutely loves having players who can play multiple positions. Aaron Miles and Scott Spezio are two excellent examples. Not too many All Stars play multiple positions, and it may wind up being very useful having a guy like Freddy available in the later innings.
Maybe La Russa left ramirez off the roster because he'd seen him field. The consensus of opinion is that he's the worst-fielding shortstop in the National League.
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NL Central blog (Wednesday)
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