The American League roster was very well-done, in my opinion. Orlando Cabrera has been named as the biggest snub, but I'm really not sure he should be there, given that there just aren't enough roster spots due to teams like Tampa Bay and Texas not having any real All-Stars. Michael Young is fine from Texas; I thought Mark Teixeira was going to be back from his injury soon, in which case he would have been a much better choice, but Young is still a good player, although he's not showing a whole lot of it this year. All the pitchers who should be on the team are there, although I would have personally gone with Mark Buehrle over Bobby Jenks from Chicago. The only reserve choice that I don't get is Manny Ramirez; he was voted in by the players more on reputation than on his performance this year. I would have rather seen Kevin Youkilis or Curtis Granderson (both of whom are more deserving than Gary Sheffield, by the way), but that's kind of splitting hairs.
MLB decided to go with all pitchers for their 32nd man ballots, which is kind of strange; the nominees are Hideki Okajima, Jeremy Bonderman, Pat Neshek, Kelvim Escobar, and Roy Halladay. Halladay is the most talented of the five, but is also having the worst year; Bonderman and Escobar are both okay, but certainly not great. I'm personally voting for Neshek, but there's not a whole lot of difference between him and Okajima. Okajima leads the voting right now, and he's going to win it - he gets the vote of both Red Sox Nation and the nation of Japan. (Although Neshek does have the blogger's vote...) If MLB had let some position players in on the voting, Granderson, Sheffield, Youkilis, and Orlando Cabrera would have all been good candidates.
The NL roster, to put it bluntly, is a disaster. Usually the difference between players on the roster and the snubs is small enough that it doesn't make any practical difference, but I believe the NL is actually much weaker than they could be. If they had the right players, I believe their offense could give the AL a good game, even though the AL's pitching is better, but with the roster that they actually have, I can't see them winning this game. I really can't. Here's a list of the bad selections by La Russa and the players:
Brian Fuentes is the obvious one. Did La Russa forget about Matt Holliday and think he still needed someone from the Rockies? He lost the closer job on Sunday, the day the rosters were announced. Now, La Russa probably had to make these decisions a few days before, when Fuentes was still somewhat solidly in the closer role, but he still doesn't deserve this. And there's really no way Jose Valverde belongs on the team, either. I know Tony La Russa loves his relievers, but this is overkill.
Aaron Rowand has no business being on this team either. Look, I know he's "scrappy" (read: white), but he's probably not one of the top ten outfielders in the NL. There's no way he should be on the team ahead of Eric Byrnes. There were other Phillies that had a much better resume - Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Here's Keith Law's take (insider-only):
The NL's shortstop crop right now is tremendous. Jose Reyes is a star and a deserving starter. J.J. Hardy is emerging as a star and has every reason to be on this team. Edgar Renteria is having his second straight superb year for Atlanta. Hanley Ramirez is having a monster year -- we'll come back to him in a moment -- after winning the Rookie of the Year award last year. But other than Reyes, there's probably not an NL shortstop with a better combination of current-year performance, track record and defensive prowess than Jimmy Rollins. The fact that only two shortstops are on the NL roster is ridiculous, and the exclusion of Rollins only makes it more so.Freddy Sanchez is another really strange selection. There were already four middle infielders on the team, and Sanchez is definitely not one of the top ten middle infielders in the NL. Ian Snell would have been a much better representative of the Pirates. If La Russa still wants middle infielders, take another shortstop - Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, and Edgar Renteria all have great cases. I personally would have taken one of these shortstops over Orlando Hudson, too, and let them play second.
But the fact that Rollins was snubbed while Aaron Rowand was added makes it worse. Rowand has reached 500 at-bats just once in his career. He's a part-time player who just happens to be hitting 30 points over his career average and who gets on "SportsCenter" because he runs into walls. Players like Rowand do not belong on an All-Star Game roster unless it's to fill the requirement that each team get one representative -- and the Phillies already had Chase Utley on the team. He probably never will make another All-Star team because he's not an All-Star-caliber player.
And just to put it in some perspective, manager Tony La Russa chose the scrappy outfielder having an out-of-character fluke year while omitting the star shortstop having his typical year -- and then MLB added insult to injury by leaving that star shortstop off the fan ballot for the final spot.
Carlos Lee was voted in by the players despite the fact that he really doesn't deserve it. Hunter Pence is a better outfielder from the Astros, and Roy Oswalt is one of the four most talented pitchers in the NL. Lee's having a pretty good year, but not All-Star quality. There are some other strange pitching selections, mostly along the lines of too many relievers; I'm not really sure Takashi Saito belongs on the team, and I already mentioned Fuentes and Valverde. The result? Deserving starting pitchers such as Oswalt, Chris Young and John Maine get left off the team.
Here are the NL final vote candidates: Chris Young, Brandon Webb, Roy Oswalt, Tom Gorzelanny, and Carlos Zambrano. Those are some great pitchers, all left off so that Brian Fuentes can face one hitter in the seventh inning. Big Z is pitching really well of late, but he was so bad at the beginning of the season that I don't feel ashamed about not voting for him. Gorzelanny isn't even the most deserving pitcher on his own team; Ian Snell has slightly better numbers across the board. Of the other three, Webb and Oswalt are more talented, but I have to vote for Young's 2.41 ERA, even if he is pitching in PETCO park half the time. And how was John Maine not on this list? There are a bunch of great position players who could make this list as well, if MLB hadn't decided to go all pitchers; Rollins, Ramirez, Renteria, Howard, Byrnes, Adam Dunn, Aramis Ramirez, Todd Helton...Rollins is the only one of these players not currently in the top 20 in NL OPS.
I don't really know how it happened, but this NL roster is terrible. I'll look into this more closely as we hit the weekend, but right now I'm taking the AL, something like 9-2.