“Final Vote” balloting now open for 2011 All-Star Game

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Major League Baseball named 66 All-Stars during Sunday’s selection show on TBS, but a total of 68 players will be on hand when the Midsummer Classic kicks off July 12 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Through a week-long online “final vote,” one additional All-Star will be named to each roster. Ballots can be cast now on MLB.com.

American League

Alex Gordon, OF, Royals
A former second overall pick, Gordon has finally figured it all out in his fifth big league season and entered Sunday’s action with a .301/.368/.491 batting line. If the Kansas City fanbase can rally, Gordon would join Royals reliever Aaron Crow as the only two Royals heading to Arizona.

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
From the highlight catches in center field to his speed around the bases, “don’t call me Pacman” Jones is one of the most exciting players in baseball. He’s on pace to finish with over 20 home runs and he’s swiped six bases in six chances this season for Baltimore.

Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
Different year, familiar results. Konerko is following up his stellar 2010 campaign with more of the same, batting .317/.387/.567 with 21 home runs in 81 games played. There’s a logjam at first base on both All-Star rosters, but Paulie would make a fine late-innings pinch-hitter.

Victor Martinez, DH, Tigers
The Tigers have nearly tracked down the first-place Indians in the American League Central, and much of the credit goes to V-Mart. Detroit’s big offseason addition has tallied 46 RBI against a .335/.383/.490 batting line and could act as the American League’s emergency catcher.

Ben Zobrist, UTIL, Rays
Zobrist plays elite-level defense at all spots around the diamond and is again contributing offensively after a down 2010 season. The versatile 30-year-old enters Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals with nine home runs, 40 RBI and seven stolen bases.

National League

Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies
The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is sporting a career-high .886 OPS through 298 plate appearances this season and could climb near 20 home runs before the year is through. He also has 13 steals in 14 attempts and could function as a dangerous pinch-runner for the National League.

Mike Morse, OF, Nationals
Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa may have deserved a spot in the “Final Vote” over Morse, but let’s not take anything away from the red-hot 29-year-old. Morse is batting .299/.349/.538 with 15 home runs and has helped the Nats cope with loss of first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
Fellow outfielder Matt Kemp is drawing most of the “ooos” and “aahs” this season at Dodger Stadium, but Ethier has remained a steady presence in the heart of the Los Angeles lineup and enters Sunday’s full slate of games with a .322/.391/.464 slash line and 41 RBI.

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies
What year is it? The 37-year-old finally has good health on his side and is hitting like the Helton of old, sporting a .323 batting average and .889 OPS through 285 plate appearances. He’d make a fine addition to the National League roster as a veteran pinch-hitter.

Ian Kennedy, SP, Diamondbacks
Yankees GM Brian Cashman probably tries to avoid reading the National League box scores on days that Kennedy pitches. The 26-year-old has been dominating hitters all season and is quickly becoming an ace on the Diamondbacks’ staff. He may get a little hometown love in the voting.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.