“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.

Joe Morgan is asking Hall of Fame voters to keep PED users out

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Hall of Famer Joe Morgan has never equivocated on his belief that users of performance enhancing drugs should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Whenever he has been interviewed on the subject he has been steadfast in his stance that PED users are not worthy of induction.

This week he has taken a further step: he has sent a letter to all of the Hall of Fame voters, asking them to keep PED users out.

In his letter — the entirety of which you can read over at Joe Posnanski’s blog — Morgan says “if steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.” By “we,” he’s clearly referring to Hall of Fame members. While he does not name any player he would like to see voters keep out, he spends a lot of time talking about how PEDs are bad for baseball, PED users cheated the game and how he and many other Hall of Famers do not want to see them elected. He invokes “youngsters” and refers to the Hall of Fame as “special” and speaks to the “sanctity” of election. It’s the moral argument against PED use we’ve been hearing for a goof 15 years or so.

It’s also hopelessly naive and comes far too late in the game to be a useful plea.

As we’ve noted many, many times, there are already PED users in the Hall of Fame. Amphetamine users to be sure, but even if you want to give them a pass, there are steroid and/or HGH users too. In case you forgot about that, allow me to remind you about the time Hall of Fame voter Thomas Boswell appeared in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary update “The Tenth Inning” and explicitly said that he personally witnessed a current Hall of Famer drink a PED-laden shake:

“There was another player now in the Hall of Fame who literally stood with me and mixed something and I said “What’s that?” and he said “it’s a Jose Canseco milkshake”. And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs than ever hit any other year. So it wasn’t just Canseco, and so one of the reasons that I thought that it was an important subject was that it was spreading. It was already spreading by 1988.”

Boswell tends to keep pretty silent about that come Hall of Fame voting time in December, but he has never backed off the claim either.

Less reliable, but still never refuted, were the stories of Patty Blyleven, former wife of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, who said that she knows of a Hall of Famer who took PEDs as well, and who continues to nonetheless publicly rail against PED use. There are likewise other Hall of Famers of whom baseball writers are strongly convinced — or know for a fact — took PEDs but about whom they’ve never reported because no one would go on the record about it or corroborate it in a way that satisfies prevailing journalistic standards. Go ask a BBWAA member about why it took Jeff Bagwell so long to get into the Hall of Fame. Or simply go back and read what they said about him a few years ago.

Going beyond those cases are the cases of a host of players — players who have been on the ballot for years —  about which we’ll never, ever know. Do we know for sure that any of the guys currently on the ballot who played before drug testing never took PEDs? Of course not. In light of that all Morgan can ask is for voters to keep players of an entire era out. Which is a completely unreasonable and unfair request.

In the absence of guidance from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball, BBWAA voters were somewhat inconsistent with alleged PED users for a time, but they’re beginning to coalesce around a set of rough standards:

  • If you tested positive for PEDs or were disciplined for PEDs after the testing program was fully online like Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro did, you’re not getting in. Figure Alex Rodriguez will fall in this group one day too;
  • If you were strongly and convincingly associated with PEDs in the pre-testing era like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the road you have to go down is going to be pretty bumpy, but you may, possibly, get in one day if you were an overwhelmingly great player;
  • If you were seen as one-dimensional like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa and either admitted to PED use or were suspected of it, welp, sorry. We’ll leave why Sosa is suspected of it to another post.

All of this is will likely change slightly over time. Bonds and Clemens have recently gotten over the 50% voting threshold and could gain some steam with the voters. Alex Rodriguez was good enough and his post-career image rehabilitation has been such that he may get more support than most post-testing PED guys one day. Maybe McGwire and Sosa will get new looks down the road by some iteration of the Veteran’s Committee. After that, there aren’t a lot of guys who are seriously in the Hall of Fame discussion with credible PED claims against them.

Which is to say that history is sorting itself out, for better or for worse. Sorting itself out in a way that renders Morgan’s views on the matter — whether you consider them well-founded or otherwise — too little, too late and, given what we know and do not know about PED users, rather useless.