Two Mets Highlight National League Ballot
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Yesterday we looked at the players who deserve a spot on your 2006 American League All-Star ballot. Today, the National League. For those who didn’t catch yesterday’s article, the following prejudices are disclosed: I favor the superstar over the Johnny-come-lately, the exciting eight over the ploddingly effective 10, and the player more likely to be starting an All-Star Game in five years over the one more likely to be a bench player in five years. In all cases I believe the voting is an excellent place to indulge one’s whims. Don’t like the cut of a player’s jib? Don’t vote for him! My rigorous methodology thus explained, here is one crack at your 2006 NL All-Stars:
1B – ALBERT PUJOLS, ST. LOUIS
(.308 AVG/.442 OBA/.751 SLG)
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, these numbers are probably going to be the same come the All-Star break as they are now, as an injury to Pujols’s right oblique is expected to keep him on the shelf for about six weeks. The man still deserves to be voted in as the starter, even as his hopes of setting new single-season records for home runs and RBI have been dashed. What’s to be said about him that hasn’t been said numerous times before? He’s a machine.
Those refusing to vote for an injured player – and those Yankees fans looking for a way to identify with the pain Mets fans endure when watching Scott Kazmir – might look to Washington, where former Yank Nick Johnson (.294/.406/.542 in a nasty pitcher’s park, and with sterling defense) has quietly turned into the player everyone always thought he would.
2B – CHASE UTLEY, PHILADELPHIA
(.326 AVG/.406 OBA/.542 SLG)
This is the easiest selection on the ballot. Second base is the weakest position in the majors right now, and Utley, for a second straight year, is hitting like a first baseman. Depending on how good you think he is defensively – and he’s one of the best in the league, though like most second basemen who can swing the bat, he has a reputation as something of a clod – you could make a pretty good argument that he is, Pujols aside, the best player in the league right now.
3B – MIGUEL CABRERA, FLORIDA
(.361 AVG/.450 OBA/.614 SLG)
When the Marlins let it be known that they were moving Cabrera from left field back to third base, everyone worried, reasonably enough, about the impact the increased defensive responsibility would have on his bat. If it had any, we have to assume the frightening Cabrera would be hitting .400 in left. He’s a butcher at the hot corner – in one memorable recent game he made three distinct miscues in one inning, ranging from an off-balance throw to watching a bunt roll inside the foul line – but it doesn’t much matter with a .450 OBA. Honorable mention to the Mets’ David Wright (.330/.402/.571), who continues to somehow exceed expectations.
SS – JOSE REYES, METS
(.248 AVG/.312 OBA/.402 SLG)
As there are quite a few shortstops – ranging from rookie Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins to borderline Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel of the Giants – outperforming Reyes this year, call this a vote of confidence in the young star’s future and a vote for entertainment value, because there’s just about nothing better than watching Reyes steal third or hit a triple with that little flourish that lets you know he’s not quite so worried about whether he’s safe. Ramirez (.309/.373/.475) is having a monster season in Florida, but given his minor league numbers, I’m skeptical he’s going to keep it up. If he does, he’ll beat out Reyes in this slot for a decade.
RF – BOBBY ABREU, PHILADELPHIA
(.283 AVG/.448 OBA/.511 SLG)
Abreu was so undervalued for so long that it was pretty funny to see him start becoming overvalued last year, when he had his least impressive season in many years despite a strong first half and won the annual Home Run Derby. This year, due to a low (by his standards) batting average and fan discontent over his refusal to throw himself into walls, he’s probably back to being undervalued, and the world is as it should be. Rumors that have him going to the Yankees are silly; those rumors crop up every year, and players of this caliber aren’t traded for the likes of Chien-Ming Wang.
CF – CARLOS BELTRAN, METS
(.265 AVG/.383 OBA/.584 SLG)
Speaking of undervalued players, it’s astonishing how little attention has been paid to Beltran’s remarkable season. He’s quite easily been the best player on the Mets, even having missed a fair amount of time to various injuries. It continues to be rather odd that a player with his speed and discipline struggles to hit .270, but so long as he draws walks, hits home runs, steals bases, and plays Gold Glove defense, that average won’t matter much – he’s scored as many runs as David Wright has in about 50 fewer at-bats than Wright has seen.
LF – JASON BAY, PITTSBURGH
(.299 AVG/.418 OBA/.598 SLG)
Bay is a remarkably good player, and upholds two traditions well. The first is the John Olerud line of harmless, gawky looking Canadians who lash the ball all over the place, seemingly more due to leverage and patience than athletic talent. The second is the Pittsburgh left field dynasty. Being a worthy successor to Kiner, Stargell, Bonds, and Giles isn’t easy, but Bay is pulling it off with style. Now if he only had a team around him…
C – MICHAEL BARRETT, CHICAGO
(.304 AVG/.370 OBA/.503 SLG)
You’d think that being the best hitting catcher in the league for the third straight year while playing in Chicago would get Barrett a bit of attention, but no – it’s his sucker-punching antics that garner him headlines. Barrett isn’t all that much behind the plate and, while entertaining, his habit of getting into brawls he can’t finish isn’t really praiseworthy. But he can hit a ton, and it’s scary to think how bad the Cubs would be without him.