The luminaries of the world have descended upon our nation’s swamp cistern for the annual celebration of themselves. I really hate to start this stupid thing with such a cynical and acidic observation, but here we are. This is Major League Baseball’s All Star Game as presented by MasterCard and FOX.
Look, I don’t know a single person on the entire internet who thinks the All Star Game is really fun and awesome and completely perfect in every facet. Perhaps the only take more well-worn than “FIX THE ALL STAR GAME” is the old saw about “IS THE DH GOOD OR NOT?” Which, that kinda makes sense, right? We baseball fans aren’t exactly famous for our laid back attitude and accommodation. I want everything my way and I expect it yesterday.
(As an aside, this reminds me of my favorite advertising campaign running right now.)
So in this roiling sea of All Star Game hot takes, I found myself searching for a life raft. And, as always, I was the only one smart enough to save me. I figured the actual real best way to fix the All Star Game is to let me, Charlie Scrabbles, do the actual choosing of the All Stars. I mean, it makes perfect sense. I asked myself, “how can we change the All Star Game to make me want to watch it?” and the obvious answer is “let me do all of it.”
So here goes. Charlie Scrabbles picks the All Stars.
Kurt Suzuki, Atlanta Braves - Did you know about Kurt Suzuki? Dude has been in baseball for like ten years and he’s still just hummin’ away. And he hasn’t been one of those career back up catch-and-throw kinda catchers, either. He has started 130 or more games in six different seasons. Since 2008, he is one of four catchers to make 1200 appearances. The others are Yadi Molina, Brian McCann, and Russell Martin.
Also, Suzuki is from Hawaii. Hawaiian ballplayers are always the coolest.
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds - I’m sure you are shocked to find this fella on such a list written up on such a bloghole as this. And this old bloghole has gone to great lengths at times to find new and interesting things to say about this fella. But check it: Going back to 1923, the first time the old Iron Horse Lou Gehrig laced up for the Yankees, there have been a fair number of pretty good first basemen to play this old game of baseball. Here is a list of the best of them:
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs - This dude is strong in the running for Funnest Ballplayer Alive. He strikes out quite a bit. He never walks. He has hit 19 home runs this year. He plays some sick defense all over the infield. He makes sick throws and sick tags. He is the closest thing to a wildin’ out 12-year-old that baseball has ever had.
Max Muncy. Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers’ season has been a hilarious catastrophe, like a 12-year-old huckin’ live fish from the bridge at passing cars and causing a massive pile-up. Everyone has been on the disabled list for some length of time. Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-jin Ryu, Justin Turner, Yaisel Puig, and Corey Seager have all been felled in one way or another. Turner and Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley have all been terrible. Time and again, the universe has told these Dodgers to screw off, but then Max Muncy basically saves the day.
He is one of the funnest stories in baseball this season. He was never really much of a prospect in the way that a guy who can’t really play any defense or hit for much power is never really a prospect. But Justin Turner spent the first six weeks of the season on the disabled list and Muncy filled in adequately. At least, well enough to not get the ol’ heave-ho. But since Turner returned from the DL on May 15th, Muncy has cranked out 19 home runs. Despite all of the trials and tribulations, they are ten games over. 500 and in first place in the NL West. And that is all in no small part thanks to Max Muncy suddenly learning how to clobber baseballs.
JT Riddle, Miami Marlins - His name sounds like a Roald Dahl character. I half-expect him to end the season on the DL because he falls into a lake of cream of chicken soup or is run over by a pack of stray dogs chasing a hot dog truck or has his hand flattened out in a calendar printing press accident and he’ll always know what day it is.
Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds - I want to point out that there are two Reds in the top five for on-base percentage in the National League. Votto of course leads the pack at .422, but Winker isn’t far behind at .404. Also of note, there are two rookies in the top five, with the Nationals’ Juan Soto being the other. And Soto is just 19.
I think what I like most about Winker this year is just how similar a hitter he is to Pete Rose. Rose’s career slash was .303/.375/.409. Winker is currently slashing .293/.404/.429. That’s a lot of singles and a lot of walks. And I bet that if Winker would start sprinting to first base after he walks then all of the Brennaman naysaying would magically turn into yaysaying. Just saying.
Lorenzo Cain, Milwaukee Brewers - Cain is one of my favorite players going right now. He is the current keeper of The Charlie Scrabbles Honorary Most Like Mike Cameron Player in Baseball Award. Cain plays low-key strong defense at a premium position and complements it with an unspectacular-but-respectable bat, exactly as Mike Cameron would want it.
He is with the Brewers now after signing with them as a free agent this winter and he’s having probably his best season. He finished third in AL MVP voting back in 2015 when the Royals won it all and he is on pace to surpass even that great season. It stinks that the Reds have to deal with him a lot more now, but it’s also awesome that I get to see a whole lot more him.
Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres - He was the star of the late-90s ABC TGIF show “Family Fun.” Or, at least, if such a show existed, his name would suggest he would have been the star of it.
Vince Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies - The Phils are the surprise leaders of the NL East at the break and a goodly portion of that is due to a strong and healthy rotation. Velasquez, Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, and Nick Pivetta have started all but eight of the Phillies’ games this season.
One could make an argument that Velasquez has been the weakest link of that squad, but I chose him for my All Star team because I love saying “Vinny Velasquez” out loud.
Jeurys Familia, New York Mets - Jeurys Familia? More like Jerk Hits Family.
Max Stassi, Houston Astros - Brian McCann, perhaps the one player least likely to make Charlie Scrabbles’ All Star team, is out for a long time with a knee injury so Stassi is getting most of the starts for the Astros. Which is good for them, because like I said McCann is a jerkhole and he has been awful this season anyway. So because Stassi is in so many ways not Brian McCann, he gets the nod. Also his name is like a Formula One race car.
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers - Of the top 60 hitters in baseball as measured by ISO, Gallo is 56th in wOBA. See, ISO measures power (SLG minus average) and if you are hitting the ball hard, you are generally hitting the ball well. But while Gallo hits the ball really hard (his ISO is .256, btw), he is so terrible at everything else a hitter does that he is barely able to keep his job. His slash is .187/.296/.443. Nearly 40% of his total hits this year have been home runs. He has struck out 132 times.
What a fun player.
Jose Altuve, Houston Astros - Sometimes this is easy and you don’t even have to think about it.
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians - Ramirez is like if Young Joey Votto played stellar defense at third base and led the league in steals, too. He has all the funness of Javy Baez with all the one-the-best-hitters-of-his-generation vibes of Joey Votto. And he’s just 25.
Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox - The Cool Name Alarm is ringing like a sumbitch for this fella. He is one of just five native Arubans to have played in MLB, the last being Sidney Ponson. So combine this fella’s cool name with his existential proximity to Sid Ponson and you got yerself a Charlie Scrabbles All Star.
Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto Blue Jays - He hits the ball real dang hard, as evidenced by his 35 extra-base hits and his .253 ISO. His defense is so bad though that he should be a designated hitter. He is basically the Dominican Matt Stairs. But with that really cool name, its more like the Dominican Matt Escalators.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels - Duh doi.
Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox - He’s leading the league in batting average at .359 and also in slugging percentage at .691. He has a better-than-decent shot at 100 extra-base hits this season, which has only been done 15 times in baseball history. The last time it happened was in 2001 (the peak of the juiced-up baseballs era (not juiced-up players because that didn’t actually affect much)) when it was accomplished by four different players: Barry Bonds (107), Todd Helton (105), Sammy Sosa (103), and Luis Gonzalez (100). Helton also did it in 2000, making him the only player in baseball history to hit 100+ XBHs in two different seasons. And Mookie’s probably going to swipe 30 bags, too.
The really cool thing is that Jose Ramirez is right there with him. And they were born just weeks apart.
Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays - Stroman is having a real bad luck year. He leads the world in groundball rate, as he has since he debuted in the big leagues. But he has been BABIP’d to death. His strand rate has been really unlucky too, hanging just under 60% (average is 70-75%). He’s also giving up more home runs than normal. So you have the confluence of a lot of hits finding the grass with many of them coming at unlucky times and the random gopher whack here and there. He also missed six weeks with an injury. Stroman’s xFIP is a full two runs better than his ERA.
Still, he’s a cool dude. He is listed at just 5’8” and 180 lbs. You might notice the theme here of kinda small-ish fellas that can play some darned good baseballs.
Juan Nicasio, Seattle Mariners - Nicasio is sooooo much fun. He has thrown for six different teams in his eight seasons, establishing himself as a perfectly average major-league relief pitcher who can be absolutely incredible sometimes.
His ERA is over 6.00 this season. But his K/BB ratio is a stupefying 11.50. Just in case you aren’t grabbing how awesome that is, it means for every batter he walks, he strikes out 11.5. So his FIP is 2.55. That’s really really fun.