There are plenty of examples of players who made the Major League Baseball All-Star squad based on their fame alone, sometimes in cases where the player’s offensive statistics and defensive skills have faded with age. Who can begrudge the fans the opportunity to see these aging stars in the game’s midsummer classic, however?
Then there are the cases where a player is voted onto the All-Star team based on his fame, but whose statistics prove that he still clearly deserves to play. That’s the case this year as fans cast their ballots for American League shortstops for the 2009 All-Star Game, to be played in St, Louis.
The top contenders are:
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Sure, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Sure, he’s nine-time All-Star. Sure, he’s the most enduring star on the game’s most-renowned team. But a look at the season stats reveals that Jeter is the clear-cut choice to be the starting shortstop based on his performance, not just his star power. In the middle of June, just a month before the All-Star game, he led all shortstops in both home runs and RBI. His move to the leadoff spot in the lineup seems to have revitalized him. Maybe the new Yankee Stadium has helped, but Jeter will likely have matched his season totals for homers by the All-Star break this year.At age 35, he doesn’t have as much range as he used to, particularly up the middle, but Jeter still comes in on the ball as well as any defensive infielder in the game. The All-Star Game MVP in 200, Jeter deserves to be the starter again this season.
Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay insiders claim that the acquisition of Bartlett last season, and his leadership in the Rays clubhouse, were major factors in the team’s improbable run to its first-ever World Series. This season, he has stepped up his offensive game dramatically. He hit just one home last year, but had already set a career-high with 7 HRs and more than 30 RBI by mid-June. He missed some time due to injury, but bounced back with an eye-popping batting average above .375.
Marco Scutaro, Detroit Tigers
Scutaro likely won’t make the American League All-Star squad, but his performance in the first half of the season certainly warrants consideration. The Blue Jays gave Scutaro a chance to play every day after a career as a utility infielder, and he’s made the most of the opportunity. With a batting average just under .300 and power numbers just a notch below those of Jeter and Bartlett, Scutaro played a major role in Toronto’s surprising early-season success.