Being Bobby Valentine
added 7/4/2001 by Matthew Becker
The All-Star game is a festival held at the beginning of July, a game that participants usually don't care to win. However, every year, debate rages at this time over reserve selections and how unfair it is to certain teams. Working with the one man from each team minimum requirement, I found that with only 25 roster slots, this is a tough thing to figure out.
Note: I made these selections before the full lineups came out, so if my roster is the same as Valentine's (which is a distinct possibility), know that he and I aren't together in this.
Todd Helton(COL) was voted into the game, and deservedly so. Ryan Klesko (SD) is my choice for a backup here, due to his .299 average with 17 homers and 14 stolen bases. He has also improved tremendously on the defensive end, and his selection is the most obvious one I had.
Jeff Kent(SF) is the choice of the fans for second base. Biggio may have put up better numbers this year, but it's hard to argue that the reigning NL MVP should not start this game. Even though he was hurt for part of the year, Jose Vidro(MON) should be the backup here, because he's the best player on the Expos right now. Even in my picks, Biggio gets snubbed for the one player per team rule.
Rich Aurilla(SF) doesn't help matters by being on the Giants. He is, however, by far the best shortstop in the National League at the moment. I'll make a shot in the dark and award the backup position to Jimmy Rollins (PHI), and his 25 stolen bases. As you'll see later, he's the only Phillie that gets to go to my game.
Chipper Jones(ATL) starts the game, while 2001 Rookie of the Year Albert Pujols (STL) backs him up. A case could be made for Aramis Ramirez(PIT) to back up Jones, but Pujols has been too amazing this year to leave off of the team.
Mike Piazza(NY) was voted into the game, but is questionable for appearing. However, for this column, he'll be starting in the game. Charles Johnson(FLA) arguably should have picked up the start here, but a quick third inning replacement makes me happy here.
Barry Bonds(SF), Luis Gonzalez(ARI), and Larry Walker(COL) were voted into the game. The fans could not have done a better job in this regard. However, since I have two players at every infield position, and I'm planning to take 10 pitchers, there is only room for two more outfielders. Quoting Sports Illustrated: "If Valentine snubs Floyd, it would be an egregious injustice". If egregious means something negative (aren't journalistic endeavors supposed to be written at a 5th grade level?), then Jeff Pearlman, who wrote the column in question, is sorely mistaken. Both Alou and Berkman have put up much better numbers, and for the FLA pick, Charles Johnson is going. However, only Lance Berkman gets to go from Houston, as Brian Giles(PIT) is also having an amazing year, and would fit the Pirates' slot nicely in this game.
Because starting pitching is much tougher to find than a closer, seven starters will make this game for their efforts, and only three relievers. In my mind, John Burkett(ATL) has been the most dominating pitcher in the NL this year, and even though he's not a big name, he gets my nod to start the midsummer classic. Five teams are still not represented, so the best pitchers from their teams will go. This works out well, because Chan Ho Park(LA), Jon Lieber(CHI), Ben Sheets(MIL), and Randy Johnson(ARI) all deserve to go. Picking one from the Reds is difficult, but Dennis Reyes has pitched well and will take up one of the three relief slots. Therefore, with every team represented, that leaves 2 starters and 2 relievers to be picked. Greg Maddux(ATL) has matched Burkett stride for stride this year, and definitely deserves to be in Seattle. Matt Morris(STL) has equally dominated the league, and coming back from shoulder surgery, he will be a nice story to cover in the game this year. The final two relief slots fall to Jeff Shaw(LA) who has recovered nicely from a horrible 2000, and Antonio Alfonseca(FLA), who is the best closer in the NL right now.
With all that said, here are your 2001 NL All-Stars:
I'm not throwing you a Knuckleball here, but only one Astro goes to my game. Curt Schilling doesn't even go, and he leads the NL in wins! In defense to Bobby Valentine, this is an extremely hard selection process. If you think you can do better, I welcome you to try. The experience alone is enough to make you respect the duty of the defending NL Championship manager that much more.