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Pitching for more shutouts when picking teams

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / July 4, 2011

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HOUSTON - The problem is the same as it’s always been - every team has to be represented in the All-Star Game.

Why?

If your team is so bad that it does not have a player worthy of All-Star status and you’re mad about it, then petition management and tell it to spend the money to get better players. To penalize deserving and exciting players is silly. Then again, have we ever truly gotten this All-Star thing right?

The fans did a nice job with the starters. They voted in a very deserving team with a couple of exceptions. But, hey, if the media had voted there would have been a couple of doozies, too, and if the players voted they would have shown their biases.

Of the 66 players voted to the teams, which face off in Phoenix next Tuesday, the fans picked 17, nine from the American League and eight from the National League. The players chose the next 33, and the managers - Ron Washington of the AL and Bruce Bochy of the NL - filled out the rosters with 16.

When the fans and players got through voting, there were no Royals, A’s, Orioles, Twins, Nationals, Padres, Marlins, Cubs, and Diamondbacks chosen. That’s nine players who had to be taken from teams whether they were deserving or not. The only truly compelling cases one could make for those nine teams are Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton and Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.

The rest of the players who made the team from those squads - Tyler Clippard (Nationals), Matt Wieters (Orioles), Michael Cuddyer (Twins), Gaby Sanchez (Marlins), Aaron Crow (Royals), Gio Gonzalez (A’s), and Heath Bell (Padres) could have been left off and nobody would have batted an eye.

Bell has 24 saves, Gonzalez has a 2.31 ERA, and Crow has been excellent with a 1.36 ERA. But Gonzalez over CC Sabathia or Jon Lester? Maybe it’s East Coast bias, but Sabathia and Lester have pitched tougher games.

Not having to name a player from every team would have made room for a Victor Martinez or a Mark Teixeira, a Paul Konerko or a Ryan Howard. The Diamondbacks’ Ian Kennedy could have made it over Clippard.

“It’s always tough when you have guys with big numbers at one position; you’re always going to have guys who don’t go who should go,’’ said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who lost one of his Home Run Derby selections, Teixeira, because he didn’t make the team. “I couldn’t believe Tex didn’t make it and then you look at Konerko and you say, ‘How could he not make it?’ ’’

Of course, two more players will be added via the fans’ “Final Vote’’.

Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, whose numbers might have merited inclusion on the team, took the high road.

“It’s an honor to be there. It would definitely be a great honor to make it, but I haven’t played up to my standards,’’ he said. “That’s fine. A lot of our guys are deserving to go. We’re here to win games, and I’ll take the three days and rest up and get ready for the rest of the way.’’

He was surprised that more than four Red Sox didn’t get taken.

“Well, we have a lot of good players,’’ he said. “Trust me, I think everybody in here would wish everyone could go, from our team. The guys who are going, they’ll represent us well. Hopefully, they’ll win, because it means something.’’

Lester, who has 10 wins, will be staying home.

“Yeah, it’s obviously something you want to be a part of,’’ he said. “It’s also nice to get some downtime. I don’t make those decisions. We all vote. Is it nice to go? Yeah. Is it disappointing not to go? Yeah. But like I said, it’s nice to get a break.’’

Lester had no idea why he didn’t make it, or why more of his teammates didn’t.

“Don’t know why,’’ he said. “We’ve got a hell of a team. Seems like the Yankees always take care of all the All-Star voting every year, so it’s just disappointing to not see more Red Sox on that team.’’

The process is full of holes yet it decides home-field advantage in the World Series.

If that’s the case, the best players should play.

Nothing against the Indians’ Chris Perez, but really? No offense to the Angels’ Howie Kendrick, but why? There is no need to have Kendrick on the AL roster over Pedroia. The Angels already have Jered Weaver, who may wind up being the AL starter. One could make the case that Kendrick’s stats are better that Pedroia’s. But which player would the fans rather see?

The Rays’ David Price has the same ERA as Lester but with two fewer wins. He made it, Lester didn’t.

The All-Star Game is made for players such as the Phillies’ Howard, big and bad power hitters.

The players voted the Reds’ Jay Bruce as a reserve, essentially ahead of the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen. Bochy compounded that by selecting the Mets’ Carlos Beltran over McCutchen. Beltran is having a pretty good year, but an All-Star year? A season better than that of the exciting McCutchen? Don’t think so.

And then there’s the going-overboard scenario.

True, Giants righty Ryan Vogelsong, who is 6-1 with a 2.09 ERA, is a nice story. But it’s tough to take him over the Braves’ Tommy Hanson or Kennedy or even the Brewers’ Shaun Marcum given that three Giants, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Brian Wilson are already on the team.

Four Tigers were named but two others deserved to get in - Martinez, who is second in the league in hitting to Adrian Gonzalez, and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. One Tiger who did get in, Jose Valverde, is another head-scratcher.

The NL voters didn’t pick the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols, who couldn’t have played anyway because of a wrist injury, but the Yankees’ Derek Jeter got in for the AL. Voters stayed away from Ichiro Suzuki for the first time in 10 years, though.

No matter what changes take place, the process never will be perfect. But at some point an All-Star has to be an All-Star and not just a propped-up representative. That’s when the game will start to be taken more seriously.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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