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Ryan Braun: Bashing His Way To Becoming the Greatest Brewer Ever?

When Ryan Braun was named an outfield starter for the National League in the 2010 Summer Classic yesterday—his third straight such honor—the 26-year-old entered uncharted territory for the Milwaukee Brewers.

By getting a third nod (a third consecutive one at that) Braun surpassed the two faces permanently etched on the franchise’s Mount Rushmore: Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, both of whom earned two All-Star Game starts.

Now with all due respect to Stormin’ Gorman, Greg Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz, and Geoff Jenkins (who, by the way, will be retiring as a Brewer come Tuesday), the discussion of Greatest Brewer Ever quite clearly boils down to Yount and Molitor.

And obviously, any claims currently staking Braun to that throne are outrageously premature—both Yount and Molitor put in at least two decades in the majors (and at least 15 years with the Milwaukee organization).

But despite the premature nature of the question, Braun’s unprecedented excellence begs that it be asked: is the Mission Hills, CA, native on his way to becoming the greatest Brewer in MLB history?

Let’s start by comparing the first four seasons of their careers.

It should be noted that Molitor did not play in more than 140 games until his fifth season in the league, and was more or less a late bloomer due to a nasty string of injuries as well as marijuana and cocaine abuse in his first four seasons.

Despite the potential unfairness inherent in analyzing those seasons, however, that’s the only sample we have to use in comparison against Braun.

Also, since Braun has yet to actually complete his fourth year, we must simply use the pace he has set for the season, even though injuries and other circumstances could affect his production in the second half.

So with those caveats established, here’s the breakdown.


First Four Seasons

In Braun’s first four years, he projects to have 715 hits, 150 doubles, 125 homers, 419 RBI, 71 stolen bases, 396 runs, a .300 batting average, and approximately a .360 on-base percentage and a .550 slugging percentage, in 582 games.

Yount, in comparison, totaled 570 hits, 95 doubles, 17 home runs, 181 RBI, 51 stolen bases, 240 runs, a .270 batting average, and approximately a .300 OBP and a .350 slugging percentage, in 569 games.

Lastly, “The Ignitor” compiled marks of 534 hits, 93 doubles, 26 homers, 163 RBI, 107 stolen bases, 287 runs, a .300 batting average, and approximately a .340 OBP and a .400 slugging percentage, in just 440 games.

Using these snapshots then, both Braun and Molitor were outstanding from the moment they stepped between the lines, with both batting .300, and Molitor flashing his rarely mentioned speed, stealing bases at double the rate of Braun.

Yount, on the other hand, started slowly, demonstrating little power until the ‘80’s, when he experienced a surge that he credits to an improved weight lifting regimen.

Overall, though, Braun seems to have garnered himself into the best in his early years by a considerable margin.

Numero Ocho has averaged 1.23 hits per game and a home run every 18.78 at bats.

Molitor averaged 1.21 hits per contest with a home run every 69.46 at bats, while Yount averaged a dinger every 126.18 at bats.


Historical context

Now, it is also imperative we take a step back and contextualize their places in history a little bit.

Braun, in just three-and-a-half seasons, has already left an indelible mark on the major league record books.

After winning the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2007, Braun went on to register the sixth most home runs for a player in his first three seasons (103), trailing just current All-Star regulars Albert Pujols (114), Mark Teixeira (107), as well as three Hall of Fame sluggers, Ralph Kiner (114), Eddie Matthews (112), and Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio (107).

In addition, Braun become the eighth major leaguer ever to finish a season with 100 runs, 100 RBI, 200 hits, 30 homers, 20 stolen bases, and a .300 batting average, when he accomplished the feat last year—an achievement he may very well duplicate in multiple seasons to come.

And finally, Braun has already won two Silver Slugger Awards (given to the best hitter at his position), which compares favorably to Molitor, who earned four, and Yount, who finished with three.

But don’t get me wrong, all of this isn’t to say that Molitor and Yount didn’t reach some amazing plateaus and honors during their playing time.

Both players eventually collected the magical number of 3,000 hits, with Yount accumulating 3,142—good for 17th all-time—and Molitor racking up 3,319, placing him ninth in MLB history.

Beyond that, Yount is the only one of the three to win an MVP award and a Gold Glove, both of which he received in the Brewers’ World Series year of 1982.

Yount also picked up a second NL MVP in 1989.

For good measure, Molitor finished second in his Rookie of the Year balloting, and was also runner-up in the 1993 AL MVP voting.

Moreover, Molitor is part of an exclusive historical club—along with Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Eddie Collins—with 3,000 hits, a .300 batting average, and 500 stolen bases.

Most important of all in this discussion, however, is the simple fact that both Yount and Molitor were able to piece together lengthy careers that eventually secured them entrance to Cooperstown, which is one milestone Braun may be on pace for, but is nowhere near sniffing.



Sometimes lost amid the stat-heavy analysis of hitting in baseball is the other half of the game: fielding. Despite that lack of attention, though, it absolutely must factor into any “greatest ever” debates.

And in this comparison, Yount appears to emerge as the best of the three.

Although he was spotty in the early part of his tenure (almost, in fact, losing the position to Molitor due to a spring training contract dispute in 1978), he would, with time, figure it out.

From 1985 through the end of his career in 1993, Yount would never commit more than 10 errors in a season.

True, this run did coincide with his move to the outfield on account of a shoulder problem, but lest I remind you that Yount was always considered a very good shortstop, and he did take home a Gold Glove at that position, in 1982.

Unlike the other two, Molitor never really found a true home in the field, playing seven different positions serviceably, but without greatness.

This lack of excellence with the leather, along with a history of injuries, ultimately led to Molitor’s move to primarily designated hitting beginning in 1991 and continuing until the end of his career in 1998.

Last but not least, Braun was at first considered a defensive liability when he committed a staggering 26 errors in just 112 games at third base in his rookie season.

Such a performance did not instill fans with much confidence when Braun was shifted to left field for his sophomore campaign.

Yet, since his move to the outfield, Braun has made just three errors, showed an above-average arm, and proved himself more than adequate as a fielder.

It would not be too much of a stretch to anticipate a Gold Glove or two (or three or four) in the future for the man affectionately known as the “Hebrew Hammer.”

So while for now Yount comes away from this category as winner, it is not a foregone conclusion that he will always own that title.



Without question, this discussion is one filled with contingencies and conditional statements.

That’s natural when attempting to project the eventual level of greatness of a player only a few years into his career.

In baseball—more than other sports even—longevity is crucial to an impressive legacy.

With that said, it is easier to finish with a great career when you get off to a great start, and Braun has indisputably done that.

He has already proved himself as an equal to (or likely superior to) the other two in the batter’s box.

And in the field, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that his upward trajectory as a left fielder will only continue.

As long as Braun stays healthy, and as long as Mark Attanasio is willing to commit a large long-term contract to him in five or six years (or sooner if he sees fit for a raise commensurate to performance), his career promises to be of Hall of Fame caliber.

Therefore, while for now Yount remains the Greatest Brewer Ever, with Molitor a close second, Braun is hot on their trail.

Oh, and while I’d gladly include Prince Fielder in this article since his exploits so far warrant it, I’m just not that naïve.


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Yovani Gallardo: A Proven Ace for the Milwaukee Brewers

Alright, so the Brewers’ chances of making another run at the postseason this year seem about as good as Tiger and Elin reconciling.

At 28-37, the Crew may sit just eight games back off the pacesetters of the NL Central—the Reds and the Cardinals—and may remain tantalizingly within reach of being within reach for a few months to come.

But realistically, most Brewers’ fans have resigned themselves to the fact that the pitching staff is simply not talented enough, deep enough, or consistent enough to put together enough quality starts to get the team back in the hunt.

In short, the Brewers are probably safe making vacation plans for early October.

Yet I am not here to belabor the shortcomings—or short ceiling—of this year’s team, for all is not bleak in the Brew City.

We all knew the Brewers feature a lineup capable of posting crooked numbers in droves.

That’s a given.

Despite a mediocre .259 batting average, Milwaukee still finds itself among the top five National League squads in just about every other important hitting category, including topping the Senior Circuit with 81 home runs.

The resurgent Corey Hart, the unsung Casey McGehee, and the wunderkind Ryan Braun have combined for more RBI than other trio in the NL.

However, what I’m here to highlight is in fact a sign of brightness on the pitching mound—seriously!

You see, the Brewers’ pitching staff has more or less been a patchwork group of journeyman with oversized contracts intertwined with young-but-below-average arms for the better part of two decades.

But since 2004, the first time Ben Sheets held his ERA below three and averaged more than one strikeout—and less than one hit per inning—the team at least could rest assured that, when healthy, it boasted a legitimate ace.

Hell, in 2008 they had two for a time in the short window of overlap when both Benny and C.C. were pitching well.

And having that ace in the hole is always the first reason for hope.

The first step in building a formidable pitching rotation is finding that one rock that you can count on to stop streaks of putridity and to set the tone when things are going well.

If pitching and defense are the foundation for championships, an ace is the layer below the cement.

When C.C. was yanked away by the strong pull of $60 million and the emotional rollercoaster of Benny’s injuries became too much for the franchise to bear, it appeared that bedrock had been removed.

The big question: Could Yovani Gallardo actually step up and be able to fill that role long-term?

My guess is, after last season, many would say the jury was still out.

And after the month of April this year, I would suggest confidence was still low.

Thankfully though, a thorough examination of the stats—as well as Yo’s recent stretch of Warren Spahn-like outings—have put those uncertainties to rest.

In 2009—Yo’s first as the De Facto ace—he finished the year with underwhelming numbers: a 13-12 record and a 3.73 ERA.

Not bad, to be sure, but not ace numbers.

Under the popular markers of a pitcher’s success lays a more indicative truth: Yo was just as dominating as Benny ever was.

Ben Sheet’s best year, 2004, included a ratio of 0.85 hits per inning, and a home run surrendered ever 9.48 innings.

He also averaged 1.11 strikeouts per inning.

Last year was not Yovani’s best, with a hits per inning rate of just 0.82, a home run every 8.81 innings, and a strikeout average of 1.10 per inning.

As with anything, you can nitpick this comparison and find some discrepancies.

For example, Yo walked 4.6 hitters per nine compared to just 1.2 for Sheets.

But my point here is that the results of last year, taken with the first 40 percent of this year, demonstrate that Yovani can indeed handle the burden of being the team’s ace.

Want more good news?

He’s only getting better.

At only 24, Yo’s best years are ahead of him.

In May, Gallardo’s ERA was a dynamic 2.31.

In June, it has been 2.25.

Stats which unquestionably scream ace.

The team’s pitching staff as a whole looks worse than Rex Ryan topless, at least Brewers’ fans can take solace in the fact that they have an ace they can rely on.

Well, that and Jeff Suppan wearing a different jersey.

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Stephen Strasburg: Five Keys To Continued Dominance

Okay, we get it already. Stephen Strasburg is more unstoppable than a gushing oil leak.

He’s the biggest sensation since Beanie Babies.

We might as well waive the mandatory five-years-removed-from-baseball clause for Hall of Fame induction and put the overpowering 6’4” righty in now.

Hell, let’s start building a new wing on the place dedicated to Strasburg and Strasmas and all other things Stras-related.

I’ve got news for you: slow your roll people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, last night was incredible, and the stats speak to just how much.

His 14 strikeouts were the second-most all-time in a debut—trailing only flamethrower J.R. Richard (1971) and Karl Spooner (1954), who both had 15—and he became the first rookie to begin his career with more than 11 K’s without a walk.

Strasburg threw 94 total pitches (65 strikes against just 29 balls), surrendered just three hits, and struck out each Pirate batter at least once.

All of which is even more impressive when you consider Strasburg’s start was more highly anticipated than the iPad.

The No. 1 overall pick from last summer was the recipient of the biggest signing bonus in MLB history (over $15 million), and he cruised through the minors like Danny Almonte against a bunch of 12-year-olds, posting a 7-2 record with a 1.30 ERA and 65 strikeouts in his 11 Double-A and Triple-A starts.

However, one start does not make a career—especially when that start was against the Pirates.

In order for Strasburg to sustain a similar level of dominance for a long time to come, there are certain aspects to his game he must improve or develop.

Here are five of them.

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The Case for Common Sense: Why the MLB Needs Instant Replay

No matter one’s particular brand of politics, I think we could all agree that Congress does not work as efficiently or effectively as it could.

Now, if I told you that I had a foolproof, instantly applicable means of fixing our legislative body, you’d say: “By God man, why don’t you get to implementing that?!”

Your incredulity would be understandable and reasonable.

So, I ask, why doesn’t this logic translate to baseball?

Today, Bud Selig announced that the MLB would not overturn last night’s abominable, perfect-game-ruining, safe call from Jim Joyce.

And it was the right decision.  While some say that one mere exception is allowable in these circumstances—arguing that a slippery slope of reversing numerous calls after-the-fact wouldn’t inevitably result—doing so would set a precedent of rewriting events in the past.

Sure, the floodgates may not be violently torn open, but when another controversial ninth-inning call (say, a game-winning home run that, upon review, actually hits below the yellow line which tops the fence) occurs, the jilted team can point to the Armando Galarraga game as a reason for another historical revision.

It may not be a Pandora’s Box where evils fly out in hordes, but it simply is a step in a dangerous direction that does not have to be taken.

With that being said, however, if Jim Jones’s career-defining mistake (you think anyone would remember Don Denkinger if not for the 1985 World Series?) does not end up being the impetus for an expansion of instant replay in baseball, then the MLB is as mismanaged as BP.

Just look at poor Mr. Galarraga’s face when he sees Joyce’s arms signal safe—it’s heart-breaking.

If only there had been an appeal to turn to in order to rectify the situation and preserve well-deserved history…

Oh, yeah, there could be.

Opponents of instant replay contest that the human element of umpiring is part of the game, something as ingrained in baseball’s DNA as hot dogs, chewing tobacco, and luxury boxes.

Plus, they continue, it wouldn’t be fair to the history of the game and the legends that comprise it to implement dramatic changes now.

What’s next, they ask, the option to review balls and strikes?

But here’s the thing, every sport—hell, life in general—is a dynamic entity.  Change happens, and often the catalyst is technology.

And as far as ensuring that the right call is made, there is no doubt we currently possess workable technology.

Personally, I don’t care if balls and strikes are subjected to some review mechanism to safeguard against stupidity, and pride, and personal belief, and anything else that could compel an umpire to make the wrong call.

In fact, if you told me you had a team of robots that could replace umpires and get every call right, I’d be ecstatic.

Why is the human element so damn sacred?

Let’s think about it: what draws us to sports and competition?

The chance to witness humans with unique physical talents or skills do things most of us cannot—and we want to create a fair, uniform environment across which we can compare and contextualize those abilities.

Which is why umpires and referees are there in the first place: to objectively apply rules that produce a fair playing field.  But now, an improvement to those safeguards is available.

Especially in baseball.

It is a given that the governing bodies in sports will move glacially, yet both the NFL and the NBA have been more proactive in utilizing instant replay capabilities—and those sports are much less black-and-white due to all of the fast-moving bodies, contact, and ambiguous rules’ situations.

Baseball, on the other hand, is relatively straightforward.

A ball is either fair or foul.  A runner is either safe or out.  Not a whole lot of ambiguity in those rulings.

Instant replay can guarantee the right call is made, and that the playing field is as even as possible.

And lastly, as far as the unfairness to past generations is concerned: get over it.

Technology changes every sport to the advantage of those who come later.  Improvements in golf clubs and golf balls mean that greater distance and control are achievable in today’s game.

Does that undermine the greatness of Walter Hagen?  Absolutely not.

Improvements in football helmets make the game much different than when Red Grange was galloping through defenses.

Comparisons over generations are inherently problematic, so we shouldn’t let that factor into any rule-change decisions.

I realize numbers are particularly hallowed in baseball, but folks, all instant replay would do is make certain that those numbers are more pure, because all the calls could be right.

In no way do I blame Jim Joyce for what happened last night.

He used what was available to him to make a subjective call as best as he could.

But humans make errors, and Jones made one.  A big one. 

One that has cost Armando Galarrage his rightful place among the 20 other names who have managed the whole 27 up, 27 down, thing.

So, Bud Selig, the ball is in your court (or diamond, I suppose).

By ignoring the anti-technology “purists,” you can change your game for the better going forward.

I’m all for deliberate and cautious adoption, adaptation and monitoring of technology—in sports and life—and I understand your concerns about slowing down the game.

Except, we’ve seen enough as far as this argument goes.

Simply put a fifth official in a booth somewhere with a replay TV and provide him with a direct link to the crew chief.

Allow for three manager challenges a game, as well as self-reviews on calls that are exceedingly close or when an ump’s view is obstructred.

If a manager gets the first two wrong, they lose the third.

That, or design some cool robots.

But no matter how you structure it, fans will gladly sit for 10 extra minutes, knowing the calls they see are correct.

Let’s embrace instant replay—if for no other reason than that gut-wrenching look of disbelief and disappointment written all over the faces of the Tigers upon that call.

Now, anyone got similar solutions for Congress?


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June Is Make or Break Month for the Milwaukee Brewers Organization

June is a great month, wouldn’t you agree?  School is out, golf weather has arrived, and we get the pleasure (for some reason) of both the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals.

In short, the first day of June marks the official start of the summer (unless you subscribe to that solar mumbo jumbo), which means months of carefree behavior, baseball and beer, boats, beaches, and ice cream.

However, for the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers, June marks the franchise’s make-or-break moment.

Since Mark Attanasio purchased the team—for $180 million in 2004, graciously pulling the Crew from Selig-era hopelessness—the team has improved.  This is largely thanks to the emergence of a top-notch farm system that produced the likes of Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Alcides Escobar, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, and the recently-departed J.J. Hardy.

That homegrown core has provided the foundation for a small but important window in which the Brewers have done something that was unimaginable to its fans a decade ago: compete.

In 2007, the team finished 83-79, posting its first winning season since 1992.

The following year, C.C. Sabathia earned a lifetime key to the heart of Brewer Nation by dragging the club into the postseason for the first time in 26 long years (where they promptly folded into the fetal position and took a fanatical beating).

And, of course, last year, the team took a slight step backwards, limping to an 80-82 finish with a roster absent of any sign of serviceable pitching this side of Trevor Hoffman.

But what did all of those years have in common?  That core of young, organizationally-produced position players.

Now that foundation has been cracked and is on the verge of collapsing, depending on the month of June.

As it stands, the team is a meager 21-30, 8 ½ games back of NL Central leaders St. Louis and Cincinnati, and just ½ a game better than Pittsburgh.  Yikes.

Yet, heading into this month, all is not lost.

First, take a peek at the schedule. 

In May, Milwaukee faced a slew of opponents that have combined for a .520 winning percentage thus far, including a brutal stretch featuring a dreaded West Coast swing, and then four series against teams either one or two in their respective divisions (the Braves, Phillies, Reds, and Twins).

Moreover, although the team’s 8-15 home record still provokes vicious head-scratching, they did win four of six in their last go-round at Miller Park, indicating that number should return toward comprehensibility as the season progresses.

Now, this is not to say there aren’t pitfalls lying in wait on the team’s June schedule—only that a well-timed hot streak could vault the team right back into the thick of things.

If the team can play well at home (definition of well: taking two of three) against its upper-echelon foes—the Cubs and the Twins—the rest of its home slate is rather favorable.  They have three-game sets against the Rangers (owners of an 8-15 road mark), Seattle (in tailspin mode), and Houston (second only to the Orioles for worst-team-in-the-ML honors).

Beyond that, the team must simply hope to split its relatively difficult road schedule (three games versus the Marlins, Cards, Angels, and Rockies). If they can, the Brewers could find themselves bubbling to the top of the NL Central.

Needless to say, though, the previously stated-goal of 16-11 (or better) is only possible if a few things manifest.



Chief among these things is better, and more consistent, pitching from both the starting rotation and the bullpen.

Even if that’s quite easy to say, there are signs it will happen.  In the past week-and-a-half, the squad has received quality outings from both Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf, and solid pitching can be contagious.

And while it would be unfair to heap great expectations on Chris Capuano, it is nonetheless possible he could join the growing list of pitchers to return successfully from Tommy John surgery (joining the likes of, among others, new teammate Randy Wolf).

Though anticipating All-Star-like starts from Capuano is obviously overboard, when he was healthy, he ate innings like Joey Chestnut eats burritos (trust me, it’s remarkable).

Additionally, the Brewers’ ‘pen is quietly falling into place.  John Axford has breathed life into the closer role, and Hoffman has managed three straight scoreless outings.  If those two can become a solid setup/closer combo (in either order), everything else about bullpen management becomes easier.

But perhaps most heartening for Brewer fans looking forward is, frankly, that the pitching cannot get much worse.



Scary for opponents, however, is that the offense can improve—if Corey Hart keeps gushing power numbers like a BP oil well.

After a recent 16-game stretch in which he has 10 HR and 21 RBI (putting him atop the NL in long-balls), Hart is on pace for 41 HR, 106 RBI, and 127 hits.

Unfortunately, that stat line seems rather unrealistic considering Hart is still hitting only .221 against right-handed pitching.

Yet even as Hart cools off, he can still offer a legitimate fourth bat in the middle of the lineup, just as he did in 2008.

Imagine—if Hart keeps hitting and Macha likes his new lineup—standing on the mound and having to face, in order, Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Casey McGehee, and Corey Hart.  I like the hitters’ odds.

Also important to note here is that Prince Fielder is still sifting through his trade and contract talk in search of his production.  With only seven homers and a .267 batting average, Prince currently sits fifth on the team in RBI, slightly ahead of Alcides Escobar, who you could fit three of in Fielder’s expansive waistline.

That is bound to change.  And when it does, NL pitching should beware.


The Alternative

Sadly, if these things do not happen, and say, for example, the Brewers instead post an 11-16 mark in June (meaning they would have a 32-46 record), the year, and the era, will have run their course.

How to redirect this team toward competitiveness in the near future is not really up for debate.  Young pitching is a must, and the farm system simply is short on it right now.

To transform the team’s future crop of pitchers, Prince Fielder must be swapped for arms (which is pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point, short of a dramatic turnaround).

But I would recommend going further.

With Brett Lawrie in waiting, the team should package Rickie Weeks and a prospect (perhaps Mat Gamel?), or an everyday player like Corey Hart, for yet more pitching.  An abundance of arms will never be a problem, although it will represent a completely new look for the franchise.

Trading proven entities like Prince and Rickie, along with another major-league-ready bat, may be difficult to swallow, but so will a lost season with nothing to show for it going forward.

If the Brewers do manage to catch fire soon, these drastic steps may not be necessary.

One thing’s for certain: only June will tell.

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Milwaukee Brewers Atop Early MLB All-Star Voting, Reveal Flaws in System

Major League Baseball released its early voting returns for the league’s 2010 All-Star Game on Tuesday, with five Milwaukee Brewers among the top five at their positions.

The most prominent of these is left fielder Ryan Braun (.328, 8 HR, 32 RBI), who currently leads all National League outfielders by a margin of almost 60,000 over the second-place outfielder, Philadelphia’s Jayson Werth (.327, 9, 33).

Other Brewers sitting pretty in the early voting results include first baseman Prince Fielder (.275, 7, 19), who’s in third-place behind the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols (.303, 8, 29) and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard (.302, 8, 32); second baseman Rickie Weeks (.246, 6, 24), who checks in at second behind the Phillies’ Chase Utley (.297, 10, 23); shortstop Alcides Escobar (.248, 2, 14), who’s third behind the Phils’ Jimmy Rollins (.341, 2, 7) and the Florida Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez (.299, 7, 24); and third baseman Casey McGehee (.308, 9, 40), who is also third, behind David Wright (.261, 8, 33) of the Mets and Philadelphia’s Placido Polanco (.307, 5, 21).

For good measure, let me note that outfielders Jim Edmonds (.280, 3, 8) and Carlos Gomez (.274, 3, 11) presently sit 12th and 14th , respectively, among Senior Circuit outfielders.

So with that said, way to go Brewer fans! Your enthusiasm is well-demonstrated and appreciated.

But nevertheless, the aforementioned rankings of Brewers starkly underscores the fallibility of the current MLB fan-voting system.

As much as I love Prince, Rickie, and Alcides, it is quite difficult—if not impossible—to justify where any of them are at this point in voting.

Although Fielder understandably comes in behind All-Star veterans Pujols and Howard, none of them is as deserving as Reds first sacker Joey Votto (.312, 10, 33), who has anchored Cincy’s improbable run to the top of the NL Central.

And Escobar? Come on. The guy is hitting .248 with 14 RBI! Sure, he’s a fantastic defensive shortstop, but defense alone cannot earn you an All-Star nod—especially when there are so many other qualified candidates, such as the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki (.307, 5, 22) and the Diamondbacks’ Stephen Drew (.298, 4, 19).

More egregious yet, however, is the guy who tops both Escobar and Ramirez at shortstop: Jimmy Rollins. Yes, Utley’s double play-partner is batting an impressive .341. It’s just that he is doing so through just 12 games, after spending much of the year thus far on the DL with a right calf injury.

As for Weeks, his play has certainly warranted All-Star consideration , but what about the Marlins’ Dan Uggla (.277, 12, 31)—who isn’t even among the top five for second basemen—or Martin Prado of the Braves (.314, 4, 20)?  Objectively speaking, haven’t they outplayed Weeks?

Lastly, McGehee is the one Brewer getting shafted in the early fan voting.  As it stands, the unsung third baseman and Prince-protector is looking up at both Wright and Polanco, despite having better numbers in all three Triple Crown categories, including a league-best 40 RBI.

Now let me be clear. I am obviously not faulting Brewer fans for flocking to the ballot box like it was a free tour of Miller. That’s what fans are supposed to do.

And judging from who’s ahead of the beloved Brewers infielders at this juncture, the only fans who are more passionate (or have more time on their hands) are Philly fans, who have managed to vault five of their players to starting positions.

No, what is sorely evident here is that the MLB needs to reconsider its formula for choosing the All-Star rosters.

Right now, fan votes choose the eight starting position players, a combination of player, coach, and manager voting selects eight pitchers—five starters and three relievers—plus back-up players for each position in the field. And the team’s manager gets the final say on nine more bench players, with the stipulation that each team is represented by at least one player.

Lastly, the fans get one final role in the process, choosing one out of five remaining players for All-Star designation.

Ultimately, then, this procedure yields a 34-player roster, which is far too large, but an issue for a different article.

The problem this system produces is what we see revealed in the early voting: certain teams (and their fans) dominate the voting process and skew the starting lineups. 

Starting in an All-Star game should be one of the great honors bestowed upon a Major League player, but instead, we often see situations where a starter should feel guilty for their bid (here’s looking at you, Jimmy Rollins).

If only allowing the fans to elect the bench for the game is going too far, what at least needs to happen is a new weighting system, where the votes of players, coaches, and managers—the guys that actually know who has been playing at an elite level—can offset homer fan votes.

Although baseball isn’t the only sport where fan-voting is a problem (remember Allen Iverson?), its game does hold the most history and prestige.  We’re talking about the freaking Midsummer Classic here!

So, Bud Selig, even if it’s too late to correct the voting routine for this year’s game (to be held July 13 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California), please do us one favor and compensate for the 2002 tie-game debacle by fixing this approach to picking the rosters.

Doing so, Mr. Selig, just could save your legacy. 

Okay, well I probably shouldn’t get too carried away…  


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