Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Who's an all-star?

Posted By on 07.03.12 at 11:05 AM

A.J. Pierzynski in 2009: Hes no longer ash blond, but hes still not an All-Star.
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  • A.J. Pierzynski in 2009: He's no longer ash blond, but he's still not an all-star.
Hey, look, I know that determining who gets named to Major League Baseball's All-Star Game is not only political—like the Hall of Fame—but there are a bunch of other rules and regulations in play, such as at least one player has to be picked from each team.

But really, A.J. Pierzynski, having a career year at catcher for the White Sox, doesn't get picked for the American League, while Bryan LaHair, who isn't even the best first baseman on the last-place Cubs right now, gets picked for the National League team?

That's seriously messed up.

Not to diminish the 29-year-old LaHair, an almost-entirely career minor leaguer who had a wonderful year with the Cubs' Triple-A team in Iowa last season, when he hit 38 homers there. Unlike a lot of Triple-A phenoms, LaHair displayed a crisp, short swing, and he got off to a nice start with the Cubs when they committed to him as their opening-day first baseman this year. It's a great story that National League players voted him into the All-Star Game. After all, he does have 13 homers, 28 runs batted in, and a .284 batting average—all respectable.

Yet it took LaHair a minor-league career to shorten his swing. It took newly acquired Anthony Rizzo a half season at Iowa, after the pet project of new Cubs brain trust Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer was acquired for Andrew Cashner—and he promptly pushed the slumping LaHair to the outfield when they decided he was ready last week. He even homered Monday to lead the Cubs to their fourth straight win.

Contrast that with A.J., having his best season at 35. He leads all big-league catchers with 45 RBI, is second with 14 homers, and is hitting .284—same as LaHair. Yet he gets left home.

Why? The Twins needed to place someone, and Joe Mauer is probably Minnesota's best player. The Rangers' Mike Napoli got voted to start by the fans—namely the huge number of Texas fans. But then Baltimore's Matt Wieters got chosen, in spite of having, like Napoli, a clearly worse season than Pierzynski.

AL manager Ron Washington—also of Texas—said he felt bad for A.J., but A.J. was having none of it.

He's got a beef, just not against LaHair. It's apples and oranges—or maybe just beef and pork politics.

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