By Stuart Miller
In taking a critical look at the starting lineups for the 2004 All-Star Game, only one critical player is missing…
There’s history in the making, a tabloid story for the ages, a taste of sweet vengeance for Texans over their eastern counterparts, which may or may not foreshadow the upcoming presidential campaign. In short, this year’s All-Star Game rosters have everything…except Bobby Abreu.
The most lasting impression will be the Sluggers For The Ages outfield — Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey and Sammy Sosa — all starting, even if Sosa doesn’t deserve it this year.
The most hyped-up media story is the notion of Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza as battery mates, four years after Clemens twice committed assault and battery against Piazza.
And the most compelling baseball story is in the AL infield: put aside the totally undeserving Jason Giambi for a moment. The second baseman is Alfonso Soriano, who the Yankees got rid of; the shortstop and third baseman, selected by the fans, are his former teammate Derek Jeter and the man he was traded for, Alex Rodriguez—but the players, who voted for the backups, begged to differ, selecting Texas’ Michael Young and Hank Blalock over the marquee stars. If, down in Houston, the Texans outshine the New Yorkers, maybe George Steinbrenner will trade A-Rod for Blalock.
But back to Abreu. Others are writing about players like Steve Finley and Lyle Overbay getting overlooked (as opposed to Carlos Beltran, who got shafted because he was selected but then traded). But neither can come close to the Phillies’ outfielder. In fact, after a dreadful start, Abreu may be having the best season in the NL for someone not named Bonds. It would be a shame for him not to be named to the team just because he’s a quiet guy who may not blast as many home runs as other stars.
Let’s take three statistical categories that do the best job of quickly assessing production: on-base percentage, runs produced (the combination of runs scored and RBIs), and something I call total bases-plus, which is total bases plus walks, plus steals minus caught stealing (in other words, all the bases the player adds to a team’s offense).
In OBP, Abreu’s .444 trails Lance Berkman and Todd Helton (and Bonds, of course) but is vastly superior not just to Griffey (.344) and Sosa (.359) but other All-Stars and contenders like Overbay (.406), Sean Casey (.401), Albert Pujols (.401), Miguel Cabrera (.361), Adam Dunn (.413), Finley (.357), and even teammate and All-Star Jim Thome (.411), whose home runs get the most headlines in Philly.
In Runs Produced, Abreu’s 122 trails Pujols’ 127 but bests everyone else in the previous paragraph—Helton at 114 and Thome at 113 are close but the rest are far behind (Griffey has 100 and Sosa 63).
Now, before you say that Abreu scores a lot of runs because he’s on the same team as Thome and Burrell (who is at .390 and 103 in these categories), let’s look at Total Bases-Plus. Here Abreu is the absolute best with 244 (again, excluding Bonds, who has something like 15,000 walks). Thome, at 230, Helton at 227, Dunn, at 225, and Pujols at 223, are relatively close but when those guys are chasing you in any offensive category—not to mention what might be the most important one—you really ought to be on the All-Star team.
Griffey has only 181 and Sosa has only 131. Sure it’s kind of fun that the fans voted them on as starters with Bonds. Some of the other guys are deserving as well, but Abreu should not be home next week. And he doesn’t have to be. MLB is letting fans vote on-line for the final spot. It’s clear who should get that spot in the NL. So get out and vote. (www.mlb.com.)