By Dan Schlossberg
I’m heading to Seattle to cover the 2023 All-Star Game and hope the fans will finally vote fairly and independently for the most deserving players.
History suggests that’s too much to ask, especially since teams beat the drums for “hometown favorites” and the system is so skewed that fans can vote five times — or is it five times a day?
Maybe we should really make a mockery of the process by adding electoral votes.
Even though there’s some input from uniformed personnel and media, the All-Star rosters will never be fair again until MLB reverts to the old system of entrusting players, fans, and coaches to vote without allowing them to vote for teammates or vote multiple times.
That was fair and it also ensured the best players went not just the ones whose names fans recognize.
Personally speaking, I’m hoping the National League roster has lots of Atlanta Braves on it, as it did last year in the wake of the club’s 2021 world championship.
But this is a different year and several different players deserve to go.
Obviously, the 2023 NL All-Stars will not include Max Fried, who finished second in last year’s Cy Young Award voting, or Kyle Wright, who led the majors with 21 wins.
Both are injured and not expected back until the second half of the season, though Fried might beat that timetable.
That makes the best bets among the Braves as Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Matt Olson, Sean Murphy, and pitchers Spencer Strider and Bryce Elder.
Obviously, not all of them will go.
Olson, for example, has high-octate power and a good glove but also a propensity for far too many strikeouts. Plus he plays first base, where Pete Alonso and Paul Goldschmidt obviously rank ahead of him.
Albies, on the other hand, is a two-time All-Star who has never started the game, though he did have a 30-homer, 100-rbi season not too long ago. The compact switch-hitter can run, field his position, and hit — especially right-handed. Finding a better second baseman might be difficult, though Jeff McNeil of the Mets has a batting crown on his trophy shelf.
Acuna is a no-brainer. The rifle-armed right-fielder from Venezuela was the top All-Star vote-getter last year and could be the top vote-getter this year when MVP ballots are counted. His torn ACL healed, he’s headed for an unprecedented 70-30 season (7-0 steals and 30 homers).
Murphy also deserves to start. He’s having the best year of any major-league catcher — offensively and defensively — and will probably retain the Gold Glove he won in 2022 even though he has switched leagues. The fact that he’s batting cleanup for a first-place team speaks volumes.
Not so sure Riley deserves to make the team again, especially since Nolan Arenado will probably be the third baseman by acclamation. Riley is a notorious streak hitter, torrid when he’s hitting and putrid when he’s not. Like Olson, he’s solid in the field but not quite as sharp as he was last year. His power is down too.
As for the pitchers, Strider and Elder have done a great job of making the Braves forget Fried and Wright are unavailable (forearm and shoulder injuries, respectively).
Strider has become baseball’s top strikeout pitcher, while the soft-tossing Elder has spent the first few months leading the majors in earned run average.
With Phillies manager Rob Thomson set to manage the NL squad — if he isn’t fired first — there’s a natural animosity toward all things Braves.
But there shouldn’t be, at least not if he expects to win.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ writes for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, Here’s The Pitch, and many more. He’s also the author of 40 baseball books. Write Dan via firstname.lastname@example.org.