The cause and effect is pretty clear when it comes to the balloting that determines the starters in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game: The most popular teams are the ones whose stars start the “Midsummer Classic.”
Of the 17 players elected to start this year’s All-Star Game — scheduled for Tuesday, July 10 at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City — 13 are from the teams that rank second through seventh in the majors in attendance.
The Texas Rangers (second at 43,447), New York Yankees (third at 42,235) and San Francisco Giants (fifth at 41,637) all had three players elected to start the All-Star Game. The St. Louis Cardinals (fourth at 41,832) had two players selected as starters while the Los Angeles Dodgers (sixth at 40,839) and Boston Red Sox (seventh at 37,535) had one player apiece picked.
Not coincidentally, the Yankees, Giants, and Cardinals are the last three teams to win the World Series while the Rangers have reached the World Series each of the last two seasons. And the number of All-Star starters from recent World Series teams — as well as popular 2012 gate attractions — would likely be even higher if the Philadelphia Phillies, who lead the majors in attendance at 44.474 fans per game, weren’t mired in last place in the NL East at 37-47, 13 games out of first place and 8 ½ games back in the wild card race. The Phillies lost to the Yankees in the 2009 World Series.
In addition, Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish and Cardinals third baseman (and reigning World Series MVP) David Freese won the “Final Vote” in which fans get to vote online to select an extra reserve for each team.
As is annually the case with the All-Star Game voting, not everyone was happy that the starters are determined via a popularity contest. Sandy Alderson, the general manager of the New York Mets, made a pair of tweets — his first in almost three months — criticizing the choice of Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval over Mets third baseman David Wright. Sandoval missed more than a month with a fractured hamate bone in his left hand and is hitting .315 with seven homers and 28 RBI through Thursday, July 5 while Wright has played in 79 of the Mets’ 83 games and is hitting .354 — third in the NL — with 11 homers and 59 RBI.
In addition, Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal has the second-fewest extra base hits (18) among starting NL shortstops while Rangers catcher Mike Napoli is hitting just .233 with 12 homers, 30 RBI and 83 strikeouts in 232 at-bats.
Generally speaking, though, the players selected from the Rangers, Yankees, Giants, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Red Sox had worthy credentials. Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who set an All-Star record with 11.1 million votes, ranks second in the AL in homers (26) and first in RBI (74). Teammate and starting third baseman Adrian Beltre is fifth in the AL in batting average (.325).
Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson is fourth in the AL in homers (23), second baseman Robinson Cano leads American League second baseman in all Triple Crown categories and shortstop Derek Jeter has continued his post-3,000th hit renaissance by hitting .303.
Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera leads the NL in batting average (.356) while catcher Buster Posey is hitting .295 with 10 homers and 43 RBI. Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran leads the NL in RBI (65) and is second in homers (20).
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp won’t play in the All-Star Game because he’s played in just two games since May 13 because of a left hamstring strain, but he was on pace for one of the greatest seasons of all-time (.355 average with 12 homers and 28 RBI in just 36 games) before he was shelved. And with a .302 average and 46 extra-base hits in 295 at-bats, Red Sox star David Ortiz was the easy choice at designated hitter.
Of the other four starters selected by the fans, two — Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder and Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla — are from teams that rank among the top half in MLB in attendance. The “outliers” are Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, whose teams rank 17th and 20th in the game in attendance.
The presence of Votto and Bautista in the All-Star Game is proof of cause-and-effect baseball equation: Fans love power hitters. Votto leads the NL in slugging percentage (.619) while Bautista, who has led the AL in home runs each of the past two seasons, is once again leading the pack with 27 round-trippers.