When it comes to filling out an All-Star Game ballot, there are no rules. Fans can vote for whomever they want. Similarly, they can ignore any player for any reason. Boston Red Sox fans are no exception.
Consider this… Red Sox fans have the ability to select the home team representative at every position, and at the same time, they can be sure to make sure no New York Yankees players are selected on their ballots. Fans in New York, of course, can do the exact opposite. And these are perhaps the two biggest fan bases in the country. They can manipulate these votes, and oftentimes they do. Like I said, there are no rules.
There should be.
The biggest problem with the annual MLB All-Star Game is that fans get to choose the players. Yes, managers and the players themselves also have some say, but the majority of votes are cast by the countless number of fans that go to the ballpark every spring or tie up the Internet, casting their allotted 25 online ballots.
Why is this a problem? Well, because the game counts. Remember? After an absurd rule change several years ago, the outcome of the game now determines what league will host the World Series. So then shouldn’t MLB be doing everything it can to make sure the absolute best players from each league are starting the game? That means taking the voting duties away from the “pink-hats” and the 10-year-old kids. The last time I looked, Derek Jeter—who hasn’t set foot on the field yet this season—had almost 400,000 votes.
I’m getting off track here. That’s a conversation for another time. Right now, I want to specifically address the situation with Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava.
Although we’re only in the middle of June, Nava is already having himself a career season. But let’s be realistic, is he truly an all-star caliber player?
Let’s backtrack a bit. Heading into spring training, Nava was penciled in as the team’s fifth outfielder, and there was some question as to whether or not he would make the team at all. Until now, the 30-year-old had done nothing in his career to help cement a spot on the 25-man roster. And while the discovery of off-season injuries to Ryan Kalish and Mike Napoli certainly made Nava more valuable, he still wasn’t expected to be an everyday player.
Now here we are, ten weeks into the season, and there’s a citywide movement in Boston to convince fans to select Nava to the All-Star Game as a write-in candidate—a career backup, Nava’s name is not even listed on the official ballot.
So here comes the media circus. “Vote for Nava”, they’re all saying. “Let’s send Daniel Nava to the All-Star Game”. It’s all over the blogs, the newspapers, the radio shows; even the Red Sox owners are chiming in their support.
My initial reaction to all this hoopla—and if you’re anywhere near the Boston media, you know exactly what I’m talking about—was “what is all this foolishness?” We’re all happy for Nava. He came out of nowhere, and he’s having a great year. But at the end of the day, what we all need to ask ourselves is whether or not Nava is one of the best three outfielders in the American League.
Well, is he?
To put it simply… No, he isn’t. But the numbers suggest otherwise, and it’s solely because of the numbers that I’m hopping on the bandwagon right here and now. I am, and always will be, a numbers guy.
Nava leads all A.L. outfielders in OBP, reaching base an admirable 39.1 percent of the time. His .299 batting average trails only Adam Jones (.301), and places him fourth overall in the A.L. among all qualifiers at his position, Nava ranks fourth in walks, fifth in OPS, and seventh in runs scored. He has three outfield assists and has not committed an error. And most importantly, his 44 RBI place him second in the league (again trailing only Jones among outfielders).
So having said all that, I guess that all this hype is well deserved. At this point in time, Nava is indeed an all-star. The numbers say so. It would be tough to rank him as a top-three outfielder ahead of guys like Jones, Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, or even teammate Jacoby Ellsbury. But baseball is all about the numbers. And the sample size for Nava’s stats is more than adequate at this point.
So by all means, select Daniel Nava as a write-in candidate for the 2013 All-Star Game. He deserves it. He’s earned it. And while you’re at it, feel free to vote for Derek Jeter, too, because clearly MLB doesn’t care about getting it right.
(JM Catellier is the author of the book Fixing Baseball, a guide to restructuring the Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter: @FixingBaseball and Facebook, and check out his site: www.fixingbaseball.com)