The All-Star Game Counts, But Do We Act Like It?

It’s the tenth anniversary of the travesty that was the 2002 MLB All-Star Game. You know, the one that ended in a 7-7 tie and led to the decision that from then on, the winning side in the game would receive home-field advantage in the World Series. Prior to 2003, the year the rule was implemented, home-field advantage alternated between the AL and NL from year to year.  It’s one of three separate but inarguably connected rule-based controversies that dog the “Midsummer Classic” year in and year out. The second being that popular fan vote decides the starting hitters for each side. The third is that all 30 teams must have at least one representative in the game.

The rules are linked because what was formerly an exhibition game meant to showcase baseball’s best and brightest (in other words, a money-making scheme) now has actual value. As such, many take issue with the game’s starters being decided based on fans clicking mouses and sticking mini pencils through holes. Equally many argue that requiring a player from each team often leaves superior players off the rosters, which detracts from the notion that the contest spotlights the game’s best.

It’s impossible to gauge the impact of playing the first and last two games of the World Series at home. In the nine years the rule has been in effect, the American League has won the All-Star Game seven times. The AL won the game every year from 2003-2009, but its representatives were only champions in four of those seven years. The rule’s effects were minimal, if it had any, as the World Series never saw a seventh game. But in the past two years, the National League has had home-field. In 2010, the San Francisco Giants quickly won their first two home games, and had the Rangers playing scared en route to a 4-1 series victory. Last year was the first time the Series went seven, and the St. Louis Cardinals won the game, and the series, at home.

Even if it is impossible to truly gauge the effects, if you’re a fan of a contending AL team, does it sit right with you that Billy Butler might be in a position to decide if your team gets home-field advantage with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth? Or if your team’s in the NL, that Huston Street (who has only pitched 21 innings this season) might have to get that final out? Those are just some examples of the possibilities of the “one from each team” rule. Let’s take a look at who the fans chose, and decide whether they deserve to be starting, or in some cases, even playing.

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Catchers

2011 Fantasy Baseball Preview | 2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings

Designing your draft strategy for catchers can sometimes be a nauseating task. Do you nab Joe Mauer in the second round and not worry about the position again until you add depth at the end of your draft, or do you fill other positions first and go for value late?

One strategy that you might want to consider is passing on the top 2-3 backstops (in our rankings that would constitute Mauer, Brian McCann and Victor Martinez) and waiting to select your catcher until at least Round 8. That way, when the pitchers start to fly off the board in Rounds 4 through 7, you’re not worried about investing a pick in McCann and Martinez when there will be plenty of value starting in Round 8.

But which players will be available then? Below is the tier we think you target starting in Round 8. If you think one of these catchers will fall to Round 9, 10 or 11, by all means: wait. But Rounds 8-11 is where you’ll find great value without having to shop for your starting backstop later in the draft when the pickings are slim and the value is scattered.

Buster Posey, Giants
After bursting onto the scene last year to help the Giants win their first World Series in over 55 years, Posey might not last until Round 8. But if he does and you feel good about your roster to that point, don’t waste any time announcing his name at your draft. He hit .305 with 18 dingers and 67 RBI while scoring 58 runs in just 443 plate appearances last season. He has the maturity of a 10-year veteran but is only a second-year pro. The Giants’ lineup is still weak as a whole, but Posey should hit around .300 again with 20-plus HRs, 80 RBI and 70 runs scored.

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What was Angels’ GM Reagins thinking?

Toronto Blue Jays Vernon Wells backs off a pitch during an American League MLB baseball game in Toronto in this September 6, 2010 file photo. The Blue Jays have traded the three times All-Star outfielder to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera, the MLB teams said on Friday. Wells has spent his entire 14-year career with the Blue Jays who made him the fifth selection overall in the 1997 draft. REUTERS/Fred Thornhill/Files (CANADA – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

In a stunning move, the Angels traded Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays in exchange for outfielder Vernon Wells, who is due a whopping $86 million over the next four seasons. The deal frees the Jays of one of the worst contracts in baseball.

For Toronto, this trade gives the Jays financial flexibility for years to come. What’s shocking is that the Halos got almost no cash in return. There have been reports that Toronto will send L.A. $5 million, but that’s nothing when you consider what Wells will receive over the next four years. This was basically a get-out-of-jail free card for Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos.

I guess the hope is that Wells, Torrii Hunter and Peter Bourjos will give the Jays a solid outfield to go with their strong starting pitching. But not only is that asking a lot, even if Wells puts up good offensive numbers over these next couple of years, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which he lives up to his contract (nevertheless outperforms it). Chances are he will decline and then what? The Halos are still left holding the bill.

As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote, most teams are trying to get younger, cheaper and better. The Angels just got older, more expensive and possibly even worse. It’s almost like GM Tony Reagins hit the panic button as soon as Carl Crawford signed with the Red Sox and Adrian Beltre agreed to terms with the Rangers. I can see him sitting in his office saying, “We’ve got to do something! We’ve got to do something!!”

Could Matsui be heading to the bench soon?

A healthy Jeff Mathis could spell trouble for struggling DH Hideki Matsui, who signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract with the Angels last December.

Mathis, who has been sidelined since April 20 because of a broken bone in his right wrist, is hoping to begin his minor league rehab soon and once he’s ready to return to the club, Matsui’s spot in the lineup could be in danger. Mathis is the Halos’ best defensive catcher, but Mike Napoli has been the club’s hottest hitter this month and could move to the DH position that is currently being occupied by Matsui.

Even though Matsui is hitting just .229 with a .302 on-base percentage this year, his manager Mike Scioscia told the L.A. Times that he’s not giving up on the veteran hitter.

“His track record — and I mean recent track record, not seven years ago — is clear,” Scioscia said. “Maybe his timing is not right, maybe he hasn’t squared balls up on a consistent basis, but he’s shown that it’s in there; he was our best hitter the first three weeks of the season. We’re confident he’s going to be productive.”

Matsui said through an interpreter that he “feels good physically,” though one has to wonder whether his arthritic knees aren’t a factor in his struggles.

“The results just aren’t there,” Matsui said, “so I’m going to have to keep working until they are.”

The killer for the Angels is that Vladimir Guerrero, the man who hit in the DH position last year, is now hitting .339 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI for division rival Texas. The Halos thought they had sewn up their hole at DH last winter with the signing of Matsui, but in the early going it appears that allowing Vlad to escape to Texas was a poor decision.

It’s kind of amazing to think that the 2009 World Series MVP might be benched soon, but if Matsui doesn’t start hitting that scenario will surely become a reality.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

2010 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Catchers

All 2010 Fantasy Articles | 2010 Position Rankings

If you’re like most guys, you hate shopping. You’ll wait until one of the sleeves is coming off your shirt before you even think about heading to the mall to buy new clothes. And even then, it takes your significant other to say, “Are you seriously going out in public like that?” before you actually turn the keys in the ignition and embark on one of the most annoying days of the year.

Once you’ve pinpointed where you want to shop, the clearance rack usually calls out to you like that 50-inch plasma at Best Buy. It draws you in and once you’ve selected six shirts for a grand total of $22.50, you’ve completed your clothes shopping for the year.

Drafting a catcher in fantasy baseball is sort of like when guys go shopping for clothes. Once you finally come to realization that you need them, shopping in the bargain bin (or the clearance rack, or whatever other analogy you prefer) isn’t a bad way to go.

Unless your opponents fall asleep on Joe Mauer and he drops in your draft, nabbing one of these seven catchers is a good way to fill category voids that were created in earlier rounds. By the end of the year, there probably won’t be a huge gap between one of these catchers and one of the top 3 (Mauer, Brian McCann and Victor Martinez) that your buddy just had to have. (He’s probably the same guy that likes dropping $100 on a new shirt and buys another once the color starts to fade.)

Matt Wieters, Orioles
There’s a good chance that you’ll miss out on Wieters because there will be someone in your league that has an infatuation with youngsters that have extreme upside and will take him a round or two early. That’s okay. But if he does happen to fall, grab him because 2010 might wind up being the 23-year-old’s breakout season. After hitting .259 in a little over a month before the All-Star break, Wieters finished his rookie season on a tear while hitting .288 with nine dingers and driving in 43 RBI in 96 games. In September, he hit .362 with three homers and drove in 14 RBI while hitting in the No. 3 spot of Baltimore’s improving lineup. Assuming his success at the end of the 2009 season carries over, Wieters is the one player in this group that is worth taking a round before you’re ready to select a catcher (assuming he’s still available, that is).

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