With the next round of AL All Star Votes due to be released tomorrow, I thought I would take the opportunity to take a look at the battle for 1B. The mainstream attention goes to the stud firstbasemen on the two teams covered most by the media, with Boston's Kevin Youkilis leading the Yankees's Mark Teixiera by a slim margin in last week's voting. However, there is a third player who not only deserves to be a prominant part of the conversation, but deserves to be the vote leader, and that is Minnesota's Justin Morneau.
Morneau is having a statistically superior year than either Youkilis or Teixiera, but doesn't get the attention he deserves because he plays for a small market team like the Twins instead of media favorite Yankees or Red Sox. The 2006 AL MVP and last year's runner up, Justin Morneau still remains one of the most underrated players in all of baseball. As the Home Run Derby Champ last year, Morneau even had his name announced wrong by the announcer (who called him Jason Morneau). Don't get me wrong, it's not like either Youkilis or Teixiera are undeserving. Both are having All Star worthy years this season, just not as good as Morneau.
Lets look at their stats:
Youkilis - .316, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 41 RTeixiera - .286, 20 HR, 56 RBI, 46 R
Great numbers to be sure, but the only way Youkilis starts over Teixiera is because of a Boston Bias. Still, neither player has the numbers that Morneau has:
Morneau - .320, 16 HR, 57 RBI, 49 R
Morneau leads Youkilis in every major statistical category, and leads Teixiera in all but HR (although one would think his much higher BA should make up for 4 HR). The argument for Youkilis over Teixiera is based on defense, but that argument cannot be made against fellow Gold Glover Justin Morneau. Add to this the fact that the Tigers's Miguel Cabrera is having a much better year than Youkilis, and it really shows how extreme the Boston Bias is for Youkilis to be leading the All Star voting for 1B (Cabrera - .333, 14 HR, 44 RBI, 45 R).
Now, with any All Star vote, there are always those who say that team record has to play a part, and while I disagree with this, Youkilis certainly leads the other three. Boston leads the AL with a 42-27 record. New York follows with a 38-31 rocord, while Minnesota holds a sub .500 35-36. Moreover, The Twins will almost certainly have the starting catcher in the game with Joe Mauer. The question has to be asked whether a sub .500 team deserves two starters on the All Star team. This is debatable for certain, but in my humble opinion, the All Star game is based on individual accomplishments, hence the name "All Star". Therefore, the player with the best statistical season should be starting.
Finally, if team record is going to play a part in the decision, the players batting behind a player, aka protection, need to be looked at as well. Youkilis has Jason Bay, followed by an albeit slumping yet still formidible David Ortiz. Teixiera has A-Rod. Who does Morneau have behind him to keep pitchers pitching to him? Jason Kubel? Michael Cuddyer? Joe Crede? None are even close to A-Rod or Jason Bay. Sure, Morneau has Mauer in front of him, but Teixiera has Derek Jeter and Youkilis has Dustin Pedroia.
Add all of this up, and it seems clear that Justin Morneau deserves to be the AL's starting firstbaseman in the upcoming All Star Game. Despite his team's sub .500 record, he has posted higher numbers than either Youkilis or Teixiera, even though opposing pitchers have no reason to pitch to him. Add to this the fact that he carried the Twins in the first month of the season while teammate Joe Mauer was out with an injury and it you have the clear cut most deserving player.
Do the right thing Baseball Fans! Vote Justin Morneau as AL 1B on your All Star Ballot!