Both players putting together campaigns worthy of trip to Midsummer Classic
By Paul Hagen
*** We will be doing daily ASG debates until 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game balloting ends on July 2. We will frequently be pitting one player against another and have a writer make a case for one of them, but that doesn't mean there aren't other great candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think! ***
Royals left fielder Alex Gordon was third among American League outfielders in the latest All-Star voting, and there are two good reasons for that.
One is that Gordon is a really good player. The other is that he plays in Kansas City, where the fan base seems determined to corner the market on the starting lineup for the July 14 Midsummer Classic at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. And this is, above all, a game in which the paying customers get to see their favorite players.
Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays was ninth in the latest balloting. So the subject up for discussion is: If only one could be an All-Star, who should it be?
Let's start with Gordon. He's clearly a cornerstone for a club that surprised many by making it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series last fall and by leading the AL Central this year despite losing designated hitter Billy Butler, outfielder Nori Aoki and starter James Shields to free agency during the offseason.
One measure of Gordon's importance is that he has a player option for $14 million at the end of the season and the locals are already worrying about whether he'll stay. General manager Dayton Moore declined to comment on that situation recently, but added: "Alex is a huge part of our team and our organization."
Gordon is a terrific defender, with four straight AL Gold Gloves Awards to prove it, and has 12 go-ahead RBIs this season.
Fair enough. Except that by almost any offensive yardstick you look at, Bautista is having the better season.
Gordon holds a slight edge in batting average, hitting .257 on the season, while Bautista is hiting .254. But Bautista has 11 homers, 37 RBIs and a .910 OPS, compared to seven, 28 and .815 for Gordon. Bautista even has three stolen bases; Gordon is still looking for his first.
Taking that a step further, Bautista has been on the rise when his team needed it most. While all players go through streaks and slumps, while the Blue Jays were winning seven straight, their right fielder led the attack. During the eight-game winning streak that got Toronto above .500, the club's No. 3 hitter has four home runs and seven RBIs. And he has done it while dealing with a nagging right shoulder injury.
Gordon batted .160 with one run and three RBIs in his first nine games in June while his team has battled to hold off the surging Twins. To be fair, he also had a .364 on-base percentage in that span.
But Bautista has been hot for awhile. He had reached base in 18 straight games before the streak was broken Tuesday night. In Bautista's last 20 games, he's hitting .314 with six doubles, five homers, 18 RBIs and 15 walks.
Even though he got off to a slow start, Bautista is among the league leaders in walks and on-base percentage. And he's a legitimate threat at the plate. More than half of Bautista's hits (25 of 46) have gone for extra bases.
Which is why Bautista deserves to be an All-Star for the sixth straight year.
You can vote for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- until Thursday, July 2, at 11:59 p.m. ET. For the first time, voting is exclusively online.
Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info.
Following the announcement of the 2015 All-Stars, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player for each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 14, watch the 2015 All-Star Game live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2015 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage of All-Star Week festivities.
The 86th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.