Early voting for Senior Circuit stars could thwart Chicago roster dominance
By Richard Justice
We do not come to bury the Cubs. Let's face it, they are baseball's blueprint for leadership, talent and passionate fans.
Now about that last part. Few cooler things have happened in sports in this country than watching all those Cubs fans celebrate winning the World Series last October.
As World Series MVP Ben Zobrist said, "We always talk about baseball connecting generations. We saw it firsthand. When we won, the first thing a lot of our fans thought about was their father or grandfather or someone they were connected to the game through."
That passion was never clearer than in last year's All-Star voting, when Cubs fans voted five of their guys -- including the entire infield -- into the National League starting lineup.
Will that dominance repeat itself at the 2017 MLB All-Star Game presented by MasterCard on July 11 at Marlins Park in Miami? How do the Cubs stack up on the Esurance MLB All-Star Ballot?
The Cubs are going to be at the center of the conversation as fans turn out to vote, and because of Rizzo and Bryant, two stars playing like stars, it's hard to imagine anyone topping them in the voting. So with all due respect to the wonderful performances of first basemen such as Freddie Freeman, Eric Thames and Ryan Zimmerman, as well as the likes of Nolan Arenado and Justin Turner at third, it's very likely the Cubs' corner infielders will be well represented in South Florida. However, fans all over the National League have deserving players as well. So before you start lamenting Chicago's NL ballot dominance, this is your chance to go out and vote and get the whole league represented.
Here's a rundown of the prime candidates at the non-Rizzo and Bryant spots on the ballot.
Cubs starter Miguel Montero is having an All-Star-worthy season, hitting .382 with a 1.005 OPS entering play Wednesday. He's second among NL catchers in both categories. However, Miami's J.T. Realmuto is hitting .313 with a .786 OPS. Washington's Matt Wieters, a four-time American League All-Star, is pushing for a roster spot in his first NL season: .934 OPS, four home runs, five doubles. Perhaps most intriguing -- and this could be a problem in terms of roster space -- is the Milwaukee duo of Jett Bandy and Manny Pina. They're the reason Brewers catchers lead the NL with a .979 OPS and a .347 batting average.
And you can't forget Buster Posey, who is hitting .342/.415/.452, with that average and OBP representing what would be career highs.
Second base Javier Baez is a fun player whose bat has come on of late, but Daniel Murphy of the Nationals deserves to be the front-runner with five home runs, 28 RBIs and a .343 batting average entering Wednesday. Cesar Hernandez of the Phillies is having his best season (.324 batting average), while Arizona's Brandon Drury (.326) and Atlanta's Brandon Phillips (.329) have been very good.
Shortstop Corey Seager has followed up an NL Rookie of the Year Award-winning season by making a significant statement regarding his All-Star credentials: .306 batting average, .936 OPS, five home runs. Then there is Cincinnati's Zack Cozart, who is having a career year with a .333 batting average and a .994 OPS. Going forward, Washington's Trea Turner may be the guy to challenge Seager as the NL's best shortstop. He's fulfilling all his promise with a .313 batting average and a .904 OPS.
First, there's Bryce Harper of the Nationals. No other player -- no Cub, no Dodger, no one -- is even in this conversation. He's hitting .389 with nine home runs and a 1.270 OPS. After that, two veterans stand out: Ryan Braun of the Brewers (.950 OPS) and Jay Bruce of the Mets (.990). Marcell Ozuna of the All-Star host Marlins (.891 OPS) and David Peralta (.893 OPS) and A.J. Pollock (.832 OPS) of the D-backs deserve to be in the mix, as does Yoenis Cespedes, who was performing like an All-Star before a hamstring injury put him on the DL.
Finally, there's one hometown guy that must be on the roster: Giancarlo Stanton. His .839 OPS puts him in the discussions, but beyond that, his contributions to the franchise and to South Florida should make him an easy call.
Fans may cast votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- on computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 29, at 11:59 p.m. ET. On smartphones and tablets, fans can also access the ballot via the MLB.com At Bat and MLB.com Ballpark mobile apps. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 ballots cast.
Following the announcement of the 2017 All-Star starters, reserves and pitchers, fans should return to MLB.com and cast their 2017 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. Then on Tuesday, July 11, while watching the 2017 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, fans may visit MLB.com to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote.
The 88th Midsummer Classic, at Marlins Park in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM will have comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, please visit AllStarGame.com and follow @AllStarGame on social media.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.