This year, the favorite target for second-guessing might well be the number of Texas Rangers on the American League All-Star squad. On a case-by-case basis, the selections turn out to be understandable, defensible, and, in some cases, inescapable. But the fact that Rangers manager Ron Washington selected three of his players for the AL squad and the fact that there are seven Rangers on the AL All-Star team, will lead to debate. And that number of Rangers All-Stars could become eight, if pitcher Yu Darvish is elected in the Final Vote balloting.
The Final Vote itself is going to set off another round of debate. This year's Final Vote candidates for the National League are Atlanta teammates Michael Bourn and Chipper Jones, St. Louis' David Freese, Washington's Bryce Harper and Arizona's Aaron Hill. In the American League, it be a selection of pitchers: the Royals' Jonathan Broxton, Darvish, the O's Jason Hammel, the White Sox Jake Peavy and the Angels' Ernesto Frieri.
The classic debate would be on the NL side of the ledger, between old and young -- Jones, a future Hall of Famer in his final season, vs. Harper, a 19-year-old phenom who appears to be on his way to becoming an All-Star fixture.
But back at the Rangers: There is an all-purpose argument on behalf of them leading the world in All-Star selections. They have won the last two AL pennants. What have they done lately? Coming into Sunday, they had baseball's best record.
Yes, Washington picked three members of his own team. One was Elvis Andrus, a shortstop with superb skills, who is having his best offensive season. There was also closer Joe Nathan, who recently passed the closer of closers, Mariano Rivera, for the all-time lead in save percentage. Nathan has converted 18 of 19 save opportunities this season. Washington also selected Texas starter Matt Harrison (11-3, 3.16), who is tied for the AL lead in victories. There doesn't have to be a lot of finger-pointing over these selections.
The three Rangers elected by the fans are catcher Mike Napoli, third baseman Adrian Beltre and outfielder Josh Hamilton. Hamilton drew a record 11,073,144 votes. Can we put him in the non-quibble category? He's one of the biggest talents in the game, an exciting, explosive, dynamic player.
There can be arguments at the other two positions. Napoli had a breakthrough season in 2011, but he isn't having that kind of season now. Napoli probably left an indelible imprint on the electorate with his hitting in the 2011 postseason. Joe Mauer of the Twins and Matt Wieters of the Orioles were legitimate candidates, and both were named to the AL team. A.J. Pierzynski of the White Sox and Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Red Sox also played their way into consideration.
The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. Pregame ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Fans will also have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevrolet via the 2012 MLB.com All-Star Game MVP Vote during the All-Star Game on MLB.com.
At third base, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera is producing another stellar offensive season. But it is indisputable that Beltre, an extraordinary defender, is the better all-around player. And the fact is that Beltre's 2012 offensive numbers are not that far away from Cabrera's. In all it was a big year at the ballot box for the Texas club. Fifth and sixth among the outfield votes, for instance, were Nelson Cruz and David Murphy, two more Rangers.
Another Ranger, second baseman Ian Kinsler, was named as an American League reserve on the Player Ballot. That is a vote of players, managers and coaches. It is very difficult to dispute Player Ballot selections, particularly in a case such as Kinsler, whose many contributions to the Rangers cannot fully be measured by numbers alone.
There were be other questions, such as how Matt Kemp of the Dodgers could be one of the top three vote-getters among NL outfielders when he played in only 36 games. He is a terrific talent, and he had a fantastic start to the season, but it was just that, a start. Like other democratic elections, these are fundamentally matters of opinion. In my opinion, it was much less difficult defending the presence of the seven All-Star Rangers.