Jarrod Saltalamacchia looks like he’s on his way to a breakout year behind the plate for the Red Sox. The 27-year old backstop is finally showing the power and consistency he was expected to have when he was dubbed a top prospect after being drafted by the Atlanta Braves back in 2003.
Fast forward nine years and three teams later, Salty is finally coming into his own both behind the plate and in the batter’s box for the Sox – hitting .279 (3rd for AL catchers) with 11 home runs (1st for AL catchers) and 27 RBIs (4th for AL catchers).
But, after the first round of results for the 2012 MLB All-Star Game voting were released earlier this week, Salty didn’t even crack the top five in vote-getters for American League catchers. The Rangers’ Mike Napoli (.256, 10 HR, 28 RBI) is the AL’s leading vote-getter behind the plate, up more than 500,000 votes on the next closest backstop - Baltimore’s Matt Wieters (.250, 9 HR, 25 RBI), who is going for his second straight All-Star appearance.
Here’s how the voting shakes out so far:
Mike Napoli, Rangers: 1,224,565
Matt Wieters, Orioles: 713,469
Joe Mauer, Twins: 637,364
Russell Martin, Yankees: 431,435
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox: 424,646
Am I missing something here? The only guy in that list who has a legitimate case for beating Saltalamacchia is Pierzynski, who’s having an incredible season in Chicago – batting .297 with 10 HR and 37 RBI. Russell Martin is batting .211 for god’s sake!
Dumb fans have way too much say in All-Star voting. People who barely watch the game just fill out ballots with the most recognizable names or all guys who play for their favorite teams. And it doesn’t just happen in baseball. A couple years ago Allen Iverson was elected as a starter to the NBA All-Star game after playing sporadically for just two months. Yao Ming was a top vote-getter in a season he mostly missed due to injury. It’s absurd.
I know fans love seeing the recognizable faces during All-Star weekends, but they should only be there if they’ve earned it. For a lot of these guys, I’m sure it means a lot to them to be able to look back on their career and say “I was an All-Star.” Some fringe guys might only get one shot at making an All-Star Game, so it’s pretty shitty to see them get robbed of that opportunity because the guy in front of him has a few more endorsement deals than he does.
So while Napoli, Wieters, Mauer, and Martin are all very good catchers, Saltalamacchia has been better than all of them this season. Who knows if Salty has turned the corner and finally become a solid, consistent major league catcher or if this year is just a mirage. But he deserves to be rewarded for his breakout performance in the first half of 2012, especially after the tough road he’s had to endure to get to this point. He deserves to be an All-Star.