Once upon a time I cared about the All-Star game. Somewhere in a garbage dumpster in heaven, my old VHS tapes of All-Star games from 1985-1993 are gathering dust. It was the one time that you could see all the stars of the game, hence the All-Star game. In 1984, I was there in person at the old wind-bowl known as Candlestick Park to see guys I read about or whose baseball cards I collected. Back then, you rarely saw all of the teams play. You’d get to see the Dodgers or the Yankees or another big market team on television once a weekend. Sports Center would give you some highlights. But the rarity of seeing all the players and teams made the All-Star game special.

Today? If you have the MLB Network, you can see just about anyone you want. And the ability to follow one’s team is amazing. When I was a kid, I had the radio, away games on television, and box scores. That was it. In order to vote for the All-Star starters, you actually had to go to a game and grab a ballot. This ballot was like a punch card. In order to select the person who you felt was an All-Star, you poked a hole in the ballot. What happened if you poked more than one hole per position? I have no clue. But the ballots were so flimsy that sometimes the perforated holes just opened up themselves. Not a great system there.

Is today’s system better? I’d say no. While it’s more intuitive, it’s also easier to game. At least back in the day when you wanted to stuff the ballot box, you had to put in some blood, sweat, and tears. Today, you can just spend 20 minutes online, create hundreds of gmail accounts, and milk the system that way. Sandy Alderson probably prefers the old way.

While I don’t care as much about the All-Star game as I once did, it’s still fun to take a look at the first half of the baseball season and see how wrong the fans were about who should start in the All-Star game. It’s never been a perfect system. In 1957, savvy Cincinnati Reds fans figured out how to get 8 players from their team elected to start the game. But we here at Popblerd will try to make it right. I’ve rounded up my San Francisco Giants Heat Check crew and we tried to put together the two most deserving starting All-Star squads. We put our collective heads together a few weeks ago and voted for who we thought would best represent the best of the best. (Apologies to Andrew McCutchen who went off the last two weeks after our voting was already done.)

By the way, Mets fans were up in arms when Pablo Sandoval was selected to start the game over David Wright. And then they were up in arms and legs when Matt Cain was chosen to start over the knuckle baller R.A. Dickey. Who knew Mets fans were this interested in baseball? They haven’t been so fired up since Roger Clemens threw Mike Piazza’s broken bat back at him.

American League

Fan’s choice: Mike Napoli
Blerd choice: Joe Mauer

Mauer is the AL WAR leader for catchers and a candidate for AL comeback player of the year. What’s really impressive is that he’s putting up great offensive numbers on an offensively challenged ball club. For the sake of baseball, it’s a good thing Joe Mauer is doing well. Matt Wieters is a close second and you can make an argument for him but it’s not his time yet. Plus, he’s great in the Head and Shoulders commercials. – @RealStephenMar

First base
Fan’s choice: Prince Fielder
Blerd choice: Paul Konerko

Konerko is one of baseball’s least appreciated stars. For all that money that the Tigers paid Fielder, Konerko beats him in most of the important hitting stats. Even though Fielder makes twice as much as he does, Konerko hits 30 points higher and has a higher OBP and SLG percentage. Maybe he needs to win a Home Run derby to get recognition? Konerko’s only fall back is that he was a Dodgers’ farm hand. – @roheblius

Second base
Fan’s choice: Robinson Cano
Blerd choice: Robinson Cano

The fans can’t help but get this one right, For all the hoopla over the Yanks’ $200M+ payroll, their best players have always been the ones they developed themselves. (See also: Jeter, Pettitte, Rivera, Williams, etc.) – @ButchHusky

Third base
Fan’s choice: Adrian Beltre
Blerd choice: Brett Lawrie

This choice looked better when we made these selections at around the time the voting ended. But now? It doesn’t look so great. Lawrie is a really good young player, but he’s been hurt recently and his numbers pale in comparison to not only Beltre’s, but also the person who probably should’ve started this game; Miguel Cabrera. I can admit we whiffed on this one, but our decision looked much better when we made the pick a few weeks back. – @roheblius

Fan’s choice: Derek Jeter
Blerd choice: Elvis Andrus

Best SS in baseball period and nearly 2 wins better than starter Derek Jeter, it was a crime yet not surprising that fans took the big name over stats. An amazing defender and smart baserunner, Andrus is a rising star on a Texas team full of offensive firepower. Once Jeter retires, the starting position with be Andrus’ to lose until the Orioles’ Manny Machado enters the league. – @RealStephenMar

Fan’s choice: David Ortiz
Blerd choice: David Ortiz

This is a no-brainer and anyone who denies it can join Dorothy in Oz. After a dismal start to the 2010 season, many people declared his bat dead and sang songs about his retirement. After going on to win the HR Derby that year, Ortiz proved that his bat was alive and well and has since been everything a DH should be … even if the BoSox pitching has let him down. – @themarywalton

Fan’s choice: Josh Hamilton
Blerd choice: Josh Hamilton

Tied with Jose Bautista for the MLB HR lead at the break, Hamilton is already just five jacks away from tying his career high. Though he probably won’t come close to his gaudy batting average in 2010, most of his other power categories are up and he’s currently slugging a robust .635. When he’s on, the ball comes off his bat like no one else’s. – @roheblius

Fan’s choice: Curtis Granderson
Blerd choice: Adam Jones

I can’t complain about a Yankee (Granderson) beating an Oriole in a fan vote. And I’m not going to bitch about batting average and risk pissing off the saber-junkies (though Jones is hitting a cool .289 to Granderson’s lackluster .248). That said, Jones has been a superstar in waiting and is clearly in the midst of his breakout season. I predict he starts the ASG next year. – @ButchHusky

Fan’s choice: Jose Bautista
Blerd choice: Jose Bautista

Much like Butch said, I’m not going to complain all that much about Joey Bat’s batting average. Not when he still gets on base at a .360 clip and will probably walk 100 times this year. And also, not when he hits HRs in bunches like he does, to the tune of being on pace for over 50 this year. – @roheblius

Starting pitcher
Manager’s choice: Justin Verlander
Blerd choice: Justin Verlander

Verlander’s dominance as the best pitcher in baseball can be explained by three stats; he leads the league in complete games with 5 (besting his all-time high of 4 last year), leads the league in innings pitched, and leads the league in strikeouts. When you take away what’s out of your control, you can dominate just like he does. – @roheblius

National League

Fan’s vote: Buster Posey
Blerd vote: Buster Posey

Fans did their part and then some in getting Buster Posey the most votes ever for a National League player. However, some folks *cough the national media* think the honor of starting should have gone to Yadier Molina or Carlos Ruiz. In a strict numbers game, these three are all in the same ballpark. Posey has 10 HRs, 43 RBI, and a.289 batting average (with a .362 OBP and 32 walks). Molina has 13 HRs, 45 RBI and a .304 batting average (with a .357 OBP and 21 walks). Chooch has 13 HRs, 46 RBI and a .283 batting average (with a .419 OBP and 16 walks). Any of these guys could be the starter. However, coming off a horrendous injury, catching one of the most difficult staffs in baseball, and commonly getting AT&T’d (hits in one of the toughest parks) are 3 major challenges Posey has overcome this year. He deserves the nod. – @themarywalton

First base
Fan’s choice: Joey Votto
Blerd choice: Joey Votto

Joey Votto has already been walked 65 times. He gets on base nearly 50% of the time he’s at bat and his OPS is currently at 1.087. If the Reds could find someone more consistent to hit behind him, he’d probably be able to swing the bat a little more than he can currently. – @roheblius

Second base
Fan’s choice: Dan Uggla
Blerd choice: Brandon Phillips

LaRussa must really hate the Reds, and if so, who better to serve as his whipping boy than the brash (some would call it “cocky”) and outspoken (some would call it “obnoxious”) @DatDudeBP? Let’s ignore the fact that Dan Uggla is the least deserving starter on either squad – this is worse than Panda over Wright – and focus on the fact that the best second baseman in the league isn’t even on the team. – @ButchHusky

Third base
Fan’s choice: Pablo Sandoval
Blerd choice: David Wright

It shouldn’t even be discussed that David Wright should start the ASG. He’s having a remarkable season on an overachieving team. He’s nearly a full win better than second place Chase Headley and 3 wins greater than starter Pablo Sandoval. Wright is making a case for NL MVP if he keeps up at this pace. If you dont believe he deserves to start, at least give him some slack because of this –> – @RealStephenMar

Fan’s choice: Rafael Furcal
Blerd choice: Starlin Castro

While I am not surprised Starlin Castro was voted an All-Star reserve, I am not sold on him making our starting roster. Castro is a young, talented player but has not yet matured on the field. He doesnt take nearly enough pitches (12 BB/61 SO) and has 13 errors, typical of his last 2 seasons. But those are just hiccups for the young SS who has 16 stolen bases, 7 HRs, 43 RBI, a .291 batting average and .314 on base percentage. In time, he will develop better instincts and become the player most think he already is. – @themarywalton

Fan’s choice: Carlos Beltran
Blerd choice: Carlos Beltran

Giants fans are still kicking at screaming that Beltran is still not wearing Orange and Black. Whether the theories are that Beltran was never approached by management on a contract extension or that Beltran didn’t want to play in SF due to power numbers dropping (I tend to believe it’s the former), Beltran is doing it again like he did in 2011 on a well-balanced Cardinals squad. Improving on his defense and baserunning, Beltran is also in the running for MVP in the NL. – @RealStephenMar

Fan’s choice: Melky Cabrera
Blerd choice: Melky Cabrera

Melky Mania has simply been fun to watch. He’s having a career year hitting in an unforgivable ball park. I worried initially that he didn’t have enough pop to do as much damage as the Giants needed him to do, but he’s proven me wrong. He may not get to 20 HRs, but he may clear 15 triples with nearly 40 doubles to boot. He’s been all that and then some for the Giants this season and has a chance to win the first Giants batting title since a guy named Barry Lamar Bonds. – @roheblius

Fan’s choice: Matt Kemp
Blerd choice: Ryan Braun

Ohhhh, Ryan Braun. While he has had stellar numbers typical of his years in the league, the 2011 NL MVP has been tainted by the controversy surrounding his alleged PED use. Fan voting was clearly influenced by this scandal but nevertheless, he made our starting roster along with Melky Cabrera and Carlos Beltran. Matt Kemp was an early triple crown contender who was sidelined with a hamstring injury, yet still earned enough votes to be named a real-life starter. With Kemp out, however, Brauny will get the start as the 3rd outfielder. Braun leads the NL in HR with 24 and is second in RBI. He has raised his average to .306, has an OBP of .391 and a strike out to walk ratio of under 2. Negative feelings aside, the 5-time All-Star has earned the chance to help the NL win homefield advantage. – @themarywalton

Starting pitcher
Manager’s choice: Matt Cain
Blerd choice: Matt Cain

I personally would’ve started R.A. Dickey simply based on his incredible first half. But the starting pitcher of this game isn’t solely about that. Not with the winning league getting home field advantage. With Buster Posey catching for the NL, Cain starting for the NL is much more advantageous for the team. They can work their two innings and hopefully put zeroes up on the board. Personally, I’d bring in two flame-throwers after Cain for one-inning apiece (Chapman and Strasburg?) before letting Dickey’s knuckleball dance all over the place. Tony LaRussa got this one right. The smart move is starting Cain.

Enjoy the ball game for as long as you can stomach it.

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