The Cutoff Man: Is it All-Star voting time?

Last year, I wrote a “Modest Proposal” parodying Major League Baseball’s “This Time it Counts” initiative for the All-Star Game and, more importantly, the fact that All-Star voting seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. So, a week before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, here are my predictions for this year’s All-Star team. After all, it’s all about who fans like rather than who deserves it, so why wait to see who fits the latter bill?

Players donning new uniforms in 2011 will no doubt get a lot of support from their new fans but for the most part, the big names who’ve changed teams this year are guys who have made it in the past. Pitchers, of course, have been omitted from my predictions, as they are still selected on a deserving basis, unless one of them makes it to the Final Vote (but let’s face it: Cliff Lee is a-goin’).

National League

The NL has had its fair share of marquee players changing teams this winter, but for the most part, those players have been pitchers — see Lee, Zack Greinke, and Matt Garza. Jayson Werth joined the Nationals, an acquisition that would undoubtedly have garnered him a ton of All-Star support if Washington had any fans at all. Carlos Pena left the Rays for the Cubs, but will most likely be blocked from starting at first base at the All-Star Game by some guy named Albert. Dan Uggla was traded from Florida to Atlanta, and if he has a good first half then he could take out Chase Utley at second base.

Of course, you should expect to see at least one Braves player starting, as last year’s NL hero, Brian McCann, should be a lock to make the lineup. Reds first baseman Joey Votto should also get a strong backing, but like Pena, will most likely get blocked by Pujols.

There are also some up-and-coming players like Pedro Alvarez, Mike Stanton, and Freddie Freeman who may influence the ballot if they prosper, but for the most part, the NL starting lineup at the All-Star Game should be business as usual:

Catcher: Brian McCann, Braves; First base: Albert Pujols, Cardinals; Second base: Chase Utley, Phillies; Third base: David Wright, Mets; Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins; Jason Heyward, Braves; Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; Outfield: Mike Stanton, Marlins.

American League

Many AL teams have made some major upgrades this winter, and many players with new homes will most likely find themselves in Phoenix come the All-Star Break. Boston has already been deemed the “winner” of the off-season by many after acquiring Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, and the Red Sox Nation should vote both into the American League’s starting lineup regardless of their first-half performance. Adam Dunn would have probably gotten enough support from his new White Sox fan base to be the AL’s starting designated hitter — and likewise Manny Ramirez would from Rays fans.

Unfortunately for Yankees fans, Rafael Soriano can’t get voted in, and the team’s lackluster offseason will leave many bandwagon fans spitefully not voting this year, which may sway both corner infield positions Boston’s way. Barring any surprises, the AL lineup will also include many familiar faces, though not all will be representing the same team in the past:

Catcher: Joe Mauer, Twins; First base: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox; Second base: Robinson Cano, Yankees; Third base: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox; Shortstop: Derek Jeter, Yankees; Outfield: Carl Crawford, Red Sox; Josh Hamilton, Rangers; Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners.

Now that I’ve predicted July’s starting lineups, it’s time to look forward to spring training. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin!