Now that the fans have voted Shane Victorino on to the all-star team, manager Charlie Manuel has just one more roster decision to make. He’s got to decide who will replace injured Carlos Beltran, and he’s got to make his decision by this afternoon.
The addition of Victorino means the NL team already has its starting CF. But unless Manuel wants to play “The Flyin’ Hawaiin” all nine innings he might want to add one more athletic outfielder.
The other NL all-star outfielders range from so-so fielders to defensive disasters. Justin Upton is young and athletic but has never played in center field. Ditto Hunter Pence. Ryan Braun is a converted 3B who is still learning LF. Brad Hawpe sucks. And Raul Ibanez should be a designated hitter.
The front-runner for the last roster spot is Matt Kemp, who is an above average defensive centerfielder with good speed and a quick bat. Kemp’s counting stats are impressive (46 RBI, 46 runs, 19 stolen bases and 10 HR) and he’d have more RBIs and runs if not for Joe Torre’s bizarre decision to bat Kemp eighth in the Dodgers’ lineup on most nights.
One week ago Kemp and his 131 OPS+ might have seemed like a no-brainer choice for the last spot. But lo, we have a late entry to the contest. Jayson Werth has hit five homers in his last seven games, and now boasts 20 HR on the season, to go with his 54 RBI, 59 runs scored, 12 stolen bases and 132 OPS+. Werth is ordinarily a right fielder, and the last thing the NL team needs is another corner outfielder, but he can also play a capable center field. He’s played in CF five times this season and over 20 times in 2008, when Victorino was hurt.
Frankly, both Kemp and Werth deserve it. They both probably deserve it more than Victorino, and they both definitely deserve it more than Ryan Howard.
It should be noted that Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval is also deserving of an all-star spot, but the NL team already has two capable 3Bs (David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman). Sandoval can also play 1B, but the NL team already has FOUR 1Bs, so I think Sandoval might get the shaft. Or, at least he should get the shaft if Manuel is actually going to try and win this game. Then again, if he was really intent on winning he wouldn’t have picked Howard. So I guess all bets are off.
UPDATE: Werth got the final spot. I imagine a lot of fans of teams not named the Phillies are cursing Charlie Manuel and his overt favoratism. But don’t get mad at Manuel for picking Werth, who was a deserving choice. Get mad at him for picking Howard.