Jun 20

Nats deserve serious All-Star consideration

Time is running out to cast All-Star ballots, and for the first time in several years, more than one member of the curly wNationals deserves consideration for a starting spot.

The National League team has included two Nats in each of the last three seasons, as well as in 2005, the Nats’ first season in Washington. In their breakout 2012 season, four Nationals were selected to the team. In every other season since moving from Montreal, the Nats have had the requisite one player on the squad.

Only two Nationals have cracked the NL starting lineup: Bryce Harper in 2013 and again last season, and Alfonso Soriano in 2006, the year he hit 46 home runs and stole 41 bases.

But this year, several Nationals are in the running to be introduced with the starting lineup on July 12. While it’s true that the league-leading Chicago Cubs are dominating the voting in six of eight positions, Nats are in the thick of the voting in three spots. Even if the fans don’t give them enough votes, the Nats should still be well represented in San Diego.

It seems as if Harper’s second straight starting spot is secure. As of the last update, he was in second place among NL outfielders, one of just three with more than 1 million votes. While Harper has cooled off since his red-hot April, his status as the reigning league MVP leaves him well qualified.

At second base, Daniel Murphy leads the major leagues in batting and the NL in OPS, yet he is second by almost a half million votes to Chicago’s Ben Zobrist, who leads the majors in OBP. Both are veterans, and both are playing considerably above their career averages, but Murphy has the edge in home runs (12-9) and RBIs (46-40). Zobrist has the edge defensively, with only one error on the season to Murphy’s five. Still, Murphy is the stronger all-around player. Even if he’s not a starter, he should be on the team.

At catcher, Wilson Ramos is third in a tight race, trailing Yadier Molina of the Cardinals by about 330,000 votes and Buster Posey of San Francisco by about 250,000. While Molina and Posey have sterling reputations, Ramos is having the best season of any catcher in the game. His .335/.382/.555 line is second to none, his 38 RBIs also leads the majors, and his 11 homers are tops in the NL. Molina is widely acknowledged as the game’s top catcher and has been selected seven straight times. Posey has three selections. But this year, Ramos deserves to start.

Fans don’t get to vote for All-Star pitchers, but both Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer deserve to be on this year’s team. Strasburg (10-0) leads the majors with a perfect winning percentage and is tied for third in the NL in strikeouts with 118. That’s only 10 behind Scherzer’s second place 128. And Scherzer is sixth in the NL in both WHIP (0.98) and opponents batting average (.202).

The Midsummer Classic has had relatively few bright spots for Washington fans since the Nats came to town in 2005. Aside from Matt Capps and Tyler Clippard being the winning pitchers in the 2010 and 2011 games, there hasn’t been a lot to cheer about. Perhaps if five or six players take the field with the 2012 NL All-Stars, the Nats will have their due as one of the league’s best teams.