It's pretty trivial to complain about MLB All-Star voting results, because it's all a popularity contest and the Washington Nationals never win popularity contests. The 2011 season was written off as somewhat irrelevant even before it began, since the big stories were expected to be about Stephen Strasburg's injury recovery and Bryce Harper's ascension. In a popularity contest, the Nationals began the year as the geeky kid that gets beat up all the time.
Ultimately, the Nationals have overachieved and thrust themselves into the spotlight when Jim Riggleman quit and Davey Johnson took over. They've become relevant. But the all-star voters clearly haven't caught on to that, since zero Nationals were in the top five at their position in the latest round of voting. This despite the Nationals being a pretty decent team after all.
And so, I'm going to pull the "nobody respects the Nationals" card. It's somewhat fanboy-ish, and I get that, but still, I'm pulling it. Because there are two Nationals who really deserve more all-star consideration than they will get: Danny Espinosa and Jordan Zimmermann.
Espinosa is still dragged down a bit by his batting average, but otherwise, there's almost nothing to complain about. As ridiculous as it sounds, he's on pace for a 30 homer/100 RBI season, which is pretty amazing for a second baseman. He also is an elite fielder, and while he still needs to get on base a little better, it's less of a big deal if he's hitting in the middle of the lineup, where he belongs.
Should be first among second baseman? Probably not. Brandon Phillips in Cincinnati is having an awesome year, and Rickie Weeks in Milwaukee (who currently leads the voting) is too. Chase Utley is currently third, and while he's missed more than half the season, I can understand voters picking him ahead of Espinosa because of his name, as unfair as it may seem. Besides, a healthy Utley is better than Espinosa anyway.
But it's laughable that Espinosa is not ahead of guys like Dan Uggla and Freddy Sanchez. This is the same Uggla that is hitting .178 this season with a .587 OPS. He's not the Dan Uggla he was with the Marlins. Sanchez isn't much better, having hit just three home runs with 24 RBIs and an on-base percentage that isn't much better than Espinosa's. He's lagging way behind in the power department and isn't really making it up in any other areas.
Perhaps the bias against Espinosa is that he's a rookie. If he was more of a household name, he'd get more votes. This is understandable, but unfortunate.
As for Zimmermann, he's also victimized by a misleading traditional stat: won/loss record. Wednesday's complete-game, 1-0 loss to the Angels was Zimmermann's season in a nutshell. He's fifth in the National League in ERA, fifth in ERA+ (ahead of Cliff Lee in both categories) seventh in WHIP, fifth in fewest walks per nine innings and seventh in strikeout/walk ratio, but because of his 5-7 record, he probably won't get any All-Star consideration from the managers.
Now, granted, we've come a long way in our understanding of sabermetrics. If Felix Hernandez can win the AL Cy Young with a 13-12 record, then Jordan Zimmermann could maybe make the All-Star team with a 5-7 record. But whereas Hernandez dazzles, Zimmermann just gets the job done. You could explain a vote for Hernandez because he intimidates hitters. You can't use that explanation on Zimmermann.
The Nationals have to have somebody at the All-Star Game, and maybe it will end up being either Espinosa or Zimmermann. But I'd rather have them earn their way to the game like they have this year than be selected as the token Nationals player that has to be there anyway. It won't matter much in the grand scheme of things, but it'd be nice if they got a little recognition for their roles in making the Nationals one of baseball's surprises this summer.
Then again, if they keep this up for years to come, they'll get their due eventually.