Major League Baseball released its updated All-Star ballots last week, and if the White Sox received this update via USPS, they probably would have left it unopened on the counter. There's only bad news inside.
It's not just the fact that the contingent from Kansas City is flooding the vote, with Royals running first or second at every position no matter the numbers. The White Sox don't even rank among the also-rans.
They do not have one of the five most popular catchers.
They do not have one of the five most popular first basemen.
They do not have one of the five most popular second basemen.
They do not have one of the five most popular third basemen.
They do not have one of the five most popular shortstops.
They do not have one of the 15 most popular outfielders.
They do not have one of the five most popular designated hitters.
And it's hard to argue. Jose Abreu is the only guy who has a case to be a top-five candidate this year, but he hasn't generated the same kind of leaguewide excitement as he did in 2014. The competition is stiffer at first base, too, as Prince Fielder and Mark Teixeira have risen from the dead, Eric Hosmer got good and Miguel Cabrera is still great.
That leaves the All-Star responsibilities on the pitcher's side, and it's not much easier to find a great bet.
David Robertson was the early favorite, but a couple of Josh Donaldson homers have knocked down his numbers from "otherworldly" to "still good, because you remember what the Sox had last year." His peripherals remain eye-popping (32 strikeouts to just three walks over 21⅔ innings), but his ERA has risen to 2.45, he's only 10th in saves, and it's not entirely due to a lack of opportunities (10-for-13).
In the process, he's opened the door for Chris Sale as the team's mandatory selection. Sale's numbers aren't where they usually are at this point --- 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA over nine starts -- but his game has rounded into form on the same schedule as his breaking ball. The numbers from his last four starts:
|Last 4 starts||2-1||1.71||31.2||16||7||6||3||4||40||.147/.183/.266|
The Condor is coming off his best start of the season, beating Baltimore for the first time in his career by striking out 12 over 7⅔ shutout innings. The difference-maker is the slider, which is getting the kind of ugly swings it's known for:
This version of Sale is no fun for hitters or opposing managers, and so it's natural to think that they might want him on their team if they had a chance to draw up the pitching staff for The Game That Counts. After all, he's done the same thing on the All-Star stage, whether in 2013:
Plus, he's the one White Sox player who can win a popularity contest before it even begins. If the current patterns hold -- Robertson looking like a good-not-great closer and Sale looking like a healthy Sale -- I'm leaning toward Sale making his fourth consecutive All-Star appearance, and this time as the White Sox' lone rep.
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