Last season, whoever makes Joe Torre's decisions for him selected Swingin' Ken Harvey (aka "Grimace") to the American League All-Star team. Harvey's contribution to the game was short and ignominious: a three-pitch strikeout against Randy Johnson. This season, Harvey lost his job in spring training to Calvin Pickering, only to see Pickering return to the minors without a subsequent bump in his own playing time. To date, Harvey's appeared in 12 games and is hitting .222/.271/.356 in 45 ABs.
Harvey wasn't worthy of a selection, especially not at 1B/DH, but as per the rules, some Royal had to go. An empty (but very high) batting average masked an otherwise embarassing situation, and likely convinced Ken that, yes, he was an "All-Star". This season, it won't be so easy however, since Mike Sweeney isn't solidly healthy, despite an otherwise justifiable first-half. Here's a look at the favorites to grab the Royals All-Star slot, in order:
Mike Sweeney, 1B/DH: Sweeney's hitting .299/.336/.509 with 9 Homers and 37 RsBI in 54 games. Given the bizarre decline in first-base play in the past few years, (league average for 1B is .267/.340/.442) thats a solid, if unspectacular line. Sweeney's plate-discipline continues to erode, but that likely won't matter to the mainstream media if he does get a selection. Plus, he's a known-entity, so any possible wailing might be kept to a medium. The problem is that no one seems to know when Mike will return to the lineup, and the homer/rbi total is getting less relatively impressive by the hour.
Mike MacDougal, Closer: MacDougal made the team in 2003, and has a semi-pedigree as a mythical "closer", which should help. Of course, most Royals fans know that Mac isn't really that good, but that never stopped anyone before. This season Mac has an all-important 8 saves, which would likely quasi-justify his selection. His ERA (at the moment) is semi-passable at 4.41 as is his WHiP of 1.44. Mac hasn't been the team's best pitcher, or reliver, but he does have the saves and something of a pedigree. Plus, traditionally, relief-pitcher slots have been easily the weakest.
Andy Sisco, RP: Sisco's got the shiny ERA (2.75) and the nice back-story, which is always a plus for that critical day-before-game puff piece on ESPN.com or in the Star. An inverse of MacDougal, Sisco's glaring problem is the lack of saves, however unimportant this might actually be. If Allard was a tad smarter, he would have thrown Sisco into the closer-role by May and let him rack up some saves... Think of what his trade value might be?
Emil Brown, OF: If Emil Brown, who hadn't played in the majors since 2001, gets selected it would make one of the more heart-warming stories of the season. Of course, it would also be cited endlessly in the inevitable wave of "we need to get rid of the every team has a player rule" stories. Brown's not quite there yet, as his .298/.365/.474 line is a little short for a corner outfielder slot thats already crowded. (The league average for right-fielders is .273/.337/.452, and .279/.336/.437 in left.) Plus, like Sweeney, the HR and RsBI totals (8, 37) are low.
Beyond Emil, theres a miniscule chance that Mike Wood (3-2, 3.74 ERA) or Runelvys (5-8, 4.64 ERA) could slip in, but its highly unlikely. Essentially, regarding the Royals its boiled down to this: just about any selection is going to be an embarassment for just about everyone involved. The best case scenario is for Sweeney to return to the lineup, get to 10 homers, and make the team. He has a pedigree and is, at the rate-stat-level, a passable All-Star. I wouldn't be sure that MacDougal's ERA won't be over 5.00 by the break ,and likewise I'm not sure how many more saves he can get between now and then. So, in short, lets hope Mike can justify a slot, the Royals don't need to be at the center of a media hate-fest at the Break.