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Heroes and Zeroes and All-Stars, oh my!

With the first half of the bag in the season, let's take a cumulative look at the first 29 series. I've gone back through all the Heroes and Zeroes, awarding points on a +3 to -3 basis for those who appeared, and have added up all the scores.

I soon realized this scale is weighted towards pitchers, because they have a better chance than position players to decide the game: it's their names, after all, that get the W or L beside them. So I decided to split this into two, otherwise pitchers would have dominated both ends of the list. But before we get to that, here's the final piece of the jigsaw:

Heroes and Zeroes, Series 29: vs. Reds, at home
Halsey: 7.2 IP, 8 H, 0 BB, 2 ER
Gosling: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 0 ER
Glaus: 1-for-11, 4 K
Gonzalez: 1-for-10
Almanza: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 BB, game-tying three-run homer

Webb's six-earned run performance initially looks like the worst performance of the series, but four of those came on one swing of Adam Dunn's bat. And besides, it's not really Brandon's fault he was left out there. The G-Force went 6-for-32 in the series, and Almanza, after a fine debut vs. Pujols, became Griffey's bee-yotch; any other LOOGY's out there? Halsey and Gosling were solid in their starts, and both deserved better than no-decisions. With that, the envelopes, please:

Heroes and Zeroes, First Half

Webb: 3.57 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
Estes: 4.56 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
Halsey: 4.26 ERA, 1.46 WHIP
Koplove: 4.95 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
Bruney: 5.85 ERA, 1.79 WHIP
Ortiz: 5.88 ERA, 1.76 WHIP

It's comforting to see 3/5 of our rotation occupying the top spots, though Ortiz negates this somewhat. Vazquez was also comfortably positive, and if it hadn't been for his first couple of outings racking him up a combined -5, would likely have been just behind Webb. Medders and Cormier were the only relievers to post positive scores, and unsurprisingly, our bullpen was conspicuous by its absence here.

Not so down below: Bruney and Koplove have a couple of disastrous outings to thank for their position. Koplove, in particular, didn't have that bad a first half, and has the lowest OBA figure of any pitcher, at .253. Ortiz's expensive failures made him an obvious zero, and his position as Biggest Zero is doubly impressive, given he last appeared on June 15.

Green: .282, 14 HR, 49 RBI
Clark: .324, 13 HR, 47 RBI
Gonzalez: .283, 12 HR, 51 RBI
Cruz: .215, 12 HR, 27 RBI
Clayton: .242, 2 HR, 24 RBI
McCracken: .209, 1 HR, 7 RBI

Yes, I was surprised by the top hero too: most of Green's score came from his June hot streak. On a per-AB basis, Clark would likely have lead the team - but again, pinch-hitters have a good chance to win the game, and nobody blames them particularly for losses. Gonzalez has produced consistently, though has shown signs of slumping lately (.132 in July).

McCracken easily made the list, on a consistent inability to hit for average, power, field the ball, or do anything that justified his spot on the roster. Clayton wasn't much better, leads the team in GIDPs, and hasn't been the defensive wizard predicted; Cruz's power has been impressive [his HR/AB ratio is better than Troy Glaus] but otherwise... I'll update the list at the end of season.

And so, tonight is the All-Star game. It's a peculiarly American concept, one that doesn't appear in British sport at all; the closest would be the occasional charity game, but as a structured event, it's not present. However, our national teams probably play the same role, unlike in America, where the USA team is either very clearly not the best players (hockey, baseball), or doesn't exist at all (American football).

That, too is odd, because in Europe, national teams take precedence over the regular clubs: for example, the weekend before England play a football (soccer!) match, all games in the Premier League are cancelled. And if a player gets injured on international duty, that's just the club's hard luck. Get well soon. Here, I read today that the biggest cost involved in the upcoming baseball World Cup will be insurance.

At the moment, to me, the baseball All-Star seems to be falling uncomfortably between a fan-festival and a serious endeavour. Almost everything points to the former, except that the winning league gets home advantage in the World Series. Given the NL hasn't won the All-Star Game since 1996, using it to decide such a crucial factor seems a little unfair. And if you don't think it's so important, in the last 20 World Series, the "home" team has a 16-4 lead...

If you're going to do this, then the fan voting needs to go - that Nomar Garciaparra received 1.3 million votes (and Barry Bonds any!), is conclusive proof that democracy is not necessarily a good idea. Also, scrap the "everyone needs to play" concept: this is not Little League. Being picked is honour enough, I doubt a fly-out in the seventh innings is going to increase the glory much.

Finally, toss the dumb rule about having one player from each team, which leads to unfettered mediocrity creeping in. And many of the players in today's game know they won't be in the playoffs, so where's the incentive for them to win home advantage in the World Series? As for me, I'll still be watching, though the "this time, it counts" factor is of almost zero importance to me - I'd happily stake my house that this will have no impact on the 2005 Diamondbacks at all.