Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
Once again, Canada is awesome and comes through with the votes. For the first time in his career, Justin Smoak will not only be named an All-Star but will start at first-base for the team as well.
To say that no one saw Smoak putting up the numbers that he has been so far this season would be a gross understatement. I am one of those people that is willing to eat a huge pile of crow and admit that I did not foresee him being the best option for the Blue Jays to be their everyday first baseman, and I'm sure I wasn't alone. In fact, many people - myself included - were preaching for Steve Pearce to man the majority of the load at first, while Morales would supplement him every so often. I'm not ashamed to point out how wrong I was by acknowledging that Smoak has been far more than impressive this season. In fact, you could argue that he's been the one that has - at least offensively - maintained any sense of hope for a post-season berth for the Jays for a fan, as he's clearly been the Blue Jays' most consistent player at the plate. With how poorly the team has been performing, Smoak has been a treat and earning the right to start for the All-Star team is something that I'm sure he's going to hold in high regard.
I know a lot of people don't really care much for the All-Star game, and I get it. I admit, I don't really care to watch it, either. If anything, I'll watch the Home Run Derby (albeit, on mute. I can't stand the Chris Berman "backbackbackbackback!" every time the ball touches the bat). I get why it's cool for fans to see, how it's an attraction, and how it helps boost the economy for whatever city it's being held in (but does it have to be on a weeknight? Get with the times, MLB!). I get it. Personally, though, I can do without it and it just doesn't captivate me like it did when I was a kid; which even then wasn't that much.
However, for someone who has been labeled as a highly touted prospect that didn't really pan out, I can imagine that there must be a sense of vindication for Smoak. Even though it may not mean much to the majority of those that watch baseball on a regular basis, I don't think this is just another notch on the belt for the players that get voted in as starters. Specifically those that have come completely out of no where.
I wrote about Smoak June 1st and elaborated a bit more as to how he has exceeded the expectations that the vast majority of us had for him. At that time, there was some chatter that he'd sort level off and fall back to earth; becoming the Justin Smoak that we've all come to know - much like Saunders did last year. However, since June 1st, he's maintained his status of being one of the best hitters in the AL. Specifically, he is ranked 2nd in the AL in both Slugging and On-Base Plus Slugging, trailing Aaron Judge (albeit, by a pretty decent margin). Moreover, since June 1st, he's played 28 games (starting 27 of them), with 114 plate appearances producing a line of .347/.412/.683, an OPS of 1.095, producing 35 hits, 17 runs, 10 home-runs, 18 RBIs, with a strikeout percentage of 19% and a walk percentage of about 10%. Further, he currently (as of the afternoon of 7/3) leads the entire Blue Jays squad in batting average, home runs, RBIs, OBP, and hits. I hate to beat a dead horse here, but no one saw this coming.
So even if you are like me and aren't a fan of the All-Star game and don't really buy into the hype, at least take comfort in knowing that the guy representing the Jays actually deserves it and wasn't a pity-vote or any other bogus reason. Justin Smoak has earned it and should be proud of what he's accomplish this year (so far).
With how the season has been going, I'll take what I can get.
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