As a lifelong loyal Texas Rangers fan, it would be easy to say, “Here’s the Rangers’ line-up. These are my picks for the All-Star Game.” Sadly, your humble scribe treats his All-Star Game ballot with a fair and open mind. Sad to say, that means I have very little justification for putting almost any of “my” players on the ballot to start the mid-season classic. Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz are performing below expectations so far. Elvis Andrus has been better offensively than a year ago, but his defense has been anything but superb. Mitch Moreland has had a good year, but not compared to other AL first basemen. Josh Hamilton has performed at an All-Star level, but missed six weeks due to injury, so I won’t be naming him either.
Yes, when it comes to All-Star Game starters, I have a criterion and most of my Rangers aren’t meeting them. First off, my selections are based strictly on 2011 performance. Sorry, Ichiro. You don’t qualify this year. Love your quest for 3,000 hits, Derek Jeter, but you’re not an All-Star starter in my book this year.
Herewith are my All-Star starter selections:
Catcher: There are a few sexy names out there, but there are only four regular catchers in theAL even hitting above .250 on the season. Only one is hitting above .300, so my pick is the decidedly unsexy Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers (.301, 9 HR, 35RBI, 3 Steals).
First Base: This position has a lot of deserving candidates. One could make a case for Paul Konerko of the White Sox, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, even the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira. But my pick has to be Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez (.341, 13 HR, 60RBI)
Second Base: This became a surprisingly hard pick this year, mainly because most of the usual suspects are having down years in 2011. Howie Kendrick of the Angels is having a nice season but, since home field advantage for the World Series is on the line, I need to go with more of an RBI bat here with Robinson Cano of the Yankees (.285, 12 HR, 41 RBI), even though his numbers are down from a year ago.
Third Base: Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees is having a pretty good year in 2011. Here, however, I’ve got to be a homer and put in one of the few Rangers who’s having a year worthy of an All-Star nod: Adrian Beltre (.265, 12 HR, 48 RBI)
Shortstop: Elvis, you really let me down with your defense this year. You’re not even in the discussion. In fact, based on numbers alone, I don’t see how anyone could argue against Asdrubal Cabrera of the Cleveland Indians (.301, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 9 Steals).
Left Field: If Josh Hamilton had been healthy all year, it might be closer, but since he hasn’t been, this is the easiest pick in the AL: The Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista (.338, 21 HR, 42 RBI)
Center Field: Another easy pick. Curtis Granderson of the Yankees is having a phenomenal year (.278, 20 HR, 47 RBI, 10 Steals).
Right Field: Ichiro is having a down year for the first time in his career. It would be nice to give him a nod, but current production is all that counts for me and I don’t see how you could keep Carlos Quentin of the White Sox out of the line-up (.269, 17HR, 47 RBI). An honorable mention for the outfield would be Matt Joyce of the Tampa Bay Rays (.328, 10 HR, 34 RBI), who appears on his way to a career year.
Designated Hitter: My guy, Michael Young, is having a pretty decent year serving primarily in the DH role. Still, I have to admit he’s being outperformed. The nod here goes to Big Papi, David Ortiz of the Red Sox (.325, 17 HR, 43 RBI).
I don’t pick pitchers for the All-Star team, since the picking process is so different between starters and relievers. I will state categorically it would be a sin not to pick Alexi Ogando of the Rangers for the team. Ogando is arguably having the best season of any pitcher in the AL and, if he has two more strong starts, I would even have to consider him to be theAL’s starting pitcher this year.
I’m not a National League guy, so I won’t spend as much time explaining my picks here. Suffice it to say, since I use 2011 performance alone in my decision, one Albert Pujols will NOT get a starting nod from me. Here are my NL picks:
Catcher: Brian McCann of theAtlantaBraves (.303, 9 HR, 37 RBI)
First Base: Even if Pujols were having a typical Pujols year, I still might not give him the starting nod due to the career year being enjoyed thus far by the Brewers’ Prince Fielder (.303, 19HR, 58 RBI).
Second Base: It really isn’t that strong a year for NL second basemen. I could go with Ricky Weeks of the Brewers for power potential but, in the end, decided to give the pick to Brandon Phillips of the Cincinnati Reds (.284, 5 HR, 36 RBI), who has more RBI despite less than half the homers of Weeks.
Third Base: Once upon a time, third base was considered one of the power positions in baseball, where sluggers abound. Not in the NL this year, partially due to injuries to the likes of Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval. Still, no disrespect intended, but it’s REALLY a down year for third basemen when my pick is the power-challenged Placido Polanco of the Phillies (.309, 4 HR, 37RBI).
Shortstop: This was my hardest choice of all because I had to choose between speed and power. In fact, my mind was made up all the up to the point I started typing this out. Because of the dearth of power at the 3rd base slot, instead of going with the very deserving Jose Reyes of the New York Mets (.342, 3 HR, 11 Triples, 26 RBI, 20 Steals), I’m switching my pick to Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies (.270, 13 HR, 45 RBI).
Left Field: OK, he’s a center fielder really, but All-Star Game outfielders often don’t play their natural positions because of the popular vote. That’s why my left fielder is going to be the LA Dodgers’ Matt Kemp (.332, 20 HR, 56 RBI, 15 Steals).
Center Field: I moved Kemp to left field because, thanks to actually playing like a team that belongs in the NL instead of a minor league team posing as a big league club, it’s time to see a Pittsburgh Pirate back in an All-Star Game starting line-up. Let’s give it up for Andrew McCutchen (.292, 10 HR, 37 RBI, 11 Steals).
Right Field: After having a monster month of May, I’m ready to put Jay Bruce of the Cincinnati Reds in right (.287, 17 HR, 48 RBI).
Designated Hitter: I know the National League doesn’t have a DH, but this would be a good place to recognize the fine comeback season being enjoyed by Lance Berkman of the St. Louis Cardinals (.317, 16 HR, 46 RBI).
Those are my starters. Agree? Disagree? Let me know!