We’re halfway to the end of the season. The All-Star break begins this week, reminding all clubhouses that the endgame - October and the playoffs - is around the corner.
As of now, the Yanks are where they want to be. They are only a game back behind the Red Sox in the American League East and have been on a tremendous run (winning 13 of 17) before faltering in their first two losses in the Los Angeles Angels series this past weekend.
The Mets, on the other hand, are sitting just above the last place Washington Nationals in the National League East, six games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. They’ve bolstered their line-up as they sent Ryan Church to the Atlanta Braves in a surprising trade for longtime Mets rival Jeff Francoeur, but I wonder, with all of the injuries, if the Mets should turn their attention to the 2010 season.
But, now is not the time to dwell on the Mets 11 losses in 15 games (including a sweep at the hands of the Phillies), or get too hyped on the Yankees latest string of success. We only have one All-Star game in a season and it will kick off this Tuesday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and this is who it will feature.
The American League:
First Base- Mark Teixeira
The Yankee’s first baseman may have had a difficult introduction as a Yankee in the beginning of the season, but he’s redeemed himself in the eyes of Yankee fans and voters as he earned the starters position over Boston’s Kevin Youkilis and the Twin’s Justin Morneau (who won the Home Run Derby this weekend). It was a race between Teixeira and Youkilis for a while (though Morneau took the second spot after all), but the Yankee won over in the end. He’s hitting at a .280 average, with 21 homeruns and 63 RBIs.
Second Base- Dustin Pedroia
In this race, we could have seen the Yankee’s Robinson Cano start (though back-up Aaron Hill of the Toronto Blue Jays should have earned it over both with a 59 RBI, 20 homerun effort along with a .295 average). Pedroia enters the Midseason Classic with a .300 average, 39 RBIs and four homeruns. I guess it helps to be the reigning AL MVP and a member of the Boston Red Sox. And apparently, it helps being a Yankee as well.
Shortstop- Derek Jeter
The Captain will be a living icon for as long as he is in the game, and he’ll be a Hall of Famer and a legend after he’s gone. He missed the All-Star cut only once since 2004 and before that the spot was filled year in and year out by Alex Rodriguez when he was a member of the Texas Rangers. Jason Bartlett of the Tampa Bay Rays has been the best short stop in the AL so far, but Jeter’s 36 RBIs, ten homeruns, and .321 average makes him a respectable choice nonetheless. New York fans should be happy anyway.
Third Base- Evan Longoria
Praise be that Alex Rodriguez was not voted in to start at third base. It’s possible to list the reasons he shouldn’t start, but considering how much he’s been in the papers his entire career it’d be a redundant task. Anyway, let’s look at Longoria of the Rays, who certainly deserves his spot on the roster. He leads the league in RBIs at third with 66 and he’s batted for a .285 average with 17 homeruns. The former Rookie of the Year will have a tremendous career.
Catcher- Joe Mauer
The perennial All-Star, the Twins’ Mauer, continues to prove he is one of the best year in and year out. The Cleveland Indians’ Victor Martinez may have earned more RBIs than Mauer (58, ten more than the Twins’ catcher), but Mauer’s .388 average overshadows his .295 so the similarities in all other stats can be seen as negligible. Besides, it wouldn’t be an AL All-Star team without the defensive sight of Mauer behind the plate.
Left Field- Jason Bay
Jason Bay has been a perfect fit in the Red Sox clubhouse, but he’d be great with any team. His 72 RBIs is third in the league in any position, and he’s hit this and 20 homeruns even with a mediocre .261 average. He’s been outperforming most all left-fielders in the American League, and even reservist Carl Crawford of the Rays doesn’t come close in numbers alone.
Centerfield- Ichiro Suzuki
The Seattle Mariner’s centerfielder is and has one of the most prolific hitters in baseball since he started his career nine years ago. Though he falls short of Mauer’s MLB leading .388 average, his .361 is a close second. He has the best vision at the plate of any player in baseball today and though he doesn’t hit for power (six homeruns), and he hasn’t been exceptional in batting runs in (23 RBIs), he gets on base and gives his teammates a chance to help the cause.
Right Field- Josh Hamilton
After Saturday he became the record holder for most homeruns hit in a single round of the Home Run Derby. His 28 in round one lifted the fans at Yankee Stadium out of their seats (he didn’t even have to hit in the second round to make it to the finals). Though Hamilton could only belt out three in the finals, losing to Morneau’s five, he put on a show. From alcohol and drug addiction, to a starter in the Midsummer Classic and 2008 RBI leader, Hamilton’s story is one of the best in baseball. He deserves this spot in the lineup.
First Base- Albert Pujols
He’s starting at first in his home field and earned his way in again this season. He leads the league in RBIs with an unbelievable 85 (that’s 23 more than Prince Fielder of the Brewers in second), and he leads the league with 32 homeruns. If he’s not a legend already, he’s going to be when he retires. This is his ninth All-Star game, which is an accomplishment he can add to his two NL MVP awards, four Silver Sluggers, and World Series ring.
Second Base- Chase Utley
The Phillies have five players who’ve been invited to the All-Star game, and two which are starting. Utley is far and away the best second baseman in the MLB, so his spot on the roster was never in question. He’s hit 61 RBIs and 20 homeruns, and he’s batted for a .310 average. He will continue to be the NL’s representative at second base (as he has been since 2006) unless the Cincinnati Reds’ Brandon Phillips really comes into his own.
Shortstop- Hanley Ramirez
This would have been, and has been, a position owned by the Mets’ Jose Reyes (it’s good to play in New York), but the Florida Marlins’ Ramirez, on paper, has been the player to start. This year he’s hit for the highest average at .345 and he’s batted in the most runs at 60 of any shortstop in the NL. He’s has incredible athleticism and mobility in his position and he’s been consistent in his success since his 2006 rookie season. He may very well be an icon in the MLB in the future, but first, someone please get him out of Florida.
Third Base- David Wright
He’s the face of the Mets and he’s been solid since slumping in the early weeks of the season. Really though, he should have been brought in as a reserve behind the National’s Ryan Zimmerman (14 homeruns and 52 RBIs as compared to Wright’s five and 43), but the National’s don’t get any national attention. That’s where we can obviously see a hint of a popularity contest in the voting.
Catcher- Yadier Molina
Another player starting in his home field, Molina has not hit the best for average (.264), but he leads the NL in the catchers position (however paltry it is) with 11 homeruns and 50 RBIs. This is probably the weakest position to have picked an All-Star in, but it was a good choice with the Atlanta Braves Brian McCann on reserves. It’ll give the fans another player to cheer for as Molina plays in his first All-Star game of his career.
Left Field- Jason Braun
Out of nowhere this Milwaukee Brewer became one of the best in the game. He was 2007’s rookie of the year, and hit admirably in this years Home Run Derby, coming in third with 14 in two rounds. Speaking of homeruns, Braun has been the fastest Brewer to hit ten homeruns and he’s reached 50 homeruns in only 171 games and that’s the second fastest pace in baseball.
Centerfield- Jayson Werth
This was originally Beltran’s spot to start, but with a bruised bone in his right knee, he won’t be able to play this year. Instead, the Phillies’ Jayson Werth will take the start at center. Werth normally starts in right, and has the stats to earn this start, but if the voting were reflective of the specific position then the LA Dodgers Matt Kemp should have been playing in this game. As it is, it doesn’t matter as long as we get the big guns on the field, and Werth certainly can be considered one with 56 RBIs and 20 homeruns on the season.
Right Field- Raul Ibanez
One of the many surprises this season, Ibanez has helped carry the Phillies to first place in the NL East. He’s hitting for a .314 average with a healthy 22 homeruns and 60 RBIs. While Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins were a force to be reckoned with alone, having Ibanez come into his own has really solidified their chances of a return to the playoffs and possibly another World Series.
I’ll end this with a prediction. The AL hasn’t lost since 1996 and I don’t expect the streak to end. I’m going to go with a score of 6-3, the AL over the NL.