Yankees, Red Sox flush with All-Stars
Based on that final balloting update, it appears the American League starting lineup for the All-Star game will be loaded with Yankees and Red Sox.
Here we go again.
Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Adrian Gonzalez. All probably headed to Phoenix, with several other teammates in tow.
That might rankle fans around the country, but take a look at the numbers. With the exception of New York catcher Russell Martin and aging shortstop Derek Jeter, most of the leading vote-getters do indeed deserve those spots.
Who else has earned a trip to the July 12 showcase? Tough choices, as usual.
Prince Fielder or Joey Votto at first base for the National League? Carlos Quentin or Jacoby Ellsbury in the AL outfield? And how many aces can the Phillies put on the pitching staff?
"It can be a little daunting, to be honest," NL manager Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants said. "Sure, it's an honor and you're excited about it, but at the same time you know that somebody's going to get snubbed, supposedly. There's nothing you can do about it. It's not perfect."
One superstar who won't be playing is St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, sidelined by a broken wrist. He highlights a striking list of face-of-the-franchise types who figure to miss this All-Star game because of injuries, slumps -- or both.
Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Chase Utley, Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Zimmerman, Carl Crawford, Buster Posey, Justin Morneau, Josh Johnson, Johan Santana.
In their absence, look for talented first-timers such as Asdrubal Cabrera, Rickie Weeks and Matt Kemp.
Following last year's rule changes, this will be the first time the designated hitter is used in an NL park. There are 34 slots on each roster, with 13 going to pitchers. And every team must be represented, which makes for difficult decisions.
"I'll be glad when the process is over," said Texas' Ron Washington, who will manage the AL squad. "I did my homework, I'll consult with my coaching staff and I'll probably reach out to a few guys, a few managers that's done this before. But I only get so many to choose, and all I have to do is look at the roster that's been put out there and we're going to choose according to our need, to make sure we're covered."
The league that wins gets home-field advantage in the World Series again, and the NL finally wrested it away last year with its first victory in 13 games since 1996.
So without regard to fan or player balloting, here are our picks for the 82nd All-Star game. Rosters will be announced Sunday.
First Base -- Gonzalez has been an RBI machine in his first season with Boston. Thanks to a smooth glove, he edges Detroit bopper Miguel Cabrera for the start. Chicago's Paul Konerko and New York's Mark Teixeira also make the team.
Second Base -- Cano is the clear choice even though he hasn't played as well as last year, when he finished third in AL MVP voting for the Yankees. The backup job goes to underrated Ben Zobrist of Tampa Bay.
Shortstop -- Asdrubal Cabrera has provided power at the plate and spectacular defense in a breakout season for the surprising Indians. That impressive combination earns him the starting nod over Detroit's Jhonny Peralta, who also warrants his first selection. Left off here is the 37-year-old Jeter, who had a comfortable lead at last count in fan voting and appears headed to his 12th All-Star game despite that strained calf and a season-long slump. Six hits shy of 3,000, he was set to come off the disabled list early next week, so perhaps he'll be healthy enough to play in the Midsummer Classic. Who knows? It could be his last All-Star hurrah.
Third Base -- Rodriguez also held a sizable lead in fan balloting, but his numbers at the plate put him neck-and-neck with Red Sox rival Kevin Youkilis. Give the nod to A-Rod, with Youkilis securing a reserve role.
Catcher -- Another young player enjoying a breakthrough season is Tigers catcher Alex Avila. He gets the surprise start and his backup is, well ... his backup. Avila's emergence has allowed Detroit to use Victor Martinez mostly as a DH, but he's still caught more than 20 games and his bat is awfully productive. With apologies to Cleveland's Carlos Santana, put Martinez on the club as a catcher and there's no need to pick another backstop who doesn't quite deserve it. Plus, it would make for a neat anomaly: two All-Star catchers from one big league team.
Outfield -- Toronto slugger Jose Bautista had received more All-Star votes than anyone else in the majors, a sign that fans are paying attention even when he connects in Canada. He starts in right field, with New York's Curtis Granderson in center and Quentin from the White Sox in left. On the bench is Ellsbury, another Boston entry, along with Baltimore's Adam Jones, Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer and Kansas City's Alex Gordon, finally fulfilling his promise after switching from third base to left field.
Designated Hitter -- Ortiz was running away with the fan vote, and deservedly so. Popular as ever in Boston, Big Papi can still swing it. The other choice at DH is Texas stalwart Michael Young, who could also fill in as an infielder if needed.
Starting Pitchers -- Detroit flamethrower Justin Verlander is blossoming into the consistent and dominant ace that was always expected. He seems to flirt with a no-hitter every time he takes the mound -- and he finished one off this year in Toronto. Verlander earns the start on a staff that includes fellow right-handers Josh Beckett (Boston), James Shields (Tampa Bay) and Felix Hernandez (Seattle), along with Angels teammates Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. The lefties are CC Sabathia (New York), C.J. Wilson (Texas) and Gio Gonzalez (Oakland).
Relievers -- Mariano Rivera is closing in on the career saves record and shows no signs of slowing down at age 41. New York's longtime relief ace is joined in the bullpen by Detroit's Jose Valverde, Cleveland's Chris Perez and Tampa Bay first-timer Kyle Farnsworth.
First Base -- Fielder is having a huge season for Milwaukee in the final year of his contract. The best thing to do, however, would be to start him at DH and put Votto at first base because the Cincinnati slugger, last year's NL MVP, is more adept on defense. Philadelphia's Ryan Howard brings his big bat off the bench.
Second Base -- Weeks gives the Brewers a powerful threat at the top of the lineup. His backups are Brandon Phillips, an all-around cornerstone for the Reds, and Washington rookie Danny Espinosa.
Shortstop -- New York Mets dynamo Jose Reyes has been the game's most electrifying player this season, dashing around the bases on doubles, triples and steals. His glove is a plus, too, so he looks primed to cash in as a 28-year-old free agent next winter. Behind him is Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, another multitalented star.
Third Base -- A thin crop this year, so Braves switch-hitter Chipper Jones takes a bow. Sure, it's partly a lifetime achievement award, but who else would you rather see in this game? Aramis Ramirez of the Chicago Cubs is on the bench.
Catcher -- No doubt about this one. Atlanta's Brian McCann, the MVP of last year's All-Star game, is a runaway choice for his sixth selection -- and first start. Backing him up behind the plate is Miguel Montero from the hometown Diamondbacks.
Outfield -- The starting spots are easy: In center field is Kemp, the first-half MVP from the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's flanked by Milwaukee's Ryan Braun in left and a revitalized Lance Berkman of St. Louis in right. After that it gets tricky, because there are about a dozen worthy candidates. Here's who makes the cut: Arizona's Justin Upton, New York's Carlos Beltran, Cincinnati's Jay Bruce, Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, Houston's Hunter Pence and Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez. Left off is Andre Ethier, despite his 30-game hitting streak, and Matt Holliday, who missed 20 games because of a leg injury and an appendectomy.
Starting Pitchers -- Roy Halladay won the NL Cy Young Award in his first season with Philadelphia and follows it up this year with an All-Star game start. Phillies left-handers Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are also on the staff, along with Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens, Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw, San Francisco's Tim Lincecum, Arizona's Ian Kennedy, Florida's Anibal Sanchez and St. Louis' Kyle Lohse.
Relievers -- Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan went into the weekend perfect in 23 save chances. Joining him in the bullpen are San Francisco's Brian Wilson, San Diego's Heath Bell and Cincinnati's Francisco Cordero.
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