The next time I criticize an All-Star Game selection - by fan, player or manager - will be the first. I'm just not very militant about the notion that the best players should start in the game, whether "best" refers to the first half or the players' respective careers.
The customer is always right. It's good that the fans get to select the starting lineups, even now that the game "counts" for World Series homefield advantage. Yes, it's inconsistent. But both the fan balloting and the stakes surrounding the game are fun, IMO.
Baseball announced its ballots yesterday, and what the heck, I'll offer my selections. I don't need to wait for the rest of the first half to unfold. Assuming good health, these are the guys I'd like to see start, for entertainment purposes. To see the ballots, you seem to have to click "Vote NOW" and then fill in an e-mail address.
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota. We kick it off with an easy one. Who but Mauer?
First base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit. He seems to have his life in order. Assuming, perhaps optimistically, that he would behave himself the night before the MId-summer Classic, I'd like to see how he performs against the NL's best pitchers.
Second base: Dustin Pedroia, Boston. He's just fun to watch, that's all.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter, Yankees. Because he's baseball royalty, and because I'd be curious to see what kind of crowd reception Jeter gets in Anaheim.
Third base: Even Longoria, Tampa Bay. Sorry, A-Rod, but Longoria is just such a stud nowadays.
Leftfield: Carl Crawford Tampa Bay. I'd like to limit it to no more than one player per team, but I'll make an exception for the Rays, partly because I really like Longoria and Crawford but also because I want to see how Crawford, last year's ASG MVP, responds to being in the spotlight as an impending free agent.
At the moment, I believe that Craword will sign with a team other than the Yankees, as I just don't see the Yankees going crazy to land Crawford. That is a new projection. And it can of course change back again.
Centerfield: Torii Hunter, Angels. Yes, I'm aware of the calculations that his defense has slipped, and far be it from me to challenge those. I just think the game is better when you have a big name as the "host player," like Albert Pujols last year or Jeter two years ago. Hunter will be an excellent ambaasador for the Angels and the game in general.
Rightfield: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle. Because he's Ichiro, and I just love watching him play.
DH: Vladimir Guerrero, Texas. You could go with Ken Griffey, Jr., except that might wind up being more uncomfortable than anything else, due to Griffey's fading skills. You could go with Hideki Matsui, except I do want to mix it up, team-wise. Vladdy is perfect because of the six years he spent with the Angels. Their fans will eat up a homecoming. And Guerrero has something left in the tank.
Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez, Washington. What the heck, give him a Lifetime Achievement Award. And if I want to adhere to my "Only the Rays can have two players" rules, this is the way it works out.
First base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis. Despite Islander505's concerns, he's simply the best player in the game today.
Second base: Chase Utley, Philadelphia. Not only is he fantastic, but he's a nice contrast to his opposing second baseman Pedroia when it comes to physique and handedness.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez, Floirda. Maybe we can stir it up some and float notions that, if Jeter asks for too much money this winter, the Yankees will just trade for Ramirez. Nah...
Third base: David Wright, Mets. I think that, by July, he'll be out of his Blue Period and back into his prime.
Leftfield: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee. He has established himself as one of the most reliably excellent hitters in the game.
Centerfield: Matt Kemp, Dodgers. Gotta have someone from the neighboring Dodgers _ I assume Dodgers skipper Joe Torre will be a coach under manager Charlie Manuel _ and this is a guy whom, personally, I haven't seen a lot. I'd like to see him in this setting.
Rightfield: Jason Heyward, Atlanta. Given his hot start, it would be a shame to not have him in there.
Thoughts? Is it a little too early for this, for you? Just wait until tomorrow, when we discuss Halloween costumes.
--If this wasn't quite the Javier Vazquez the Yankees envisioned - he lasted just 5 1/3 innings against the relatively unimposing A's - it clearly marked progress. He's on his way to that much-discussed (in our live chats) 103 ERA+ in 197.2 IP.
--The Yankees will visit the White House next Monday. I got to cover their last two visits there, in 1999 and 2001, and it was interesting how much more they enjoyed the latter visit than the former one. I think it had a little to do with politics, but also with personalities.
Bill Clinton was characteristically late for his event. Whereas George W. Bush, who loved baseball - he owned the Rangers, after all - met early with the Yankees and took them into the Oval Office, where there was laughter about Clinton's, um, activities there.
--Brett Gardner started against Oakland's Gio Gonzalez last night, his first start against a lefty this season, and didn't do much. I don't think this is that pressing an issue, either way, unless Marcus Thames and Randy Winn become completely useless and can't serve as the platoon half of leftfielders against lefties.
--Mike Pelfrey and Jose Reyes shined for the Mets, who now have their first two-game winning streak. But of course, so few nights go altogether great for the Mets, as Ryota Igarashi appears a likely disabled list candidate. That's a blow in more ways than one for the Mets, as the better Igarashi pitched, the more you could make a case to demote Jenrry Mejia - behind Igarashi in the bullpen pecking order - to the minors, to stretch him out and make him a starter again.
Did you see, in that linked blog entry, that Kiko Calero has a 6.14 ERA at Triple-A Buffalo? Calero was one of the best setup men in the majors last year. All together now: Relievers are volatile.
--David Lennon writes that Jerry Manuel is considering hitting Angel Pagan third. I say, go for it. If Reyes wants to hit first, let him stay at leadoff. It's not like Reyes is insisting he hit eighth. He wants the most plate appearances possible, and if last night really did serve as a turning point, then he'll do plenty of damage from the leadoff spot.
--Ron Davis, Ike's dad, watched his son's second big-league game. Late Monday night, Ike Davis explained that, while he wasn't old enough to remember his father's pitching career _ Ike was born in 1987, and Ron finished his career in 1988 _ he got to go to some Yankees Old-Timers Days with his dad. He recalled meeting Derek Jeter and Scott Brosius when he was about 12.
--This "Last Play at Shea" documentary looks pretty good.