Welcome to the All-Star edition of the Triple Play. This time around, we take a look at my ultimate All-Star team, the most ridiculous decision any manager has made or will make all season, my suggestion for All-Star Game rosters, and more. Off we go:
Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
We discussed Cano in last week’s Triple Play (mainly as a basis of comparison for Indians’ second baseman Jason Kipnis). Well, Cano has had himself a pretty nice week, folks. In the past seven games, he smashed four home runs, knocked in 11 runs, scored seven, and batted .400/.484/.960. This week-long hot streak comes after batting just .250 with no extra-base hits during a nine-game homestand. Of course, I’m sure Cano is thrilled with the timing of these home runs what with him being the captain of the AL’s home-run derby team and all. (Just kidding, folks. We know no one besides Chris Berman cares about the home run derby these days.) For the season, Cano is on pace for a career-high in home runs (38) and close to matching career bests in RBI and runs scored. Talk about opportune timing – Cano is due to be a free agent after the 2013 season. He is no closer to a new contract with the Yankees, but it obviously isn’t affecting his play on the field. It’s difficult to believe New York would let him get away, but like fantasy owners, the Yankees will have to pay top dollar to keep him around. Apropos of nothing, wouldn’t you like to hear the negotiations between Brian Cashman and Jay-Z (Cano’s new agent)? I wonder if Cashman would tell either man to shut the (bleep) up. My hunch on that is no.
Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers manager
I’m not going to sugarcoat this one: Leyland’s decision to choose five middle relievers to fill the final spot on the AL All-Star team is an indefensible load of bunk. I mean, seriously? This is what fans get to vote on? Tanner Scheppers? Joaquin Benoit? Steve Delabar? David Robertson? Koji Uehara? They’re all quality pitchers, having fine seasons. But All-Stars? Puh-leeze. If it weren’t officially on MLB’s website, I would have thought it was some sort of ESPN prank. You know, it’s about this time every year that so many media people climb atop their soapboxes and blather on about how the fans botch the voting every year. Well, consider this year Exhibit A against letting the manager choose the final five players to nominate for the online vote. Where is Evan Longoria (17 HR, 49 RBI, 53 runs)? Or how about Howard Kendrick (11 HR, 40 RBI, .315 avg.)? Josh Donaldson (15 HR, 57 RBI, .316 avg.) has been outstanding this season, as has Carlos Santana (11 HR, 40 RBI) and Jacoby Ellsbury (majors-leading 36 steals). I don’t know what in the world Leyland is thinking. If he needs one more pitcher to fill out his roster, it should have been Grant Balfour. Unless, of course, Leyland decided he couldn’t use the only closer in the AL not to blow a save up to this point in the season. Then again, after seeing his team’s closer situation, this year, maybe it’s understandable that he doesn’t know an All-Star reliever when he sees one. I’m still shaking my head. How is this even– oh, never mind. On to other things….
Playing the Name Game
Here is my Ultimate All-Star Team:
- C – Yadier Molina, St. Louis. NL’s best defensive catcher is also leading the league with a .346 average and has already been worth 3.6 wins above replacement (WAR). Keep all your Buster Posey talk to yourselves. He can’t carry Yadi’s jock when it comes to defense. Molina may not win the NL MVP (although he should), but he is the most indispensable player in baseball right now.
- 1B – Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona. He has 21 homers, an NL-leading 73 RBI, 56 runs scored and even eight steals. All without the lineup support enjoyed by Joey Votto. And at 25, he’s just going to get better.
- 2B – Jason Kipnis, Cleveland. As discussed above, Cano is a great player. Dustin Pedroia is consistent and productive, even if the power in his bat has vanished. Kipnis (13 HR) brings the power Pedroia used to have, and adds the speed element to his game (19 SB). A 25-30 season is well within reach.
- SS – Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado. Jean Segura, Ian Desmond and J.J. Hardy are all having terrific seasons, but Tulo (when healthy, of course) is, hands down, the best shortstop in baseball. Before being injured, he had cracked 16 home runs, with 51 RBI and 41 runs scored to go with his .346/.413/.635 batting line.
- 3B – This was the toughest choice. Look at all the studs who play third: David Wright, Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre. Then there’s Josh Donaldson and just-turned-21 Manny Machado. Every one of them has a case for why they should be included in this list. I have become a HUGE fan of Machado, who will most likely convert back to shortstop eventually. Ultimately, though, it has to be Cabrera. He’s the best hitter in baseball, period. As we reach the All-Star break, he is batting .368 with 28 long balls, 90 RBI and 67 runs scored.
- LF – Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado. Rockies fans know that CarGo has been battling nagging injuries (leg, back, finger) all season long; otherwise, his numbers would be even better than they are. Those numbers: 24 HR, 63 RBI, 15 SB, 66 runs, .303/.369/.621. Just think what he would be doing if he were completely healthy. Mercy.
- CF – Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. Going into 2013, how many times did you hear “Oh, Trout will never repeat his 2012 numbers” or “he’s due for a regression”? Well, let’s take a look at what he’s done this year: 14 HR, 56 RBI, 20 SB, 59 runs, .315/.391/.547. He’s on pace to approach the 30 round trippers he bashed last year, drive in 22 more runs than last year, score 120 runs (just shy of the 129 he scored in 2012), and steal 40 bases (49 in 2012). Oh, and remember that Trout hit more homers and drove in more runs in the 2nd half of the season last year. If that qualifies as a “regression,” then sign me up. I’ll take that any day.
- RF – Chris Davis, Baltimore. As we hit the All-Star break, Davis has 33 homers and 85 RBI. At the end of the 2012 season, Davis tallied 33 homers and 85 RBI. Well, that’s clearly an omen, am I right? What? Oh, sorry, folks. I thought I was writing for Fox Sports for a second there. Let’s get back on track. Davis is currently on pace for 61 home runs, which would tie Roger Maris’ mark in 1961. I keep thinking that Davis can’t continue this pace all season, but he has. At what point do we stop questioning it and just realize that Davis has blossomed into a superlative hitter?
- SP – Adam Wainwright, St. Louis. Another tough call, but if you’ve been reading this column all season, it shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise. Wainwright has walked just 13 batters all season (lowest total among starters), while fanning 117, an MLB-best 9-to-1 K/BB ratio. He has turned in 15 quality starts in 18 attempts, with a 2.35 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. You can make convincing arguments for Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, but I remain steadfast in my choice.
- RP – Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh. Here’s a story for you: journeyman reliever, pretty good at what he does, but never a star or “the guy”; at age 36, he gets his first big shot at being a closer for a team that hasn’t had a winning season in 21 years. If Disney were in charge of the script, you just know the guy would soar and lead his team to the playoffs, right? Well, guess what? Jason Grilli is living that dream right now. The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in the NL. Grilli has saved an NL-high 28 games. In saving those games, Grilli has whiffed 60 batters in 37 2/3 innings, which equates to an insane 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Yes, please. I’ll have what he’s having.
- Over the weekend, I was watching a Little League game where the two hitters almost batted out of order. Then I watched the highlights Saturday and watched in utter disbelief as the San Francisco Giants actually pulled off the dubious feat against the Dodgers. I’m still waiting for a defensible explanation as to how a major league manager – which Bruce Bochy allegedly is – allows such a basic lapse in game management. Giants fans love to defend their manager (and it is somewhat justified, as he has been the manager for two championship teams), but there simply is no excuse for such blatant idiocy. If I were a Giants fan (and thankfully, I’m not), I would be demanding Bochy’s immediate resignation for incompetence.
- The fact that the Giants beat the Dodgers in that game just makes it worse. It would have been much more poetic if the Dodgers had won the game by that one run the Giants lost as a result of the blunder.
- Sorry, but I don’t understand all the outrage over Yasiel Puig possibly making the All-Star Game. There certainly was no hubbub over Mike Trout making the team in 2012, when he started the season in the minors.
- If Puig makes the team, he has a far greater chance to impact the game than the five middle relievers on the AL ballot.
- Let me be the latest writer to whole-heartedly endorse the idea that all teams do not need to be represented at the All-Star Game. In fact, if home-field advantage for the World Series is at stake, all teams SHOULD NOT be represented. If your team is in the playoff hunt, do you want Travis Wood or Jason Castro possibly determining your team’s fate? Of course not. Get the best players, regardless of team. Because, you know, THIS TIME IT COUNTS. Or something. Whatever.
- Besides, why should the Marlins, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Twins, White Sox, Mets and Mariners – all teams 10 or more games below .500 – be rewarded for their ineptitude with an All-Star?
- You may have noticed that I did not include Matt Harvey in my starting pitcher options above. That would violate my idea that those eight terrible teams should not have a player on the All-Star team.
- Same goes for Wright, Castro, Wood, Carlos Gomez, Chris Sale, Jose Fernandez, Glen Perkins, Jesse Crain, Felix Hernandez, and Hisashi Iwakuma.
- Speaking of Iwakuma, it sure would be interesting to see what he could do with a decent supporting cast around him. Very underrated, effective pitcher (103-to-18 K/BB ratio, 12 quality starts).
- Speaking of underrated, how about Shin-Soo Choo’s All-Star snub? Reds fans are so worked up over Jay Bruce’s exclusion that they can’t seem to remember what a fine season their leadoff man is having (12 HR, 57 runs scored, .419 OBP).
- What a difference a couple of weeks can make. The Rockies have lost six of seven and can’t pitch. The Giants, in addition to their lineup bumbling, were no-hit by Homer Bailey and have lost five straight series. But they’re both ahead of the sinking Padres, who have lost nine straight games to drop into last place. Looks like the division is becoming the NL Worst again. The Dodgers are the flavor of the week right now, particularly after the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco.
- Meanwhile, the AL East has four teams with a better record than the NL West-leading Diamondbacks, and only Toronto is below .500 at 43-45. Each division will have fascinating races in these final three months, but for entirely different reasons.
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