27 April 2005

2005 All-Star Picks (BR)

That time of year again folks. Baseball season rules. No home-team bias, just the straight picks and why (stats current as of 4/26/05, 6:00 PM):

American League

First Base: Paul Konerko, CWS (.236, 7, 15)
Not just a smart rotisserie league pick. Konerko (1 appearance, 2002) is a smart ballplayer, fantastic with the glove and an enormous presence at the plate. Since Frank Thomas has taken up semi-permanent residence in the infirmary (I hear it's a pretty bad case of PMS), Konerko has been a godsend. Currently tied for the ML lead in home runs.

Second Base: Alfonso Soriano, TEX (.282, 3, 6)
This is a bit of a sentimental pick for me. If you're wondering who got the better end of the Soriano/A-Rod deal, consider that Soriano (3 All-Star appearances, 2002-04) is faster, younger, more exciting to watch and all at a third of the price. Plus the dude is a dead ringer for 50 Cent.

Third Base: Hank Blalock, TEX (.250, 3, 9)
Texas has a murderous infield if you're an opposing pitcher. Blalock (2 All-Star appearances, 2003-04) is a pick of mine not just for the All-Star team, but for the Hall someday. Averaged .287, 31, 100 his first two seasons, making only 17 errors last year at the hot corner.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, NYY (.361, 2, 11)
Even the Red Sox like this guy. Consummate performer, every inch a captain, only 30 years old. Poised to put up MVP numbers this year. Jeter (6 appearances, 1998-2002, 2004) has gotten on base 48% of the time so far in the young season, a statistical anomaly of Barry Bonds proportions. No steroids.

Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez, DET (.353, 2, 10)
Why anybody would give this guy a pitch to hit on the piss-poor Tigers is a noggin-scratcher, to be sure. Pudge (11 appearances, 1992-2001, 2004) keeps gettin 'er done anyway, hitting .334 for the perennial guardians of last place in 2004. Still the toughest dude in shinguards after all these years. A year after being the Tigers' only significant free agent acquisition, team record improved by 29 games.

Outfield: Vlad Guerrero, LAA (.347, 5, 15); Ichiro Suzuki, SEA (.355, 1, 5); Bernie Williams, NYY (.258, 1, 6)
Full disclosure: I was eight years old July 7th, 1991, when I saw Bernie Williams' (5 appearances, 1997-2001) major league debut against the Blue Jays, live at Yankee Stadium. He has top seniority of all Yankees and is the last remnant of a bygone glorious dynasty. He was named to five straight All-Star teams (1997-2001) and is 0-5 in the midsummer Classic. Bernie's best days are behind him but he's a class act, soft-spoken, no-bullshit kind of player, and an absolutely crucial factor to all the success New York's enjoyed in the past ten years. So my vote is a recognition of lifetime achievement more than anything.

Ichiro (4 appearances, 2001-04) and Vlad (5 appearances, 1999-2002, 2004) the mawfukkin' Impaler are two of the five best hitters in all of baseball. Last year hey both enjoyed a couple of the greatest offensive seasons we'll see while we're alive. And we see no signs of regression or cessation in terms of their individual greatness.

DH: David Ortiz, BOS (.277, 7, 16)
First time I've ever voted for a Red Sox. This dude (1 appearance, 2004) destroys everything in his path. DO NOT MESS WITH DAVID.

National League

First Base: Albert Pujols, STL (.311, 5, 15)
If he stays healthy, Pujols (3 career All-Star appearances, 2001-02, 04)will put up career marks to rival any hitter from any era. Ruthian numbers. If he could run, he'd be Willie Mays. Just a joy to observe as a professional hitter. I'd say that Todd Helton would come down to Earth if you got him out of Denver. If I started a team and had the pick of any position player first, I pick Pujols.

Second Base:Craig Biggio, HOU (.314, 2, 8)
Biggio (7 appearances, 1991-92, 94-97) is an ageless wonder, more than just a feel-good nostalgia pick. At 39 he still outperforms colleagues who were in diapers when he started all this gangsta shieeet. Hit 47 doubles for the 'stros last year, and who'd have thought he'd outlast Bagwell?

Third Base: Vinny Castilla, WSH (.359, 3, 12)
Castilla's (2 appearances, 1995, 98) off to such a torrid start as to quell the fears of cynics like myself who wondered if he could hit outside Colorado, where he led the NL in RBI last year. It'd be nice to see a rep from the Nationals in the starting nine, too.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes, NYM (.275, 3, 10)
I'll be honest: the shortstop crop in the National League this year does not excite me one bit. Rookie Clint Barmes is tearing it up, but he's a) a rookie and b) playing in Colorado. This seems like the year Reyes (0 appearances) breaks out of his shell and becomes an impact player and team leader. His production numbers seem like positive signals for things to come, and with the Mets fielding a competitive team this year - attendance is up, too - Reyes might get the visibility necessary to win the baseball electorate. Unless of course, All-Star voting is fixed, like any real election.

Catcher: Paul Lo Duca, FLA (.344, 1, 8)
Lo Duca (2 appearances, 2003-04) is easily the best hitting catcher in the league. And Mike Piazza is a prettyboy punk.

Outfielder: Carlos Beltran, NYM (.280, 3, 12); Juan Pierre, FLA (.313, 1, 6); Brad Wilkerson, WSH (.360, 3, 11)
In what must be some kind of record, Brad Wilkerson (0 appearances) hit 32 home runs for Montreal in 2004 only to drive in 67. No wonder; the anemic Expos never had anyone on base. Now, with the protection of Guillen and Castilla further down the lineup, Wilky - not your run-of-the-mill leadoff hitter - is thriving.

Pierre (0 appearances) is just his normal self so far this year. After his breakout on the national stage in the 2003 World Series, Juan only went on to collect 221 hits last year, compiling his third 200 hit/100 run/40 stolen base/.300 season in five years at the major league level. Amazing.

Beltran (1 appearance, 2004) will have a big season, and he deserves the distinction of the All-Star starting lineup based solely on his LCS performance from a year ago, but on my ballot, he's just a placeholder for his teammate Victor Diaz, the Mets rookie who's hitting .339, is 2nd in the league in runs scored, has picked up too many big hits already this season to mention, and whose playing time will almost certainly be cut in half when failed investment Mike Cameron comes back from the disabled list. Though New York fans, who don't agree on much, seem to have reached consensus that Diaz is the future and Cameron is not long for Flushing.



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