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“It’s Not a Break:” My Selections for the 2012 American League All-Star Team

“I am a Major League Baseball All-Star. I didn’t get here by chance. I did not take the road of easy or the path of the painless. I worked hard to take this field, for my team, and for my league… Some call it an All-Star break. It’s not a break: we play on, because the battle for the postseason begins now.”

 

2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve watched a ballgame recently, chances are that you’ve heard this mantra repeated by baseball’s young elite, courtesy of MLB’s advertising division. Less than a month away, the MLB All-Star Game is a time to watch the sport’s biggest superstars in action, to reflect on their achievements during the first half, and to celebrate our nation’s pastime.

But the commercial is rather clear on one point: the Hunt for Red-White-‘n-Blue October begins after the Midsummer Classic ends. As the temperature rises, the competition will heat up, and the fans will become more reengaged with the postseason in sight. In the words of Fox Network’s past ASG ads, “this one counts,” so why not have the best players on the field with home-field advantage in the Fall Classic on the line? With two-plus months in the books, here are my starters for 2012 All-Star Game.

 

The American League

 

Catcher: AJ Pierzynski, CWS: Chicago’s backstop may not have Joe Mauer’s Head and Shoulders hair or his photogenic appeal, but the White Sox’s backstop deserves a ticket to his third All-Star Game. He is quietly putting up career-best numbers to back Chicago’s surprising chokehold on the AL Central.

 

First Base: Paul Konerko, CWS: His .379 batting average in May is the obvious reason why the White Sox are in first place, yet the South Side stalwart never receives his due for his excellent production and well-mannered approach to the game. After his explosive performance last month, there’s no way for Pauley to remain under the radar.

 

Second Base: Robinson Cano, NYY: He’s emerged as the young superstar in a loaded Yankees lineup, effortlessly stroking balls to the Stadium’s short porch while playing excellent defense. I almost gave the start to Rangers’ Ian Kinsler, a five-tool player with speed that Cano can only dream about. However, the Yankees’ second baseman was selected as the Home Run Derby captain after winning the event in 2011, and is therefore required to attend the Midsummer Classic in Kansas City.

 

English: Elvis Andrus, baseball shortstop for ...

English: Elvis Andrus, baseball shortstop for the Texas Rangers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus, TEX: I gave second base to a Yankee instead of a Ranger, so I will have to cede shortstop to Texas’ Elvis Andrus. Derek Jeter has overshadowed him for years, but Andrus is extremely underrated. He hits for average, steals bases, knocks in runs, and plays an impressive shortstop, an area where Jeter has fallen off in the twilight of his storied career.

 

Third Base: Miguel Cabrera, DET: While he’s a natural first baseman, Miggy’s transition to the hot corner has exceeded expectations. Yes, the Tigers’ defense has weakened as a result, but you have to get this guy in the lineup. Cabrera has arguably eclipsed Albert Pujols as the game’s best slugger, and is a natural choice to patrol at third with Konerko at first.

 

Left Field: Adam Jones, BAL: I took the liberty of ignoring specific outfield positions to allow for greater flexibility in my picks, and Adam Jones is a direct beneficiary from decision based on my obvious center-field selection. With an unexpected explosive start and a sizable contract extension, Jones has become the face of the resurgent Orioles and deserves to be an All-Star starter. I’ve already said that I don’t expect the Orioles to maintain their success, but let Jones and his team enjoy the limelight while it lasts.

 

Center Field: Josh Hamilton, TEX: Hamilton has validated the long-held adage that everything is bigger in Texas. If you haven’t heard of this guy, his eye-popping numbers (22 HR, 61 RBIs, .338 AVG through only 56 games), and his historic performance, you are not a true baseball fan.

 

Right Field: Jose Bautista, TOR: He came out of nowhere in 2010, hitting a league-leading 54 home runs and then another 43 long balls the following season. A slow start may detract from his All-Star candidacy, but Joey Bats has cranked out 14 HR and 33 RBIs since May 1st, raising his average from .186 to .230 during that span.

 

Photo by Icon SMI

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, BOS: My first reaction was to select Chitown’s Adam Dunn for the DH role; he’s made an incredible comeback from his horrific 2011 campaign with 20 home runs, second to only Hamilton in the majors. However, his .226 batting average is an eyesore, so Big Papi deserves to make his eighth trip to the Midsummer Classic. He has been the rock of a stumbling Red Sox club, a locker-room leader and a great presence in the baseball community.

 

Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander, DET: The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner has amassed 95 strikeouts and 10 quality starts in an MLB-leading 93.2 innings. He’s been the anchor of an inconsistent and underwhelming staff, one of the few threads holding the Tigers in contention in the AL Central. Other AL starters should include the White Sox’s breakout Chris Sale and reborn Jake Peavy, Yankees’ heavyweight CC Sabathia, and Tampa Bay’s flame-throwing David Price.

 

Relief Pitcher: Ryan Cook, OAK: With closers being highly overrated in today’s game, middle reliever never receive much attention, but their efforts in the late innings win or lose games. Hidden in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum, Cook reeled off 25.0 scoreless innings of relief before giving up two hits and two runs to the Twins on May 28th. He has not allowed a run since, giving him an exceptional 0.69 ERA and 0.85 WHIP with 25 strikeouts, 11 holds, and only 7 hits in 26.0 innings pitched. The A’s don’t have much talent on their team, making Cook their de-facto representative to the All-Star Game. Oakland’s baseball community should celebrate Cook’s success while it lasts; knowing Billy Beane, he’ll ship Cook away for some prospects before July 31st.

 

Closer: Fernando Rodney, TAM: The Rays’ aggressive player development and advanced scouting has built a successful system in which all players are interchangeable parts that can fit any fielding position or lineup spot. Rodney is the latest player to successfully slot into a role that has largely operated like a revolving door for the last four years. Once a washed-up reliever, Rodney is like the Ryan Cook of closers: 28.2 innings pitched, 0.94 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 18 saves (tied for second in the majors), only 3 earned runs, and a sparkling 5.2 K/BB ratio. Enough said.

 

Check BaseballReflections.com next week for my starters for the 2012 National League All-Star team.

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