Monday, July 7, 2008

Evaluating the All-Star rosters

I am not going to be one of the numberless who calls out the all-star selections. For the first time I can remember, while there will always be some deserving players left out I have little argument with these teams. I will however discuss some of the most glaring omissions and also a few different moves I would have made with the roster.

The Final Vote
Fans have a chance to vote for the 30th man on each squad till July 10th. All of the 10 candidates (5 in each league) are possible deserving candidates but I believe two from each league are especially deserving. The situation is the same in both leagues. Each league has a guy I chose to start in the game as well as a third baseman I see as a stronger candidate than the current backup. In the NL, its Carlos Lee and David Wright. Carlos Lee was in my starting National League outfield and despite his defensive shortcomings, his offensive numbers are ridiculous as always. David Wright could have made it over Aramis Ramirez in the numbers department. He is also such a great spokesman for the MLB and a huge fan favorite that his selection always enhances the marketability of this all-star game. In the Al, its Jermaine Dye and Evan Longoria. The case can be made that Dye has had more of an impact on the first place Sox, than already all-star Carlos Quentin. Quentin is absolutely deserving, but why not also reward one of the most quietly consistent guys and players in the game. With Longoria, you have a guy who has just gotten really hot as of late and didn't even start the season with the big club. They should have just replaced the undeserving White Sox third baseman Joe Crede with Longoria. People are just starting to realize he immense potential and his current production, which makes him the Rays first half MVP.

Deserving omissions not up for the Final Vote

In the NL:
As I said, I like the rosters, and I specifically like the NL team, but there are always guys who can make their case. I really think Brandon Phillips was deserving as a 2nd baseman but they had to take both Guzman and Tejada as backup shortstops. There really is not enough room for many of these guys. Both Xavier Nady and Jason Bay deserved similar consideration that their Pirates outfield mate Nate McLouth got. The one grievance where I can legitimately identify a guy to take off the roster to add a player is with Jair Jurrjens. When you have a sub 3 ERA you better be on the All-Star team. End of discussion. Brian Wilson of San Francisco and his over 4 ERA has no business being in New York. It isn't like the Giants are struggling for a representative. They already have Tim Lincecum on the team and he could have started for the National League. Unfortunately, it looks like Jurrjens and a few others got robbed because of the sentiment against rookies that they will "have time to make plenty of all-star teams."

In the AL:
I liked the AL roster slightly less, but if I am comparing it to past rosters, it was picked very well. Aubrey Huff got robbed. Baltimore was able to hang for awhile because of him. I really thought Daisuke should have been there but I have Red Sox fans telling me the opposite, so I guess I am wrong. Jason Varitek is an absolute joke on the All-Star team. If they wanted another catcher it could have been A.J. Pierzynski or they could have just picked a more deserving star. The AL team has way too many closers, but I can't give a definite guy to replace them pitching wise after I was rebuffed by Sox nation on my Daisuke idea. I would have switched out Jeter and Pedroia with Kinsler and Young, but nothing anyone can really do about that. All I have to say in closing on the American League is Joe Crede can't end up being on the team without Evan Longoria.

NL Starting Pitcher
How is Edinson Volquez not starting this game for the National League? It looks like just another example of a rookie bias in awarding any sort of awards in sports. Brandon Webb is a fine pitcher, he has had a great season, and a great career, but Volquez is untouchable. Fortunately, he does get to go to the game and he will probably be the first reliever out of the pen for the NL

Other than that, the home run derby is shaping up very nicely. Lance Berkman, Dan Uggla, Grady Sizemore, Chase Utley and Josh Hamilton will be joined by three others. I think they could have done a little better selecting the Futures Game rosters, but it still should be a good chance to evaluate some top prospects. It should be a great all-star week.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fireworks forseeing the Future

Tonight, I watched the various displays that light up the night skies of the 4th every year over my Pompano, Fl home. They made me wonder where I would be watching similar displays in the years to come. I pondered my personal future, the future of our country, and the future of my friends. Pouring over all of this, the fireworks gave me a great sense of comfort and order. After all, I believe, no matter what, those fireworks will always be there on the 4th. Big and small, every shape and every color, and with every sound such explosives have been known to make, they like us and our country, shall press on. In that case, if the fireworks remain in the sky, we should never fail. The big fireworks are big dreams which continue to be fulfilled everyday. The small fireworks are small dreams, equally satisfying to the dreamer and sometimes carrying a greater impact for societal well being. For the fireworks that split off in every direction like a branched tree, they represent the ability of one to touch many. The fireworks that stick together in one solid burst portray the ability of one to strongly affect one. The loud thud of some reveals the power of one to stand alone in the spotlight for change, for freedom, and for philanthropy. The short scream of others shows the grassroots efforts for good that are possible. America, as we know it, is built upon the fabric of all of these fireworks. Francis Scott Key said, "He will therefore seek to establish for his country in the eyes of the world, such a character as shall make her not unworthy of the name of a nation." I wish this for myself, all I know and hold dear, and all Americans. I believe if we continue on the road in which Key described, we will always see fireworks in the night sky. The sign of illumination every first week in July will signify that we, as Americans, kept our freedoms, our virtues, and our pride in the previous years' time. I know that wherever I watch fireworks in the future, I will be in a good place. I know that because I plan to always value the worth of being an American.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My NL All-Stars

Here are my picks for the National League All-Star team. The National League has always been my favorite league so these picks will probably be a tad better than what you saw for the junior circuit. Again I abide by all traditional selection rules (Yes, the Nationals do get an all-star, imagine that.)

C-Geovany Soto (.284, 13, 48)
There are a few guys that have had good seasons as far as NL catchers are concerned, but Soto’s season stands out for its uniqueness. No one since Mike Piazza in 1993 has won the NL Rookie of the Year as a catcher. It is such a great crop of rookies and Edison Volquez is going to have something to say about the award, but make no doubt about it, Soto is the best rookie catcher since Piazza. To see a rookie catcher come in and handle a pitching staff like the Cubs that has them in first place is exactly why Soto should see himself starting in Yankee Stadium.

1B-Lance Berkman (.361, 22, 68, 12 SB)
This is, by far, the most stacked position in either league. Pujols, Gonzalez, Fielder, Howard, Jacobs, Lee, Teixeira, and Votto could all make compelling cases to make the team and not even half of that list will make the team. This position should definitely yield the biggest All-Star snub that will be debated on hours of ESPN programming. Berkman though has stood out head and shoulders in front of a remarkable group. His all around statistical compilation should perhaps have people talking as much about him winning the NL Triple Crown as they do about Josh Hamilton winning the AL version. Add to the Triple Crown category the 12 stolen bases, which for a big man like Berkman, is unbelievable. Fat Elvis is getting it done this year for sure.

2B-Chase Utley (.298, 23, 65)
It is a two man race in the National League at second base, and Utley comes out at the break by a nose. What Dan Uggla has been able to do after struggling to start the year just speaks of his momentous hot streak ability, but Utley has picked up right where he left off last year. We could be talking about the reigning NL MVP had he not gotten hurt down the stretch last year, but Utley is once again bidding for the award his teammates love. I would say that Uggla has a great chance to be the starting DH for the game in the AL home park.

SS-Hanley Ramirez (.298, 20, 41, 20 SB)
Does 20/20 at the break equal 40/40 at the end of the season? It probably does for Ramirez, who is quietly one of the top 5 players in the game. A tremendous speed/power combination, many think he will one day he will be the first to 50/50 in a season. I would say the only barrier to this is the cavernous Dolphins Stadium, where Ramirez just signed an extension to call Miami home for quite a while. It will be great to see this Marlin in his first all-star game this season

3B-Chipper Jones (.393, 16, 46)
With respect to David Wright, this race ended after the first month of the baseball season. Jones has gotten wide notoriety for flirting with .400, and this could be the season in which he has cemented his future Hall of Fame candidacy and induction. Not many think that Jones can actually hit .400 over a full season, but he has kept it going deeper in the season than anyone has in awhile. Most importantly, there is no way he wouldn’t win the fan vote. This guy is the talk of all water cooler/fringe baseball fans this year.

OF-Ryan Braun (.278, 20, 58), Carlos Lee (.287, 18, 63), Ryan Ludwick (.284, 16, 56)
While this wouldn’t be the most aesthetically pleasing outfield in terms of defense, boy, these guys can rake. This won’t be how it works out in the fan voting, so Clint Hurdle won’t have to concern himself with the defensive shortcomings. Braun started tremendously slow, but has shown as of late that there will be no sophomore slump. Mr. El Caballo, Carlos Lee, is always one of the most consistent run producers in the league. And then we get to…Ryan Ludwick? Ludwick has already topped his career highs in HR and RBI and is the first half MVP of the surprising Cardinals. One can only wonder where this guy came from, but for Cardinal fans like myself, it’s just one final testament to the success of Walt Jocketty.

C-Brian McCann (.298, 14, 45)
1B-Adrian Gonzalez (.288, 21, 68), Albert Pujols (.355, 17, 47)
2B-Dan Uggla (.289, 23, 58), Brandon Phillips (.284, 14, 51, 16 SB)
SS-Miguel Tejada (.289, 10, 43), Christian Guzman (.315, 5, 27)
3B-David Wright (.288, 16, 65)
OF-Nate McLouth (.282, 15, 53), Alfonso Soriano (.283, 15, 40), Corey Hart (.293, 14, 52, 12 SB)

Starting Pitcher- Edison Volquez (10-3, 2.24, 113 K)
This guy is just unprecedented baseball history in live action. A rookie who could start the All-Star game and win his leagues’ Triple Crown needs to be watched carefully. Pitchers like Volquez come around maybe once every 20 years. What a swap of Edison Volquez for Josh Hamilton in the off-season. I would have to say both teams should be pretty happy with what they got. Hamilton may be the best hitter in baseball this year and Volquez is possibly the best pitcher.

Rest of Staff
Tim Lincecum (9-1, 2.38, 114 K)
Dan Haren (8-4, 2.85)
Brandon Webb (12-4, 3.21)
Ben Sheets (9-2, 2.83)
Jair Jurrjens (8-3, 2.94)
Carlos Zambrano (8-3, 3.13)
Aaron Cook (11-5, 3.38)

Brad Lidge (19 svs, 0.82)
Billy Wagner (19 svs, 1.85)
Hong-Chih Kuo (3-1, 1.94)

These guys could make their case: Russell Martin, Bengie Molina, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Mike Jacobs, Derek Lee, Mark Teixeira, Joey Votto, Mark DeRosa, Jose Reyes, Garrett Atkins, Jorge Cantu, Troy Glaus, Aramis Ramirez, Mark Reynolds, Rick Ankiel, Jason Bay, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Matt Holliday, Xavier Nady, Chris Young, Johan Santana, Ryan Dempster, Cole Hamels, Todd Wellemeyer, Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Lohse, Kerry Wood