Here it is, my annual stab at the All-Star teams. Don’t care a bit how the fans or the players vote. Or that Royals fans have tainted the process by voting for players who are undeserving.
This is my team.
Every year the e-mails come in — “How could you leave off . . . ” And my response is, “If you’d like to put that guy on your team, go right ahead.”
For me, the selection process is partly about who is deserving and partly about who provides entertainment. It is, after all, an exhibition game. It’s supposed to be fun.
Here’s who I’d like to see:
1B: Prince Fielder (Texas, AL); Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona, NL).
Miguel Cabrera would have been my choice at first base for the AL, but he’s on the DL. Fielder has had a remarkable comeback season, second in the league in average and third in OPS. Goldschmidt, in the words of Diamondbacks chief of baseball Tony La Russa, “is as good as any player in the game.”
2B: Jason Kipnis (Cleveland, AL); Dee Gordon (Miami, NL).
Terrific comeback year for Kipnis, who hit about a hundred points lower last season when he was dealing with nagging injuries. Gordon has been a dynamic player, hitting above .350 for much of the season.
SS: Jose Iglesias (Detroit, AL); Brandon Crawford (San Francisco, NL).
Iglesias has played mind-boggling defense and spent most of the year hitting in the .320s as predominantly the No. 9 hitter in the Tigers’ lineup. Crawford has continued his great defense and has hit at a high level in the often underrated Giants lineup.
3B: Josh Donaldson (Toronto, AL); Nolan Arenado (Colorado, NL).
Donaldson has infused leadership and life into the Blue Jays’ clubhouse and lineup. An all-out player, he’s having an excellent statistical season and has made some daredevil plays at third base. Arenado has blossomed into an old-fashioned power-hitting third baseman with elite defense.
C: Stephen Vogt (Oakland, AL); Buster Posey (San Francisco, NL).
Vogt gets picked mostly for his offense. He’s been consistent with the bat all season. He’s a compelling story, a guy who got a late jump on the majors after many years in the minors. Posey is the best all-around catcher in the game.
LF: Brett Gardner (New York, AL); Joc Pederson (Los Angeles, NL).
When Jacoby Ellsbury went down, Gardner really stepped it up. He’s hitting above .300, steals bases, and his defense has been superb. Pederson has pure raw power. Want to see that power in the All-Star Game so I moved him from center to left.
CF: Mike Trout (Los Angeles, AL); Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh, NL).
Two of the best young veterans in the game. Trout makes it happen with speed, power, and defense. So consistent. McCutchen is also one of those fun-to-watch players who loves playing the game.
RF: Nelson Cruz (Seattle, AL); Bryce Harper (Washington, NL).
The regular voting has Cruz as the American League DH, but he’s played most of his games in right field for the Mariners. Got off to a great start power-wise before slowing down. Harper joins Goldschmidt as perhaps the best players in the NL right now. At 22 years old, Harper is one of the bright new faces of baseball.
DH: Alex Rodriguez (Yankees, AL); Todd Frazier (Cincinnati, NL).
A-Rod is pure entertainment value for me — how the crowd reacts to him, having Rodriguez and Pete Rose in the same venue. He’s also earned it with a surprisingly good first half. Frazier hits the long ball, which makes him a good choice for NL DH.
AL: Brian McCann (New York), Russell Martin (Toronto), Xander Bogaerts (Boston), Jose Altuve (Houston), Lorenzo Cain (Kansas City), Brian Dozier (Minnesota), Adam Jones (Baltimore), J.D. Martinez (Detroit), Mark Teixeira (New York), Jose Bautista (Toronto), Albert Pujols (Los Angeles), Mike Moustakas (Kansas City).
Bogaerts deserves an All-Star bid. He’s really come into his own both offensively and defensively and like Harper, at 22, looks to be special. He’s a very confident player, playing like he did when he was a top prospect in the minors. Love Jones and Bautista coming off the bench. Altuve is exciting.
NL: Francisco Cervelli (Pittsburgh), Derek Norris (San Diego), Starling Marte (Pittsburgh), Anthony Rizzo (Chicago), Adrian Gonzalez (Los Angeles), Jhonny Peralta (St. Louis), Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado), A.J. Pollock (Arizona), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee), Joe Panik (San Francisco), Denard Span (Washington), Joey Votto (Cincinnati).
Toyed with starting Tulowitzki but that would take away from Crawford’s all-around season. Rizzo is establishing himself as one of the best players in baseball and I love the way Panik plays the game.
AL: Felix Hernandez (Seattle), Chris Sale (Chicago), Dallas Keuchel (Houston), Sonny Gray (Oakland), Chris Archer (Tampa Bay), David Price (Detroit), Yovani Gallardo (Texas), Glen Perkins (Minnesota), Huston Street (Los Angeles), Wade Davis (Kansas City), Zach Britton (Baltimore), Hector Santiago (Los Angeles), Scott Kazmir (Oakland).
I would start King Felix because of his standing in the game and the fact he’s having another good season. Really impressed with Gallardo’s assimilation to the American League. Davis has had another great season as a setup man.
NL: Zack Greinke (Los Angeles), Max Scherzer (Washington), Shelby Miller (Atlanta), Gerrit Cole (Pittsburgh), A.J. Burnett (Pittsburgh), Jacob deGrom (New York), Michael Wacha (St. Louis), Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco), Mark Melancon (Pittsburgh), Trevor Rosenthal (St. Louis), Drew Storen (Washington), Jeurys Familia (New York), Cole Hamels (Philadelphia).
Would start Scherzer. Said this before, but the contract the Nationals gave him was money well spent. He’s lived up to it. Sure it’s a half-season, but he’s got a great track record.
AL: Alex Gordon (Kansas City), Alcides Escobar (Kansas City), Eric Hosmer (Kansas City), Salvador Perez (Kansas City), Yoenis Cespedes (Detroit), Josh Reddick (Oakland), Mookie Betts (Boston), Kyle Gibson (Minnesota), Ubaldo Jimenez (Baltimore).
NL: Justin Upton (San Diego), Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles), Lance Lynn (St. Louis), Carlos Martinez (St. Louis), Jake Arrieta (Chicago), Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati), Matt Harvey (New York).
CITY THAT NEVER KEEPS
Toronto could use recruitment help
Is it the tax complications, going through customs, the turf, the dome, the city? Why do potential free agents really have to be convinced to play in Toronto? (Unless you’re Russell Martin, of course, and you live there.)
Josh Donaldson, who was traded from Oakland and is enjoying the best year of his career, is thumbs-up on Toronto.
“I went from one of the toughest ballparks to hit in Oakland to one of the best here,” Donaldson said. “I have no problem with Toronto. It’s a beautiful city. It offers a lot, especially here downtown with great restaurants. I haven’t had one issue here.”
“Once you do it once or twice, what’s the big deal? It’s something you have to do so it becomes part of your routine. I can’t imagine that would be an issue,” Donaldson said.
Jose Reyes’s only gripe about Toronto is the turf and the wear and tear it causes on his legs.
“They’re supposed to put real grass in in 2018 but in 2018 I’ll be a free agent,” said Reyes. “It’s a nice city. I have a lot of good friends here. When I was a free agent, and because I play the game with my legs, I told my agent Toronto is out because of the turf. And then I go to Miami for a year [another turf field] and then get traded over here. But this is my home field and I have to find a way to play my best.”
Reyes said he doesn’t know the reason free agents spurn Toronto. But players are taxed at a high rate for playing half of their games there.
The other major factor is the Blue Jays haven’t made the playoffs since 1993, after winning their second consecutive World Series title, and have finished higher than third in the AL East just once since those glory days.
“I think what keeps free agents away is that they haven’t been competitive,” said a person associated with the team. “I think if you show them that you’re serious about winning, players will come here. It is a cosmopolitan city with a lot to offer. Do you have to overpay? Maybe, but players, once they become free agents, want to go to winning teams.”
The Jays currently need a starter and a reliever. It just seems GM Alex Anthopoulos has to go through corporate layers to OK big expenditures, slowing the process considerably.
Players always want to know that their ownership is doing all it can to produce a winner. The Jays have that chance this season. It seems that whichever AL East team can make the right choices on personnel before the trading deadline will have a leg up on pulling away from the pack.
Apropos of nothing
1. Among the players teams are asking the Blue Jays about include Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna, Kevin Pillar, Aaron Sanchez, Miguel Castro, Dalton Pompey, and Devon Travis. It will take some combination of those to acquire a starter and/or closer.
2. Are the baseballs harder and bouncier in the Manfred era than the Selig era? There’s a sense that the balls feel different this year. “To be honest, I’ve never seen such inconsistent balls,” said a Red Sox coach. “You grab for a ball and you have no idea what you’re going to get.”
3. When the Padres acquired the Uptons, you just had to shake your head and ask why. Now you wonder whether Justin Upton will be on the move in a trade soon since he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season.
4. Delmon Young was DFA’d this week. He would be a nice fit for the Giants if the Orioles could swing a deal. This is the second outfielder the Orioles have had to move. They also DFA’d Alejandro De Aza, who has been a success with the Red Sox. One of the good things about being a last-place team is you get first choice of players placed on waivers.
5. If you’re Andy MacPhail, how do you let Ruben Amaro make trade deadline deals if he’s not your long-term GM?
6. It’s amazing to me that three guys who missed all — or almost all — of 2014 are having great seasons: Alex Rodriguez, Prince Fielder, and Jose Iglesias. Rodriguez has been the most impressive given his age (39). Fielder has returned a better hitter, learning to spray the ball to all fields, while Iglesias is having nice offensive season to add to his superb defense.
7. Nothing’s official but it looks like the Red Sox may open in Cleveland in 2016. Also under “not official,” it appears the Red Sox may be headed to Montreal for a pair of exhibition games at the end of spring training next year.
8. Speaking of Montreal, the city is getting its financial plan together for plans for a downtown ballpark. With Tampa Bay attendance getting worse by the year and Oakland’s ballpark situation also in limbo, Montreal may have a good shot at a relocated team.
9. The Phillies, A’s, Reds, and Rockies have a chance to really clean up if they trade their veteran assets.
10. Any team with a veteran pitcher to deal wants to make a deal with the Astros. Lots of talent in that organization.
Updates on nine
1. Trevor Gott, RHP, Angels — A few weeks ago the Phillies thought they had a deal with the Angels that would have sent Ben Revere west for Gott, who was then in Double A. The Angels pulled out of the deal at the last minute and tried to redirect the Phillies toward a starting pitching prospect, but that fizzled as well.
2. Jason Grilli, RP, Braves — He’s one of the closers the Blue Jays are looking at. He’s had a good year, can be used as a setup guy or closer, and his cost wouldn’t be as much as say, Jonathan Papelbon or Francisco Rodriguez. The Braves aren’t offering Grilli yet, feeling they’re still in the race.
3. Matt Harrison, LHP, Rangers — Remember when Harrison was considered one of the best lefties in baseball? That wasn’t long ago. The fact he’s coming back after two back surgeries and thoracic outlet syndrome is a miracle in itself. Harrison is scheduled to make his first major league start since May 13, 2014, on Tuesday against Arizona. Harrison had a tough go of it in six rehab starts — 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA and 43 hits allowed in 34⅔ innings. Harrison signed a five-year, $55 million deal with Texas with a club option in January of 2013. Since then he is 1-3 with a 5.79 ERA in six starts.
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers — With teams such as the Mets and Angels in need of a third baseman, don’t bet against Ramirez moving before the trading deadline. Ramirez has publicly stated this is his final year. He probably wouldn’t mind going out with a good second half for a playoff-bound team.
5. Koji Uehara, RP, Red Sox — If the Red Sox don’t get back in the race, they will have a good market for Uehara. “Nobody knows what the Red Sox are going to do because they don’t know what they’re going to do,” said one NL executive. “They’ve got a few players teams would want.”
“Uehara has pitched very well and has really come back all the way from the second half of last year.”
6. R.A. Dickey, RHP, Blue Jays — Dickey is in the final season of his contract, but there’s a $12 million team option for 2016. Every indication is that either the team will buy it out for $1 million and/or the struggling Dickey could call it a career. He turns 41 in October.
7. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, White Sox — There’s always so much debate on where he fits on a pitching staff. He’s not a No. 1 and he’s not having the best of seasons, yet he’s one of the more discussed and desirable pitchers on the trade market.
Kansas City, Houston, Detroit, and others are in on him.
Scouts are constantly at his games so he may be the first starting pitcher moved ahead of the trading deadline.
8. Ian Kennedy, RHP, Padres — Kennedy is 4-7 with a 4.86 ERA, but he’s allowed only four earned runs in his last four starts and is starting to garner some interest as a possible trade deadline acquisition. Kennedy is 30 and can become a free agent at the end of the season. He makes $9.85 million this season.
9. Cole Hamels, LHP, Phillies — Hamels would likely not accept deals to Houston or Toronto. Yet if those are the only options he has, would he say no? Or would he really prefer to be stuck in Philly through a rebuilding process? The Astros and Blue Jays weren’t contenders when Hamels first put them on his no-trade list.
Hamels has always been willing to go to Boston even though the Red Sox are one of the teams on the list.
From the Bill Chuck files — “This season, batters are hitting .247 against David Price with the bases empty and .247 against him with runners on base.” Also, “In June the AL East went 81-57 as each team played at least .500 baseball with the worst record belonging to the 14-14 Red Sox.” And, “Since the start of the 2014 season, the leading RBI producers with runners in scoring position are two ex-Red Sox: Adrian Gonzalez (121) and Yoenis Cespedes (114).” . . . Happy 59th birthday, Rick Lancellotti.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.