The Fourth of July Weekend All-Star Buzz while you were slicing the watermelon, smoking the ribs, avoiding the firecrackers (hey, let's all be careful out there) and patting yourselves on the back for doing such a nice job on the voting (according to this judge, you were correct on 14 of the 17 positions on the ballot). ...
Catcher: Alex Avila, Tigers
My pick: Avila
Market correction? A Supreme Being in All-Star heaven? Sudden lack of interest by Yankees fans? The past month, the Yanks and Red Sox were on target to supply seven of the AL's nine All-Star starters. But somewhere in the last week, Russell Martin's, ahem, approval rating dropped and Avila slipped in. Which is exactly the way this should have played out. The underrated Tiger clearly is the most deserving: Into Sunday, he led all AL catchers in batting average (.293), RBI (43), slugging percentage (.538) and doubles (15) and is handling the pitching staff skillfully. Ace Justin Verlander is so impressed, he started an Avila All-Star Twitter campaign. Maybe that's what turned this thing around.
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First base: Adrian Gonzalez
My pick: Duh
Gonzalez isn't simply an All-Star, he's the runaway AL MVP at the midway point. His .353 batting average is second in the majors by a point (to the Mets' Jose Reyes) and his 74 RBI lead the majors (he's on pace for 144). The way he's going, the Red Sox might have gotten a bargain with that seven-year, $154 million extension.
Second base: Robinson Cano, Yankees
My pick: Robinson Canoe (as Derek Jeter affectionately calls him)
Nobody has a knack for sticking his foot in his mouth as deeply as Alex Rodriguez. And so, when A-Rod told reporters that Jose Reyes is the best player "in the world" during this weekend's Subway Series, of course he offended some in his own organization. Namely, general manager Brian Cashman, who quickly noted in response that Cano was the best player on the field in the Yankees-Mets series. Pick your sides -- Reyes or Cano -- but one thing is clear: Cano is the best thing going at second in the AL this year, with the Angels' Howard Kendrick and Boston's Dustin Pedroia next in line.
|Gonzalez is hands-down the winner at AL 1B, and the league MVP. (Getty Images)|
My pick: Eduardo Nunez, Yankees
Kidding! Heel, Jeter Nation! Few outside of the Greater Cleveland Metropolitan area seem to be hip to this guy yet, but the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera deserves to start if we're discussing this year's production and not a lifetime achievement award. Cabrera hits for power (14 homers), he runs (12 steals), he's a magician with the glove. (As for Nunez, the guy went 7-for-8 with a homer and three doubles in the first two games of the Subway Series and the Yankees into Sunday were 17-3 in games Jeter did not start. God really does have a sense of humor, doesn't He?).
Third base: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
My pick: Cameron Diaz's boyfriend and popcorn buddy
There really is no debate here. Move along. A-Rod is the guy. In fact, this position is so underachieving in the NL that maybe some rules could be bent so A-Rod could play third for both leagues.
My picks: Bautista, Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
Bautista and Granderson are slam dunks. Hamilton? Given the time he missed with that broken arm and Ellsbury's production, Boston's guy should be The Guy. Into Sunday's game, the two were very similar in the traditional Big Three stats: Hamilton was batting .301 with 10 homers and 40 RBI, Ellsbury was at .300/9/40. But Ellsbury had scored more than twice as many runs (57-28) and stolen seven times as many bags (28-4). I know, Hamilton's OPS is more than 100 points better (.916-.814), but given service time this summer, Ellsbury is the guy. Meanwhile, here's a shout-out for Kansas City's Alex Gordon, too -- who didn't even make the team, but is among those who could still be voted in by fans.
Designated hitter: David Ortiz, Red Sox
My pick: Big Papi
No-brainer. Next.NATIONAL LEAGUE
Catcher: Brian McCann, Braves
My pick: McCann
He was the MVP of last year's game in Anaheim, and he remains the steady hand in the middle of Atlanta's order. The Cardinals' Yadier Molina, who deservedly was picked as a backup, is a distant second.
First base: Prince Fielder, Brewers
My pick: The Fresh Prince of Milwaukee
The game is stacked at first base, but Fielder this year outranks Cincinnati's Joey Votto (who should be designated the NL's DH by manager Bruce Bochy), Philadelphia's Ryan Howard and St. Louis' Albert Pujols. Fielder right now probably is the NL's MVP, which makes it 2-for-2 as far as MVPs who are first baseman (see above, Adrian Gonzalez). Check out Fielder's June alone: He led all major leaguers with 10 homers and 27 RBI.
Second base: Rickie Weeks, Brewers
My pick: Weeks
So, so close between Weeks and Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips. Weeks is having an outstanding season. But if you factor in the glove, and not only the bat ... you've gotta go Phillips, right? Hmmm. Offensively, Weeks is out-homering his NL Central rival 14-8, has a better slugging percentage (.472-.427) and, as leadoff man, has scored more runs (59-52). But Phillips edges him in on-base percentage (.346-.345), has 12 more RBI (45-33) and a better batting average (.296-.276). Then there is the glove, where Phillips unquestionably is better. To me, this is the closest call of any position in either league. I'll go Weeks because of the role he's played in pushing the Brewers into a first-place tie (entering Sunday's games). And it's pretty cool for Milwaukee to produce three All-Star starters for the first time.
|It'll be a shame if the hamstring keeps Reyes off the field in Phoenix. (Getty Images)|
My pick: Reyes
Come on, give the guy Carl Crawford money already. What a season! ... NO, WAIT! His hamstring went again over the weekend. The Mets must trade him! It would be stupid to give that set of hamstrings that kind of money! ... This debate will rage more than the old less filling/tastes great the rest of the summer. The only certain thing is this: If Reyes' hammy keeps him out of next Tuesday's game in Phoenix, we're all losers.
Third base: Placido Polanco, Phillies
My pick: Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
Can you say "contract year" for Ramirez? It's close enough -- no way the Cubs pick up Ramirez's $16 million 2012 option. Odd that the Phillies probably will pull into the All-Star break with the game's best record and not have one starter, but there again is a testament to their killer rotation. Fans voting Polanco over Ramirez isn't the worst thing in the world given the mediocrity of this position in the NL, but Ramirez's offensive numbers are better, and there isn't a huge gap between the two defensively (though Polanco is better with the glove).
My picks: Ditto
Fans, take a bow in going 3-for-3 here. Braun, the leading NL vote-getter, is having another superb season with the bat. Kemp is making MVP noise for a brutal (and bankrupt) club. And Berkman is having a sensational comeback season.