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Weekend Buzz: Summer ball's hot, but some All-Star picks are overheated


Derek Jeter is having a great year, but Scott Miller says Elvis Andrus should be the AL shortstop. (US Presswire)  
Derek Jeter is having a great year, but Scott Miller says Elvis Andrus should be the AL shortstop. (US Presswire)  

The sweltering summer Weekend Buzz, while you were loading up on ice the way they loaded up on All-Star votes in San Francisco and Texas.

Talk about slumps, you fans look like Albert Pujols in April: I say voters this year got only six of 17 positions correct. That's down from going 14 for 17 last year. ...

American League

Catcher: Mike Napoli, Rangers My pick: Matt Wieters, Orioles

What once was nothing but a Cowboys town with a few delicious barbecue and Tex-Mex joints scattered about now pays close attention to baseball, which is yet another miracle performed by Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels and the rest of the whip-smart Rangers brass. Napoli, last October's cult hero, is Exhibit A of how seriously Texans now take their baseball. But this isn't last October, and Napoli ranks behind Wieters, the Twins' Joe Mauer and even the White Sox's A.J. Pierzynski if you're ranking All-Star catchers. My vote goes to Wieters, who right now is as good a complete catcher as there is in the league. He's been behind the plate for 65 of Baltimore's 70 games, while Mauer has been only a half-time catcher (35 games behind the plate, 18 as DH and 14 at first). Pierzynski didn't even make the team. He should have.

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First base: Prince Fielder, Tigers My pick: Paul Konerko, White Sox

Konerko has made a career out of being woefully underappreciated (that is, everywhere but Chicago) the way Kim Kardashian has made a career out of being grossly overappreciated (for no apparent reason). Fielder's similarly big booty aside, Konerko has a better OPS (.969 compared to Fielder's .856), more homers (14 to 12), was tied for the AL batting lead on Sunday (.336) and ranked second in on-base percentage (.413). He's having another marvelous year. And while Prince's big bat and bigger smile always are welcome at the All-Star Game, and while he was the MVP last year in Arizona, Konerko deserves the start.

Second base: Robinson Cano, Yankees My pick: Cano

It's official: Everything is bigger in Texas, except at second base. Even Rangers fans, with Ian Kinsler leading the league in runs scored, couldn't out-vote their Yankees counterparts at second. Justice is served, though: Cano is the best there is both offensively and defensively. And he's going to win an MVP award one of these years.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, Yankees My pick: Elvis Andrus, Rangers

Jeter has reached the point of his career where he's scooping up Lifetime Achievement awards. Andrus and the Indians' Asdrubal Cabrera deserve the start over Jeter, but what are you going to do? I'd go with Andrus. But if you go Cabrera, I won't argue. We can meet over a couple of plates of burnt ends at Arthur Bryant's BBQ in Kansas City and hash it out. I like Elvis because of Suspicious Minds, er, I mean, because while he doesn't have the power of Cabrera, he steals more bags and he's graceful as a gazelle in the field.

Third base: Adrian Beltre, Rangers My Pick: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

OK, I'll admit it: It's the All-Star Game, and I'm going with the stick here. Cabrera continues to produce smash hits the way Motown did in the 1960s. Yep, Beltre may have more gold in his glove (by a longshot), but the way Miggy does the things he does at the plate ... it's like a heat wave. The guy is tied for second in the AL at 62 RBI, seventh in batting average at .315 and ninth in slugging percentage at .541 ... oh, and he leads the league with 99 hits.

Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Rangers; Curtis Granderson, Yankees; Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. My Picks: Hamilton, Bautista; Mike Trout, Angels.

As dear old Meat Loaf sang, two out of three ain't bad. Hamilton, with his 73 RBI and a gazillion homers in May, is a no-brainer. Bautista, aka Joey Bats, leads the majors in home runs and has finally caught up to his slow start. But both Trout and the Orioles' Adam Jones have credentials that out-weight Granderson.

Jones is seventh in slugging percentage (.554) and tied for fourth in total bases (170) with Cabrera.

Trout has turned the Angels around more quickly than you can say "faster than a speeding bullet." Superman? So far, heck yes. Not recalled until late April, Trout is tied for the AL lead in batting average (.336) and leads the league in steals (22). Since he's only 20, by the way, it's "Mr. Meat Loaf" to Trout.

Designated hitter: David Ortiz, Red Sox My Pick: Ortiz

Big Papi owns the DH position the way the Kennedys once had a grip on politics in New England. Only Texas' Hamilton (1.038) has a better OPS than Ortiz's (1.006) in the AL. Poor guy is the last man standing from Boston's 2004 World Series champion team. Isn't it a hoot how the Indians (Derek Lowe, Johnny Damon) currently stock more players from that team than do the Red Sox?

National League

Catcher: Buster Posey, Giants My pick: Carlos Ruiz, Phillies

Great to see Posey back, healthy and productive. Last year was lonely, when ESPN's Olney was the only Buster producing in the baseball world. But Ruiz, always a gem behind the plate, is having a career year offensively. Without him producing the way he is, the disappointing Phillies would trail even the Toledo Mud Hens in the standings. And kudos, as usual, to the Cardinals' Yadier Molina. You can't spell "All Stars" without "Yadier." Wait ... there is a "Y" in "All Stars", right?

First base: Joey Votto, Reds My pick: Votto

Another MVP-type season. Here's hoping his knee cooperates and allows him to play.

Second base: Dan Uggla, Braves My pick: Brandon Phillips, Reds

Whaaaat? Phillips isn't even on the team? Who will make all of the highlight-reel plays at second base in Kansas City next week? Frank White's not even around anymore (which is a shame, by the way).

One highly respected baseball man wondered earlier this year whether bringing back a retired manager -- Tony La Russa -- to pilot the NL in a game that decides World Series home-field advantage is what MLB should be doing. Among the many legitimate questions he asked: Might La Russa, who now has no dog in the fight as it relates to the World Series, be more inclined to hold old grudges?

Personally, I think La Russa has too much integrity for that. He did, after all, invite Brewers manager Ron Roenicke to be on his coaching staff. But in leaving both Phillips and pitcher Johnny Cueto on the sidelines -- both of whom were involved in ugly brawls with the Cardinals -- La Russa already has a target on his back in Cincinnati.

Still, one thing to keep in mind, as colleague Danny Knobler points out: La Russa used one of his picks to choose the Reds' Jay Bruce, and he did not select any Cardinals.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal, Cardinals My pick: Jed Lowrie, Astros

I know the Astros this year are more invisible than the keys to the batting cage, but have you seen what Lowrie is doing? He's having a marvelous summer. He's got the best on-base percentage (.349) and slugging percentage (.490) of any NL shortstop; he's got more homers (14); he's playing terrific defense. What more does the guy need to do (besides play somewhere other than Houston)? You'd think a guy who once played in Boston wouldn't drop off the radar so quickly. By the way, the Nationals' Ian Desmond is having a very nice year, too.

Third base: Pablo Sandoval, Giants My Pick: David Wright, Mets

What are you people in San Francisco trying to do, give Panda carte blanche to devour more eucalyptus leaves, burritos and hot fudge sundaes? I mean, really. Here the Giants are, fighting a losing battle to convince Panda he needs to drop weight and keep himself in better shape so that he can become the player he should become, and you all go and pull the rug out from under the organization by voting him into the All-Star Game as a starter. Now how do the Giants convince him?

Giants coaches: "Hey Panda, your range at third base stinks. You need to stop eating so much."

Panda: "Buuurp!"

Seriously, Wright is having a sensational season. He's second in the NL in batting average (.355) and on-base percentage (.449), and seventh in slugging percentage (.564) and tied for seventh in RBI (50). No way he should not be starting.

Outfield: Matt Kemp, Dodgers; Carlos Beltran, Cardinals; Melky Cabrera, Giants. My Picks: Beltran, Andrew McCutchen, Pirates; Ryan Braun, Brewers.

Ryan Braun finished behind Melky Cabrera because San Francisco fans rocked the vote ... or maybe because fans harbor residual anger over Braun's failed performance-enhancing drug test last winter? Looking at Posey's and Sandoval's appearances, I'd say it's pretty clear it's the former. When it comes to computer voting, Silicon Valley holds a distinct home-field advantage. Now if you tabulated votes based on how many bratwursts were grilled for each player and Braun, on pace to match last year's MVP numbers, still lost ...

McCutchen is producing about 35 percent of Pittsburgh's runs by himself (runs scored plus RBI). Beltran, fourth in the majors with 61 RBI, clearly deserves a starting spot. Kemp will pass because of a bad hamstring.

Cabrera? Sensational season, and the Giants certainly killed the Royals in that trade. (Jonathan Sanchez has one win.) No question, he's an All-Star. Just one request: Forget the MelkMen, Cabrera's wacky male fans who come in costume to AT&T Park. How about if Cabrera brings the MelkMaids to Kansas City with him?


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