The American League’s dominance of the All-Star game is startling. Undefeated since 1996, the casual observer might assume they were playing against a college team, not the National League’s best players. Ever since Bud Selig made World Series home-field
The American League’s dominance of the All-Star game is startling. Undefeated since 1996, the casual observer might assume they were playing against a college team, not the National League’s best players. Ever since Bud Selig made World Series home-field advantage contingent on the All-Star game’s result, it has aided the AL in the World Series as well. Simply put, the impact of home-field can’t be underestimated. As the 2010 edition approaches and lineups are announced July 4, here’s the starting lineup that, regardless of whether or not they’ll be voted in, gives the AL the best chance of continuing their dominance in The Midsummer Classic.
Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee, Mariners- Due to the sheer number of pitchers, this is always a difficult spot to select. This year is no different, as many players are having great years, making it hard for players to separate themselves. The slightest of nods goes to Lee because of his dominance of late, pitching three straight complete games. He’s also a sentimental favorite after recovering from an injury that kept him out for the first month of the season; if not for that setback, his total of seven wins could be far higher. Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Lee is if he’ll even be in the American League by the time of the All-Star game; he’s a prime candidate for a trade, and the Mets and Dodgers of the NL have been discussed as possible destinations.
If not Lee, David Price, the league ERA leader, would be an excellent selection. He has quickly gone from an uncertain talent to the undisputed ace of the Rays. This honor would be the culmination of his ascendance.
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Twins- As long as Mauer stays healthy and continues to play near his potential, this position shouldn’t be in much doubt in the years to come. He has established himself as one of the game’s best players and the only thing lagging so far this season is his number of home runs. After suffering a nagging injury at the beginning of the season, his power production should dramatically increase in the second half of the season.
First Base: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers- This may be the hardest selection of any position in the league; either Cabrera or Justin Morneau would be a very worthy selection. Although his batting average is slightly lower than that of the former AL MVP, Cabrera gets the nod because his 20 home runs and 68 RBI compare favorably to the 16 and 52 for Morneau.
Second Base: Robinson Cano, Yankees- An MVP candidate on the best team in baseball, Cano is having an absolute breakout year. His .353 average leads the league and no other second basemen is close to his power totals of 16 home runs and 54 RBI.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Red Sox- Beltre has enjoyed a resurgence this year after leaving Seattle. With a .346 average to go along with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, and always a steady glove, Beltre gets the nod over Evan Longoria.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter, Yankees- In a great contrast to the American League’s abundance of talent at shortstop in years past, there is not a single AL shortstop hitting .300 this year. Although he’s underachieved thus far at the plate, Jeter is the choice due to superb defense (second highest fielding percentage of any shortstop in the league) and continued leadership on the best team in the majors. Also, although his offensive numbers are a disappointment for him, he still ranks in the top three for his position in every important category.
Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Rangers- After a sub-par, injury riddled 2009 season, Hamilton is returning to the form expected of him with a staggering season thus far. A Triple Crown candidate, he is hitting .340 with 19 home runs and 58 RBI. This would be Hamilton’s first All-Star trip after his dazzling display in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008.
Outfield: Brennan Boesch, Tigers- The fact that the unknown Boesch won’t actually be voted in is irrelevant here. In his first full season, the left-handed power hitter is batting an amazing .340 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI.
Outfield: Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners- Suzuki continues to do what he’s best at: getting lots of hits, leading the American League with 107 to go along with his .331 batting average. Suzuki has many other tools that don’t always show up in the box score, including incredible speed, great range in the outfield, and the most feared outfield arm in baseball.
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