The All-Star game is right around the corner, as you may know, and it is at my favorite team’s stadium.  Chase Field, of the Arizona Diamondbacks is hosting the 82nd Mid-Summer Classic.  It marks the first time the 13-year-old franchise will host the All-Star game.  It is about time.  The stadium is really a site to see with the huge turning murals in the outfield, retractable roof and trademark pool just beyond the right-center field fence.  If you have a chance to go see the game at Chase, of just a regular season game, I highly recommend it.

On to which players should have the honor of playing in the All-Star game.  I only have one rule when it comes to whom to vote for, have fun with it!  Fan voting, after all, is meant to establish which players the fans want to see, not necessarily who is playing the best this year.  Remember that iconic image of Alex Rodriguez motioning Cal Ripken, Jr. over to play short stop, his original position, in what would end up being Cal’s final year in the Majors?  Well that would not have happened if the All-Star game was played by the players who were absolutely playing the best baseball at their position that particular year.  Fair or not, it’s the truth.  The All-Star game is meant to showcase the players the fans want to see. Now if you want to argue that it is counter-intuitive to the notion of making the All-Star game worth something by deciding home-field advantage in the World Series by which league wins the All-Star game, go ahead, I will not be stopping you.

So, in review, I recommend that you vote for the players that you want to see.  If that means you want to see an injured and playing terribly Derek Jeter hobbling around at short for the AL, by all means, vote for him.  But I like to vote for players that I do not necessarily get to see play on a weekly basis because of the small market they are in or because they are having a break out year and the average fan has not recognized it yet.  So given those parameters, here are my selections:

American League:

C- Alex Avila (Detroit Tigers): Avila has quietly been the best catcher in the league this year with a .301 BA, nine HR’s and 39 RBI’s.  Plus, he is very good defensively. I would love to see him in the game since Joe Mauer has been injured all season.

1B- Adrian Gonzalez (Boston Red Sox):  Ok, I can see A-Gon play whenever I want really, but I mean come on, the guy is ripping the cover off the ball.

2B- Ben Zobrist (Tampa Bay Rays): The guy is still flying under the radar in my opinion even though he has had three straight great years.  He started off slow this year but has turned it around for a scorching late April, May and June that included an 8 RBI game.

3B- Adrian Beltre (Texas Rangers): So much for the “only in contract years” stigma for Beltre.  He has been a force in a stacked Ranger lineup.  I have voted for Longoria three years straight but Longoria has been struggling too much to justify the vote so Beltre it is.

SS- Derek Jeter (No, I am NOT serious!):  My real vote went to the Cleveland Indians Asdrubal Cabrera, who has been one of the few short stops that has been an offensive weapon this year.  While Andrus and Sexy Alexei prompted some thought, I eventually went with Cabrera.
OF- Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays): Do I really need to say anything? I am not sure I have ever been more wrong on a player.  Bautista has continued to smash home runs at an incredible pace (although he has slowed down recently, there is still hope for me yet).
OF- Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees):  He is an exciting player with both power and speed and while the short left-field porch in Yankee Stadium has obviously helped, he still deserves an All-Star nod.
OF- Carlos Quentin (Chicago White Sox): Another quietly great year from Quentin.  He has 17 HR’s and 47 RBI’s already for a team that was struggling mightily offensively for much of the year.  He has kept the offense afloat long enough to keep the Sox in the race.  He deserves the nod.
DH- David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox): The mere fact he is still playing is kind of a surprise but at the pace he is hitting, it is downright shocking.  One last All-Star appearance is in order for Big Pap

National League:

C- Miguel Montero (Arizona Diamondbacks): Now, I know you are thinking this is a homer pick, but I honestly think he deserves to be an All-Star.  Brian McCann has obviously been his great self this year, but Montero has 8 HR’s, 37 RBI’s, 33 runs and a .284 BA while batting mostly in the 6th hole or further down the lineup.  He even batted in the 8th hole for a good stretch of games.  As ridiculous as that was, it was not Montero’s fault and he should be rewarded for his persistence.

1B- Joey Votto (Cincinnati Reds): I was listening to ESPN’s Baseball Today podcast last week and was astonished to find out that many of the other listener’s did not feel Votto was a superstar. I will not stand for it. Vote for him!

2B- Neil Walker (Pittsburgh Pirates): Second base has been incredibly pitiful in the NL save for Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips.  But one bright spot has been young Neil Walker who has been formidable in the surprisingly good Pirates lineup.

3B- Chipper Jones (Atlanta Braves): While second base has been bad, third base in the NL has been much worse.  David Wright, David Freese and Ryan Zimmerman have been hurt while others have disappointed.  There really is not one standout that has risen above the pack (unless you count Pujols and the six games he has played there).  So given a chance, why not give Chipper a last All-Star game nod.  He has 40 RBI’s for a pretty bad Braves lineup while hitting seven home runs.  In a down year, give it to a career great player.
SS- Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado Rockies): I honestly tried to find a way to justify voting for Stephen Drew, who is having a very good year, but Tulow is just too good offensively and defensively.
OF- Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers): According to Baseball-Reference.com (which I spend at least 5 hours on a week) Kemp is leading the NL in Wins Above Replacement which is designed to approximate how much value Kemp has over the average player in the Majors.  He has absolutely been incredible and deserves to be an All-Star.OF- Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates): While Kemp leads the NL, McCutchen comes in second while leading the Pirates to a .500 record. Yes, it would be insane to have two Pirates, Walker and McCutchen, starting in the All-Star game (it will not happen) but it should! They have been playing very good baseball.
 OF- Justin Upton (Arizona Diamondbacks): Hey! I am allowed one homer pick! Honestly, Upton has been having an absolutely fantastic year and is on a tear recently.  He is hitting .295 on the season with 12 HR’s, 13 Stolen Bases, 42 runs and 37 RBI’s.  He also leads the league in walk-off hits with four and has greatly improved defensively.  He deserves to be an All-Star.

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