Hello everyone, it’s time for my one and only AllStar break update. I have to sandwich this between a ThursdaySunday vacation I just took in which I had no Internet access and a flight to San Diego tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. So I’ll do what I can in talking about my teams and their headlines.
- Jeff Francoeur got traded to the Mets? Seriously?
- Carlos Pena competed in last night’s Home Run Derby, where he narrowly missed advancement to the second round. Albert Pujols would like to thank the fan who brought an out over the wall and turned it into a home run. Pena had a bad pitcher, Scott McNulty, who threw the ball outside 90% of the time. And he’s an assistant baseball coach at my school. Maybe I should interview him about the experience. I’ll leave out the “bad pitcher” part.
- Speaking of the Home Run Derby, I thought Nelson Cruz, who lost in the finals to Prince Fielder, was quite impressive. Looking at him, I can see that he’s a good allaround player with an easy power swing. I would like to see him go on to big things. He has already shot up from “FourA” journeyman to AllStar.
- Despite my approximately 3,300 votes for Pena, he did not win the Final Vote. I also voted against Shane Victorino because he’s a Phillie, but he won anyway. I would like to thank Dustin Pedroia for opening up a spot for Pena, though I’m surprised Ian Kinsler isn’t there. He should be, he deserves it.
- The Rays stand at 4841, 3.5 games behind the Yankees and six games back of the Red Sox. They have started slowly making their move lately, though the last place Oakland A’s have inexplicably given them a lot of trouble. At least here there was no long losing streak prior to the AllStar break. The Braves are 4345, a half game ahead of the Mets, which is hilarious. I hope the Mets crash and burn for the rest of this season. And beyond.
- Jeff Francoeur got traded to the Mets? Seriously? He was sent packing for Ryan Church in Thursday night’s trade, the first between the Braves and Mets in more than 15 years. Francoeur had been on the chopping block for several weeks as the Braves had run out of patience, but I never thought they could send him to the enemy. Church didn’t think he would be a Brave either, but here he is. He’s been the better player since last year, and his lefthanded bat gives the Braves options between him and righthander Matt Diaz. This may be a good deal.
I’ll be watching the AllStar Game tonight as I pack for San Diego. I’ll be staying for six nights at a little family reunion in Escondido. We should be seeing about 30 of our relatives, including a few that I haven’t met. Hopefully we have some baseball fans in the house. News just broke that Evan Longoria, the first ever Rays starter in an AllStar Game, is out due to an infected ring finger. I hate that for him and the team. Good luck to the remaining Rays and Brave in the game tonight, and until I’m back, go Rays.
Rather than dwelling on the embarrassing Rangers series and the Rays giving back their goodwill as they are ever so accustomed to doing, I would like to address the 2009 AllStar Game and its participants. Four Tampa Bay Rays, breaking last year’s record of three, made it into the game with the possibility of a fifth.
Evan Longoria won the voting at third base by a landslide, and for good reason. He has hit 21 home runs and is up about 20 points on his batting average in 2009. He is still doing just about everything he did last year and making his case as a top MVP candidate. Congratulations to the first ever Tampa Bay starter in an AllStar Game. Now do us proud.
Jason Bartlett was voted in as a reserve shortstop by the players. He should have been the starter, and would have been if not for the reputation and Yankee votes for Derek Jeter. He is hitting around .360 with eight home runs he had one last season and has stepped his game up in just about every possible way. And he was already the team MVP last year.
Carl Crawford is another very deserving name. Hitting around .320 for most of the season, Crawford now has eight home runs and a blistering 41 stolen bases. Add a few more walks and he would be Rickey Henderson. This lineup falters without a jump start from him. This will be his third AllStar appearance.
Ben Zobrist was a controversial, but sensible, selection by Joe Maddon. Not even a regular starter for nearly two months, Zobrist has hit home runs and done all the right things when games were on the line. He has 16 home runs, eight stolen bases and about a .400 onbase percentage. He has elevated himself in literally every facet of the game. Just like in the regular season, Maddon can play him in several different spots here. And I know he is not the guy to let this get to his head.
Carlos Pena can also be voted in as part of the Final Vote on MLB.com. He leads the league in home runs and usually plays an outstanding first base. I would like to see him finally have this honor and share it with many other Rays and their loyal fans.
On the Atlanta Braves front, they only managed one representative: catcher Brian McCann, who had the credentials to start despite a slow start to the season due to eye injuries. Those have obviously since been corrected. He has been the bright spot in the lackluster offense for the Braves. Chipper Jones is still doing well, Yunel Escobar is having a good year and Nate McLouth was a welcome boost, but McCann is gluing them all together. He has also had to work with a 60 percent turnover in his starting rotation and has done a very good job with them.
I think the biggest name left out was the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler. He was only hitting .255 as of tonight, but was already near 2020 and has been the spark plug to the Rangers in the absence of Josh Hamilton (who won a starting job anyway). He is in the Final Vote, but I have to vote for Pena. Our apologies to Mr. Kinsler, though his team beating the Rays makes me feel less sorry for him.
Here are the starting lineups:
C Joe Mauer
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Dustin Pedroia (Should have been Kinsler)
SS Derek Jeter (Should have been Bartlett)
3B Evan Longoria
OF Jason Bay
OF Ichiro Suzuki
OF Josh Hamilton (Should have been Crawford or Torii Hunter)
C Yadier Molina (Should have been McCann)
1B Albert Pujols (Obviously)
2B Chase Utley
SS Hanley Ramirez
3B David Wright
OF Ryan Braun
OF Raul Ibanez
OF Carlos Beltran (Will not play due to injury; replacement to be announced)
On an unrelated note, I would like to mention that pitcher Alex Koronis has made his professional debut with the Princeton Rays as a lateinning reliever. The former Tampa Spartan earned a save in his debut on June 30 and has pitched two scoreless outings. This is the first time that I can say a player that I covered, no matter how briefly, has gone on to bigger things. In addition, former Spartan Jose Jimenez hit his first professional home run with the Arizona League Angels on June 23. Keep it up, guys.
Now we have to find out who the starting pitchers and the final men will be. I’m voting for Pena and alternating between Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval and Matt Kemp. Anybody but Shane Victorino because we don’t need any more Phillies. Congratulations to the All Stars, and until next time, go Rays.
The Atlanta Braves soundly defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the opening game of 2009 by a count of 41.
Derek Lowe pitched an absolute masterpiece, going eight innings allowing only two hits and no runs. He only had four strikeouts, but that’s just Lowe being Lowe. He allowed zero walks as well. Mike Gonzalez did allow a run before proving his worth with big strikeouts of Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez with the tying run on base.
How about that Jordan Schafer? He came up against Brett Myers and hit a home run in his first Major League atbat! He became the 99th MLB player ever to accomplish this, and the first Brave since the one and only Jermaine Dye back in 1996. Not only did Schafer do it, he hit it to the opposite power alley in left center field. In Citizens Bank Park. It gets no better than that.
Brian McCann and the reformed Jeff Francoeur also hit early bombs in support of Lowe. McCann’s was an absolute cannon shot into the second deck that followed a great atbat from Chipper Jones. Francoeur tagged Myers on the first pitch of the second inning on a line drive into the left field seats. Sure enough, he was spraying the ball around all night.
Now the Rays will march right into Fenway Park and manhandle the Red Sox in similar fashion. That is, if I have anything to say about it. The Braves and Phillies meet again Tuesday night, weather permitting. Until next time, go Rays and Braves.