Before I get into this week's column, I'm taking a minute to fill out an All-Star ballot at mlb.com, with some interesting results.
After three weeks of the season, you'd be hard-pressed to find a first baseman worthy of representing the AL at this year's game in Detroit. Pretty sad. Chicago's Paul Konerko (seven HRs, .236 average) and Texas' Mark Texeira (five HRs, .229 average) both have big power numbers. But in a surprise move, I'm going with Toronto's Eric Hinske, who's hitting a respectable .290 with three HRs, 13 RBIs and a couple of steals. I really thought about this one.
For my middle infielders, I don't need to think too hard because a couple of Orioles – 2B Brian Roberts and SS Miguel Tejada – are not only the best at their respective positions right now, they're arguably the two best offensive players in the game. Tejada leads the majors with 23 RBI through 20 games, one better than Roberts, who also has a career-high seven HRs as well as nine steals and a .378 average. No-brainers, both of them. I don't even know who else is on the ballot.
Third base, I'm taking Detroit's Brandon Inge, because he's off to a good start, and because I refuse to vote for Alex Rodriguez, or any other Yankees for that matter, on principle.
Catcher, you could make a convincing case for Boston's Jason Varitek. I'm voting for Javy Lopez, because it's my ballot and I can do what I want.
Tempting as it is to pick a former Oriole – David Dellucci or Calvin Pickering – at DH, there are really only two choices here. I'm taking Detroit's Dmitri Young over Toronto's Shea Hillenbrand, because I want to give Young the chance to start in front of his hometown fans, and because I don't want anyone to suspect that I'm a closet Blue Jays fan after that iffy Hinske pick.
Moving on, the outfield is always the toughest position to pick. You've got 42 names (let's say 40, because Juan Gonzalez and Magglio Ordonez are just taking up space here) and only three picks. So rather than looking at lots and lots of stats – bo-ring – or turning this into a popularity contest, I'm going to pick three players at random by closing my eyes and dragging my mouse over the candidates. First choice … Hideki Matsui. Wait, that doesn't count. OK, for real this time – first pick … Minnesota's Jacque Jones. Hey, not bad. He's batting .396. Next up … Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff. Hmmm, OK. Not bad. The Devil Rays need some love. And finally … this is kind of like playing with a Ouija board … Ichiro. Perfect. Great hitter, never gets the votes he deserves. All in all – with due respect to Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero and Gary Sheffield – that's a darn good outfield. A couple of those guys might actually end up in Detroit in July.
Next week, we'll tackle the NL ballot. For now, a quick look at all the fantasy goings-on.
The Orioles have gotten better-than-expected production thus far from their starting pitching, particularly from Rodrigo Lopez, Erik Bedard and Bruce Chen. But the continued struggles of Daniel Cabrera have to be a concern, especially given the lofty expectations placed upon the 6-foot-7 right-hander entering his second season in the majors. Cabrera has a 7.65 ERA and has had just one quality start in his first four outings. His troubles can be traced to a lack of command his 15 walks allowed rank third-worst in the AL, and he tends to leave balls over the plate when his control heads south, resulting in a cringe-inducing 2.20 WHIP ratio.
No one doubts that Cabrera has great stuff a fastball that tops out around 97 MPH, for starters and he turned plenty of heads with his 1.64 spring ERA. Those numbers make it easy to forget that he's 23 years old and was pitching at Double-A Bowie at this time a year ago. He's going to be a good major league pitcher some day soon, maybe a great one, but the Orioles can't afford to stick with Cabrera if he can't turn things around in his next few starts. He'll be skipped this time through the rotation because of Wednesday's rainout, so maybe that will do some good. If it doesn't, John Maine (3.77 ERA, 14 Ks in three starts at Triple-A Ottawa) or even Eric DuBose (1.29 ERA in two starts at Double-A Bowie) could get the call soon.
This weekend's matchups
at Tampa Bay at Baltimore
Toronto at New York Yankees
Boston at Texas
Kansas City at Cleveland
Detroit at Chicago White Sox
Los Angeles Angels at Minnesota
Seattle at Oakland
New York Mets at Washington
Florida at Philadelphia
St. Louis at Atlanta
Chicago Cubs at Houston
Cincinnati at Milwaukee
San Francisco at Pittsburgh
Arizona at San Diego
Colorado at Los Angeles Dodgers
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