Barry Bonds is going to get his share of All-Star votes, but he won't get any from me.
The National League ballot has its share of injured superstars Bonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Lance Berkman, Ken Griffey Jr. wait, he's not hurt yet.
It also has an abundance of deserving picks, making my job of naming the NL All-Star team for April all the more difficult. But I'm not one to shy away from a tough task, so here we go.
First base. Hmmmmm, OK. Pass.
Let's start with something easier, say second base, where L.A.'s Jeff Kent gets the nod from a deserving group that also includes Washington's Jose Vidro and Philly's Chase Utley. Kent's .330 average and six homers to date make him the logical choice.
San Francisco's Edgardo Alfonso got off to a scorching start, Washington's Vinny Castilla has had his moments and Atlanta's Chipper Jones deserves consideration as well. But there's no better man to man third base than NL newcomer Troy Glaus of Arizona.
Shortstop is no contest, with Colorado's Clint Barmes, the leading hitter in the big leagues at .416. the runaway winner. Same story at catcher, where Florida's Paul Lo Duca is really the only player worth selecting. Those who feel inclined to vote for Mike Piazza here should try to find themselves a 2000 ballot, on which you can vote for Piazza with a clean conscience and also pick favorites of seasons past such as Eric Karros, Ellis Burks and Ray Lankford. Otherwise, forget about it.
As was the case last week with the AL, the outfield is far too tough to pick using conventional methods. There are too many good players and too few spots. So just like last week, we'll go to the highly unscientific 'blind mouse method,' in which I close my eyes and drag the mouse over the ballot to select three players at random. And the winners are Kenny Lofton, Philadelphia. Ouch. That 2000 ballot would come in handy right about now. Next up Milton Bradley, L.A. Not bad. Six homers, .323 average and a chip on his shoulder. I like that. There are worse outfielders I could and already did pick. And finally Adam Dunn, Cincinnati. Very respectable; Dunn leads all NL outfielders with eight HRs. With all due respect to Carlos Beltran, Jim Edmonds and the very deserving Cliff Floyd, it seems my highly unorthodox approach has succeeded again.
Which brings us back to the infield and the difficult question Who's on first? Even after you throw out some of the game's biggest names Jim Thome, Carlos Delgado, Sean Casey I doesn't get any easier. Even Milwaukee's Lyle Overbay (.355, five HRs, 16 RBIs), a perfectly legitimate candidate, doesn't get a sniff here with Chicago's Derrek Lee and St. Louis' Albert Pujols in the mix. Pujols (.333, 6 HRs, 20 RBIs) gets a long look but no love, as Lee has better numbers in every offensive category, including a .416 batting average and an NL-best 30 RBIs. Looks like he's our guy.
So there you have it, an official All-Star ballot cast, and no little paper baseballs to pick out of your nachos. And now, to help you pass the two and a half months before the 2005 All-Star game in Detroit, here's a quick look at what's going on in the world of fantasy baseball.
The streak finally ended Monday night, and that wasn't such a bad thing. The same night the O's run of eight consecutive wins came to an end, so too did Sammy Sosa's streak of eight games without drawing a walk. Sosa worked three base on balls from Blue Jays pitchers in five plate appearances on Monday, a rare display of patience for Baltimore's hard-swinging right fielder.
On Sosa's first day in Baltimore, when he was proudly introduced at a warehouse news conference, I told a reporter from Chicago that if Sosa could remain patient at the plate, wait for his pitch, hit to the opposite field on occasion, he could really help the Orioles. The reporter laughed "Not going to happen." And for the most part, he was right. Sammy does what Sammy has always done take big cuts, strike out, ground into double plays and occasionally knock one into the stands.
But maybe Sosa is onto something with this gentler, more discerning approach. Take a few more pitches, draw a few more walks, bring that .327 OBP up a few ticks. Eventually pitchers, not eager to face Javy Lopez with Sosa on base, will be forced to throw Sosa more pitches to hit. That can only lead to good things, something better than a couple of walks.
This weekend's matchups
Kansas City at Baltimore
Oakland at New York Yankees
Seattle at Boston
Chicago White Sox at Toronto
Minnesota at Tampa Bay
Cleveland at Texas
Detroit at Los Angeles Angels
Washington at San Francisco
Houston at Atlanta
Philadelphia at Chicago Cubs
Colorado at Florida
New York Mets at Milwaukee
Los Angeles Dodgers at Cincinnati
San Diego at St. Louis
Pittsburgh at Arizona
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