Saturday, June 30, 2012
Crystal ball: All-Star Rangers
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- On Sunday afternoon, we'll find out the roster for the 2012 All-Star Game. Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington has been analyzing numbers, talking with his coaching staff and front office personnel and figuring out his final reserve spots on the club. The fans and players have voted, too, and we'll see how many Rangers make the squad. Let's take a look:
Josh Hamilton: He's a lock to start the All-Star Game. The only question is if he garnered enough votes to break Jose Bautista's mark last year for the most fan votes in history (here's betting he passed him). It will be Hamilton's fifth consecutive starting spot and he's earned it based on a ridiculous April and May.
Mike Napoli: Joe Mauer has better numbers, but Rangers fans -- and others caught up in "NAP-O-LI" fever -- have helped lift Napoli into the lineup based largely on his ridiculous second half of 2011 and not his first half 2012 numbers. He had a huge lead -- nearly 1.3 million votes -- on Monday.
Adrian Beltre: This was a closer battle with Miguel Cabrera, who will need a late charge to make up what was about a 380,000 deficit. Beltre has started an All-Star Game before, but as a replacement last year for Alex Rodriguez. This would be his first start as voted in by fans.
Matt Harrison: He's earned it with a solid and consistent first half. Harrison is tied for the league-high 11 wins and is top-10 in ERA at 3.16. He's in the game.
Joe Nathan: I put him in the lock category. He's earned a spot here as someone who's been just about as automatic as they come since that first week of the season. There are plenty of good relievers in the AL, but every team needs a bunch of them. Nathan should get in.
Ian Kinsler: The second baseman was leading Robinson Cano in voting until last week. Assuming Kinsler doesn't start the game off a late charge, he could certainly get there as a reserve. He's a versatile leadoff hitter whose main job is to score runs. And no one in the league has scored more. Jason Kipnis gets a look too, but both of them could make it.
Elvis Andrus: He's not going to catch Derek Jeter for the starting spot, but Andrus is in the mix to back him up. The players have some tough choices on this one with Asdrubal Cabrera having a good first half, too. But Andrus has a better average, has scored more runs and leads all shortstops in stolen bases. Cabrera, though, has more power with 11 homers and is still near .300 in batting average. Again, both could make it.
ON THE BUBBLE
Yu Darvish: The 25-year-old Japanese star says he doesn't deserve an All-Star bid and personally, I agree. If you look at the numbers, there are plenty of more deserving candidates. But it sure would be fun to see Darvish pitch in an All-Star Game, wouldn't it? He leads all rookies in wins and is in the top-5 in strikeouts. Still, his ERA, WHIP and walks (he leads the league in that category) and the fact that every team has to have a representative could leave him without a ticket to the game.
Michael Young: The players appreciate what he's done and his versatility. He's a lot more than a DH, though that's the category he falls under. Still, there are others with better numbers that should get consideration: Billy Butler at KC is batting .298 with 15 homers and 47 RBIs and he plays on the team hosting the game. Edwin Encarnacion has 22 homers, 55 RBIs and a .289 average. We'll see what the players decide here. But don't forget that if the skipper wants someone who is flexible and can play all the infield positions, that's Young.
Nelson Cruz: He was in a close battle with Bautista for the third and final starting OF spot, so it's still possible he could start. Outfield is deep, so if he doesn't get the starting nod, I'm not sure he gets in as a reserve thanks to some first-half slumps. But he is fifth in RBIs among OFs and a power threat.
Robbie Ross: Ok, you folks are right. Ross deserves at least a mention here. I think there are too many pitchers that probably need to go ahead of him, but the rookie is 6-0 with a 1.08 ERA. He would give Washington a left-handed arm out there and a guy that doesn't walk people.