The Week Ahead: Stuff the All-Star ballot box

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Do you think Chris Davis should start at first base for the AL in the
All-Star game? Would you like to see Manny Ramirez in the NL outfield?
Well you better get busy, because time is running out on your
ballot-stuffing opportunities.

The cutoff mark for voting for the July 14 game in St. Louis is Thursday night at 11:59 p.m. ET.
That gives you four full days to get Willie Bloomquist a spot in the AL
lineup. If it doesn’t happen, it’s all your fault, because you won’t
find an election this easy to influence outside of Iran.*

*This is not true: Everyone is allowed to vote 25 times, which
really only serves to inflate the total numbers. Now if only, say,
Pirates fans were allowed to vote 25 times, and everyone else only
once, then we would have a scandal. (pick a LaRoche brother, any
LaRoche brother!)

So log on to MLB.com and let your voice be heard. Rock the vote!

From a more serious angle, there are some interesting races in the final days of voting. (You can see the AL numbers here), and the NL numbers here.)

In the AL, you have the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira with a lead of less than
40,000 votes over the Red Sox’s Kevin Youkilis at first base. And
Texas’ Ian Kinsler with about a 60,000-vote lead on Boston’s Dustin
Pedroia at second base.

The NL appears to be more settled, with the closest race being
between Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano for the third outfield spot.

The aforementioned Ramirez, currently on suspension and starring for
the Inland Empire 66ers, is languishing in 6th place among NL
outfielders. Though he does have the most votes of any current member
of the California League. So he’s got that going for him, which is
nice.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

  • Rays at Blue Jays, June 29-July 1: The great Roy
    Halladay returns from the DL for Toronto on Monday. Both of these teams
    are solid, but neither one has been able to mount an attack on the Red
    Sox in the AL East. This series could give us an idea if it will happen
    at all.
  • Angels at Rangers, June 29-July 1: The
    Angels, riding a five-game winning streak, have finally take over first
    place in the AL West. Now Texas has a chance to take it back.
  • Brewers at Cubs, July 2-5:
    If ever there was a chance to throw the simmering Cubs’ clubhouse into
    a full-blown meltdown, the Brewers have it with this four-game series.
  • Mets at Phillies, July 3-5:
    For all their struggles and injuries the Mets still enter the week only
    two games behind their NL East rivals. Can they make up ground?
  • Mariners at Red Sox, July 3-5:
    The Mariners should have been preparing a fire sale. Yet here they are,
    entering the week just three games out of first place despite dealing
    with a host of injuries and a two-man offense (Ichiro and Russell
    Branyan). Will they still be there after this week?

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:08 p.m. ET: Mets at Brewers (ESPN)
Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.: Giants at Cardinals (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Tigers at Twins (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mets at Phillies (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Padres (FOX)
Sunday, 1 p.m.: All-Star selection show (TBS)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Brewers at Cubs (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Rays at Rangers (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Report: Braves sign Kurt Suzuki

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 20: Kurt Suzuki #8 of the Minnesota Twins hits against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Braves reportedly have a deal in place with free agent catcher Kurt Suzuki, per Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that the contract is for one year, $1.5 million with up to $2.5 million in additional incentives.

Suzuki, 33, completed a three-year track with the Twins in 2016, slashing .258/.301/.403 with eight home runs in 373 PA. The veteran backstop likely won’t provide an offensive or defensive upgrade over current starter Tyler Flowers, but should give the Braves some depth at a position they’ve been looking to strengthen since the start of the offseason.

The team has yet to confirm the deal.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.