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

Must-Click Link: The Turbulent Final Year of Yordano Ventura’s Life

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 23:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals reacts in the sixth inning while taking on the Toronto Blue Jays in game six of the 2015 MLB American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 23, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Kansas City Star has covered the death of Yordano Ventura and its aftermath in a thorough, thoughtful, respectful and admirable fashion and it has all been compelling to read, even if it’s often been difficult to read. Their latest story may be the most difficult, though it is nonetheless essential.

It covers the final year of Ventura’s life which, sadly, was tumultuous. He had become estranged from his family. He was married to a woman who, at the time of the ceremony, was still married to her first husband and whose family, allegedly, later made threats against Ventura that we’re only now learning about. This includes allegations of armed men accosting Ventura at his home near the Royals spring training facility a year ago. An incident which led to him missing time due to “flulike symptoms,” but which, in reality, caused him considerable mental distress. He was again threatened, it is claimed, in Kansas City during the season. There is also an allegation that Ventura attempted suicide via an overdose of Benadryl, though that is disputed.

Beyond that, there is an arc to the end of Ventura’s life which sounds unfortunately familiar. It’s a story of a young man whose life changed dramatically in a very, very short period of time and who struggled at times to process the changes. Were it not for a fateful drive on a dark and winding road one night in late January, they all could’ve been things that, as his career matured, he could look back on as learning experiences. Now that he’s gone, however, they form the final, tragic chapter.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.