No All-Star starters would end long run for Red Sox

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Unless Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz draws the nod in the first inning, all signs point to the Red Sox being without a starter on the AL All-Star squad for the first time since 1998.
There is one qualification there. Manny Ramirez was voted into the lineup in 2003, but he skipped the game because of a hamstring injury, leaving Boston without a starter.
The Red Sox, though, have had someone voted in to represent the AL each of the last nine years. The last time they didn’t was 2000, but they had a starter then because Ramirez, in his final season in Cleveland, sat out the game, making room for Carl Everett.
The string is set to be broken this year. Dustin Pedroia is the highest Sock in the balloting and he’s more than 500,000 votes behind Robinson Cano at second base (1,293,724 to 725,081). Victor Martinez is third at catcher, and Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Beltre and David Ortiz are all fourth at their positions. The Red Sox don’t have a single outfielder in the top 15.
The Red Sox still figure to be well represented in Anaheim. The two aforementioned starting pitchers are strong candidates for spots, and Jonathan Papelbon has a chance to go in relief. Youkilis has the AL’s third-best OPS, and Pedroia, even in a down year, is as good a choice as any to back up Cano (Ben Zobrist also has a good argument, but he’s playing quite a bit more outfield than second base). Ortiz is probably a long shot. While he’s been the AL’s second-best DH, there are four first basemen having better seasons in Justin Morneau, Miguel Cabrera, Youkilis and Paul Konerko.
No starters, though. It’s the end of an era.
Red Sox All-Star Game starters
1999 – Nomar Garciaparra
2000 – Carl Everett
2001 – Manny Ramirez
2002 – Manny Ramirez, Shea Hillenbrand, Derek Lowe
2003 – Manny Ramirez*
2004 – Manny Ramirez
2005 – Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon
2006 – Manny Ramirez*, David Ortiz, Mark Loretta
2007 – David Ortiz
2008 – Manny Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia
2009 – Jason Bay

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.