Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder

Projecting the 2011 NL All-Star team

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With one month until the game, he’s my first attempt to project the NL All-Star roster.  The team will have 34 players, usually 21 hitters and 13 pitchers.  Remember that all 16 teams need to be represented.

Catcher
Locks: None
Possibilies: Brian McCann, Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero, Chris Iannetta, Ramon Hernandez, Jonathan Lucroy

With Buster Posey down, I thought Molina would cruise in winning the popular vote for the third straight year. However, now it looks like McCann might get to start an All-Star Game for the first time. He’s currently 300,000 votes ahead of Molina.

It will be interesting to see if Molina makes the squad if he’s not voted in. He got off to a great start offensively, but he’s cooled now and he’s not having his usual success throwing out basestealers. Montero looks like he’ll have a pretty good case for the spot, but since he’s another left-handed hitter, he doesn’t exactly compliment McCann.

First base
Locks: Albert Pujols
Possibilities: Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Gaby Sanchez, Todd Helton

I’d like to say Votto is a lock, but he’s second to Pujols in the balloting and he wasn’t picked as a reserve last year. He only made the team by winning the fan’s Final Vote as the 34th player.

Even with Adrian Gonzalez out of the mix, first base is stacked. Pujols seems likely to win the vote now that he’s overcome his rough start. With the DH spot available, the NL could take four first basemen and start both Pujols and Votto. Fielder should be the third man in. Howard could well be the fourth, even though he’s not having the season that Sanchez is.

Second base
Locks: None
Possibilities: Brandon Phillips, Rickie Weeks, Chase Utley, Neil Walker, Danny Espinosa, Kelly Johnson, Justin Turner

I think Weeks is pretty much a sure thing to make the team, even though he’s currently 300,000 votes back of Phillips. Utley is as 470,000 votes back and probably has too big of a gap to make up. Besides Weeks, no NL second baseman is having a very good year. Excluding Utley’s 20 games, Daniel Murphy is the only even occasional second baseman with a .750 OPS and he’s playing first now.

That said, I do think Walker has a shot here. He’s driven in 42 runs already.

Third base
Locks: Placido Polanco
Possibilites: Chipper Jones, Ryan Roberts, Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Headley, Scott Rolen, Pablo Sandoval, Aramis Ramirez

Injuries have really decimated the competition here. Polanco is the vote leader by a cool 630,000 ballots over Jones, and it’s hard to see that changing. Chipper deserves to go as the backup as long as he’s still healthy in mid-July.

Roberts could be an option if the NL insists on taking a utilityman, like it did with Omar Infante last year.

Shortstop
Locks: Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes
Possibilities: Stephen Drew, Jimmy Rollins, Starlin Castro, Alex Gonzalez

Tulo is going to win the vote, and Reyes is pretty much guaranteed of a spot as a backup. Drew is the obvious choice if the NL takes a third shortstop, and given the lack of quality options at second or third, it might as well.

Outfield
Locks: Ryan Braun
Possibilities: Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Hunter Pence, Jay Bruce, Andre Ethier, Ryan Ludwick, Mike Stanton, Carlos Beltran, Mike Morse, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Young, Justin Upton, Martin Prado, Drew Stubbs, Shane Victorino, Kosuke Fukudome

Berkman and Holliday have substantial leads over Ethier and Kemp in the balloting, so it looks like they’ll go. As much as Votto deserves to start for the NL, the team would actually be better off putting Kemp or McCutchen into the starting lineup and using Berkman as a DH. Otherwise, it’s going to Holliday in center field to start.

Pence is the obvious choice to go as the Astros’ rep, and it’s hard to imagine Bruce being overlooked.  It’d be nice to see Beltran get a nod for his performance this year, but it’s probably for the best that he takes the three days off to rest up.

Starting Pitchers
Locks: Roy Halladay
Possibilities: Jair Jurrjens, Cole Hamels, Tommy Hanson, Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Jhoulys Chacin, Anibal Sanchez, Charlie Morton, Wandy Rodriguez, Tim Stauffer, Ian Kennedy, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Cliff Lee, Jaime Garcia

It still too early to try to make the calls here, though I am listing Halladay as a lock.  A few spots will likely come down to who pitches the Sunday before the game.

Relievers
Locks: None
Possibilities: Brian Wilson, Heath Bell, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan, J.J. Putz, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonny Venters, Huston Street, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Storen, John Axford, Mike Adams, Tyler Clippard, Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall

I’ll be pretty upset if Venters isn’t selected.  He’s been the NL’s best reliever all year long.

OK, let’s give it a try:

NL All-Star team

Lineup
3B Placido Polanco
DH Joey Votto
1B Albert Pujols
LF Ryan Braun
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Lance Berkman
CF Matt Holliday
C Brian McCann
2B Brandon Phillips

Bench
C Yadier Molina
1B Prince Fielder
1B Ryan Howard
2B Rickie Weeks
3B Chipper Jones
SS Jose Reyes
SS Stephen Drew
OF Matt Kemp
OF Andrew McCutchen
OF Jay Bruce
OF Hunter Pence
OF Mike Stanton

Pitchers

Roy Halladay
Tommy Hanson
Cole Hamels
Jair Jurrjens
Tim Lincecum
Clayton Kershaw
Shaun Marcum

Brian Wilson
Heath Bell
Jonny Venters
Joel Hanrahan
Drew Storen
Carlos Marmol

I didn’t have a Cub in my original go, so Marmol squeezed Ryan Madson out of a slot.  Sean Marshall might be an even better choice, but I’m already pushing my luck by picking one setup man.

The Nationals got their selection in Storen, though Tyler Clippard would be just as good.  Jordan Zimmermann is starting to look like a candidate, too.

As it turned out, Stanton makes it as the lone Marlin.  Leo Nunez and Anibal Sanchez were near misses.

I held back with the Giants, even though Bruce Bochy will want some of his own players on there. He might have gone with Freddy Sanchez as a reserve infielder, but that’s no longer a possilbility.  I’m sure he’ll squeeze one of his starting pitchers on the team, whether it’s Lincecum, Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner.  Also, Wilson will likely be reserved for closing duties if there’s a save opportunity.

Some Mets fans are not happy that Beyonce is playing at Citi Field

Beyoncé performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.  (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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The funny thing about that “stick to sports” stuff I was going on about the other day is that, in reality, a whole lot of the people who say “stick to sports” don’t really want to just stick to sports. They’re totally cool going on about political, social or cultural stuff as long as it fits their world view. It’s not “stick to sports.” It’s “don’t talk about the social implications of sports-related stuff in ways that upset me.” If sports and culture come together in other ways, however, they’re completely fine in grinding their axe.

For example, Beyonce is playing a concert a Citi Field this summer. The show is so popular that they added a second date. The Mets’ Twitter feed just announced that tickets will go on sale for the new show soon:

A while lotta Mets fans responded to that negatively. For political/social/cultural reasons that they are willingly bringing in to a conversation about a pop singer and a baseball stadium that will double as a concert venue:

And they go on and on.

How much do you want to bet that a whole lotta these respondents would tell you to “stick to baseball” if you wanted to bring up how race affects the sport or how, if instead of Beyonce, this was announcing a Kid Rock/Ted Nugent-headlined festival and you mused whether that was a case of the Mets somehow endorsing their messages?

The Orioles and Yovani Gallardo are “making progress”

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Ken Rosenthal reports that the Orioles are “making progress” in talks with free agent right-hander Yovani Gallardo.

Gallardo has been on the market so long because he has a first round pick tied to him due to his declining the Rangers’ qualifying offer. The Orioles would have to forfeit the 14th overall pick in order to sign him. That has been too steep a price to pay for them all winter, but as we’re mere days away from pitchers and catchers reporting, it’s likely that Gallardo’s price has dropped enough to make it worth their while.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons — and had a career-low 3.42 ERA in 2015 — but his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012, suggesting that trouble could be on the horizon.

If the O’s do burn their pick to get Gallardo, it might make sense for them to go all-in with another free agent like Dexter Fowler, given that they’d not have to give up anything else to do it.

Rangers avoid arbitration with Mitch Moreland

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First baseman/outfielder Mitch Moreland and the Rangers have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $5.7 million deal.

Moreland requested $6 million and the Rangers countered at $4.675 million, so the two sides settled on the player-friendly side of the midpoint.

Moreland bounced back from an injury wrecked 2014 season to have a career-year in 2015, hitting .278 with 23 homers and an .812 OPS in 132 games. Arbitration eligible for the final time at age 30, he’s set to be a free agent next offseason.

Tiger Stadium redevelopment group loses $50K because of its preference for artificial turf

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Craig Calcaterra
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We’ve posted frequently on the topic of the old Tiger Stadium site. If you’ve kept up with it you know that the site, nearly overgrown with weeds and strewn with trash before being rescued by a group of volunteers called the Navin Field Grounds Crew, is now being slated for redevelopment by the Detroit Police Athletic League.

The PAL is committed to keeping a baseball field as part of the development, but they are also, quite unfortunately, committed to putting artificial turf down over the bit of Earth where baseball legends once walked and ran.

Backlash to the plan has begun, however. Not just from people like me or the Navin Field Grounds Crew, who are opposed to fake grass, but to an actual donor to the Detroit Police Athletic League:

With an annual contribution of $50,000 to Detroit PAL’s programs, the Lear Corporation has been a major benefactor of the nonprofit for years. But in light of PAL’s controversial plan to redevelop the Tiger Stadium site with artificial turf, Lear’s CEO is speaking out.

Matthew Simoncini says that Lear is withdrawing its financial support of PAL for its mishandling of this delicate issue.

“I believe the [PAL] plan is severely flawed [and] a terrible use of resources,” says Simoncini. “[It] does not preserve this site and provides [an] unsafe playing surface for the children,”

I’m guessing $50,000 is not the sort of money that will seriously hinder a real estate redevelopment plan, but it’s good to hear someone with a stake in all of this voting with their wallet. Here’s hoping more do and that, eventually, PAL understands that there are some things more important than saving some money at the front end of a project.