Paul Konerko

All-snubs All-Star team led by Paul Konerko, Andrew McCutchen

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A lineup of shoulda-been All-Stars:

Catcher – Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks): The AL found room for three catchers, while the NL had just two.  It really should have been the other way around.  While it would have been just fine for the AL to leave either Russell Martin or Matt Wieters off the team, the NL had three deserving choices in Brian McCann, Yadier Molina and Montero.  Montero has hit .270/.344/.457 with nine homers and 40 RBI this season.  McCann and AL starter Alex Avila are the only catchers with more RBI.

First base – Paul Konerko (White Sox), Mark Teixeira (Yankees): Blame a system that’s gotten too structured; the AL had to take a second actual DH in Michael Young and still carry backups at every infield position.  If manager Ron Washington had a free hand to simply make Young the backup at second or even a utilityman, then there would have been room for Konerko. Even so, it’s rather absurd that the AL team is carrying three catchers, seven outfielders and just two (Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera) from a bumper crop of first basemen.  At least Konerko should win the Final Vote.

Second base – Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox): No big complaints here; only four second basemen were chosen and they were arguably the four most deserving in Robinson Cano and Howie Kendrick in the AL and Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips in the NL.  Pedroia, now that he’s found his stroke, certainly could have been taken over Kendrick.  However, as a result of Pedroia’s slow start, Kendrick does have the better OPS of the two by 40 points.

Third base – Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox): I was just happy to see Chipper Jones make it as an NL reserve, though the suddenly red hot Aramis Ramirez may have been more deserving.  Adrian Beltre was picked over Youkilis to back up Alex Rodriguez in the AL even though Youkilis has the better OPS by 100 points.  Still, Beltre is the superior defender and he was one of the AL’s 10-best players last year.

Shortstop – Jhonny Peralta (Tigers): If it were my call, the AL roster would have had three first basemen, three shortstops, two catchers and six outfielders.  Peralta, not Asdrubal Cabrera, has been the league’s best offensive shortstop, having hit .311/.359/.538 with 14 homers this season.  I’d still have taken Cabrera first because of his defense, but both deserved to go.

Outfield – Andrew McCutchen (Pirates), Shane Victorino (Phillies), Alex Gordon (Royals): Now this might be the biggest All-Star mystery of all; the NL is carrying eight outfielders, only one of whom (Matt Kemp) actually plays center field.  McCautchen, who is hitting .289/.390/.493 with 12 homers and 15 stolen bases and is the best player on one of the game’s biggest surprises, didn’t even make the Final Vote ballot for some bizarre reason.  Victorino did.  He’s been just as productive as McCutchen, though in 14 fewer games.  Gordon, who is hitting .301/.368/.491, had a fair case on merit alone and should have been the Royals rep over reliever Aaron Crow.

Pitcher: CC Sabathia (Yankees), Tommy Hanson (Braves), Anibal Sanchez (Marlins), Michael Pineda (Mariners), Dan Haren (Angels), Jordan Zimmermann (Nationals), Francisco Cordero (Reds): Incredibly enough, I’m pretty much fine with the pitchers selected.  I don’t get why Ron Washington didn’t take Sabathia, who is due to pitch the Sunday before the All-Star Game, and then just go ahead and replace him later.  That’s expected to happen with Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and James Shields, so Pineda and Haren still might make the team.  In the NL, Bruce Bochy’s selection of Ryan Vogelsong was controversial.  Vogelsong has been a terrific story, though, and I can’t say I’m too upset to see him go.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.