Justin Upton, Derrick Hall

“Final Vote” balloting now open for 2011 All-Star Game

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Major League Baseball named 66 All-Stars during Sunday’s selection show on TBS, but a total of 68 players will be on hand when the Midsummer Classic kicks off July 12 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Through a week-long online “final vote,” one additional All-Star will be named to each roster. Ballots can be cast now on MLB.com.

American League

Alex Gordon, OF, Royals
A former second overall pick, Gordon has finally figured it all out in his fifth big league season and entered Sunday’s action with a .301/.368/.491 batting line. If the Kansas City fanbase can rally, Gordon would join Royals reliever Aaron Crow as the only two Royals heading to Arizona.

Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
From the highlight catches in center field to his speed around the bases, “don’t call me Pacman” Jones is one of the most exciting players in baseball. He’s on pace to finish with over 20 home runs and he’s swiped six bases in six chances this season for Baltimore.

Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox
Different year, familiar results. Konerko is following up his stellar 2010 campaign with more of the same, batting .317/.387/.567 with 21 home runs in 81 games played. There’s a logjam at first base on both All-Star rosters, but Paulie would make a fine late-innings pinch-hitter.

Victor Martinez, DH, Tigers
The Tigers have nearly tracked down the first-place Indians in the American League Central, and much of the credit goes to V-Mart. Detroit’s big offseason addition has tallied 46 RBI against a .335/.383/.490 batting line and could act as the American League’s emergency catcher.

Ben Zobrist, UTIL, Rays
Zobrist plays elite-level defense at all spots around the diamond and is again contributing offensively after a down 2010 season. The versatile 30-year-old enters Sunday’s series finale against the Cardinals with nine home runs, 40 RBI and seven stolen bases.

National League

Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies
The “Flyin’ Hawaiian” is sporting a career-high .886 OPS through 298 plate appearances this season and could climb near 20 home runs before the year is through. He also has 13 steals in 14 attempts and could function as a dangerous pinch-runner for the National League.

Mike Morse, OF, Nationals
Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa may have deserved a spot in the “Final Vote” over Morse, but let’s not take anything away from the red-hot 29-year-old. Morse is batting .299/.349/.538 with 15 home runs and has helped the Nats cope with loss of first baseman Adam LaRoche.

Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers
Fellow outfielder Matt Kemp is drawing most of the “ooos” and “aahs” this season at Dodger Stadium, but Ethier has remained a steady presence in the heart of the Los Angeles lineup and enters Sunday’s full slate of games with a .322/.391/.464 slash line and 41 RBI.

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies
What year is it? The 37-year-old finally has good health on his side and is hitting like the Helton of old, sporting a .323 batting average and .889 OPS through 285 plate appearances. He’d make a fine addition to the National League roster as a veteran pinch-hitter.

Ian Kennedy, SP, Diamondbacks
Yankees GM Brian Cashman probably tries to avoid reading the National League box scores on days that Kennedy pitches. The 26-year-old has been dominating hitters all season and is quickly becoming an ace on the Diamondbacks’ staff. He may get a little hometown love in the voting.

Jackie Robinson: ” I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag”

FILE - In this April 11, 1947 file photo, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers poses at Ebbets Field in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Robinson's widow said Major League Baseball has yet to fully honor her husband's legacy. "There is a lot more that needs to be done and that can be done in terms of the hiring, the promotion" of minorities in the sport, Rachel Robinson said Monday, Jan. 18, 2016 during a Q&A session with TV critics about "Jackie Robinson," a two-part PBS documentary airing in April.  (AP Photo/John Rooney, File)
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One more bit of baseball via which we may reflect on the Colin Kaepernick controversy.

In 1972 Jackie Robinson wrote his autobiography. In it he reflected on how he felt about his historical legacy as a baseball player, a businessman and as a political activist. A political activism, it should be noted, which favored both sides of the aisle at various times. He supported Nixon in 1960, supported the war in Vietnam and worked for Nelson Rockefeller. He did not support Goldwater and did support the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He supported Humphrey against Nixon in 1968. He was no blind partisan or ideologue. When you find someone like that you can usually rest assured it’s because they’re thinking hard and thinking critically in a world where things aren’t always cut-and-dried.

As such, this statement from his autobiography, describing his memory of the first game of the 1947 World Series, is worth thinking about. Because it came from someone who spent a lot of time thinking:

There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made.

Colin Kaepernick is not Jackie Robinson and America in 2016 is not the same as America in 1919, 1947 or 1972. But it does not take one of Jackie Robinson’s stature or experience to see and take issue with injustice and inequality which manifestly still exists.

As I said in the earlier post, the First Amendment gives us just as much right to criticize Kaepernick as it gives him a right to protest in the manner in which he chooses. But if and when we do, we should not consider his case in a vacuum or criticize him as some singular or radical actor. Because some other people — people who have been elevated to a level which has largely immunized them from criticism — felt and feel the same way he does. It’s worth asking yourself, if you take issue, whether you take issue with the message or the messenger and why. Such inquiries might complicate one’s feelings on the matter, but they’re quite illuminative as well.

(thanks to Kokujin for the heads up)

Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is a sports owner once again

File photo of Frank McCourt leaving Stanley Mosk Courthouse after testifying during his divorce trial in Los Angeles
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There aren’t many major league ownership reigns which ended more ignominiously than Frank McCourt’s reign as Dodgers owner. He was granted access to one of business’ most exclusive clubs — one which being a convicted criminal or even a Nazi sympathizer cannot get you kicked out of — and somehow got kicked out. The clear lesson from his saga was that saddling your team with debt, using it as your own private piggy bank and exercising bad judgment at every possible turn will not get you drummed out of baseball but, by gum, having it all go public in a divorce case sure as heck will.

McCourt landed pretty safely, though. By sheer luck, his being kicked out of ownership coincided with the vast appreciation of major league franchise values and the expiration of the Dodgers cable television deal. He may have left in disgrace, but he also left with a couple of billion dollars thanks to the genius of capitalism. At the time it was assumed he’d ride off into the sunset, continuing to make a mint off of parking at Dodgers games (he retained a big piece of that pie) and not get his hands messy with sports ownership again.

Such assumptions were inoperative:

The soccer club has suffered from poor financial decisions in recent years. So I guess it was a match made in heaven.