“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.

Yoenis Cespedes blames a lack of golf for his early season slump

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Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.

It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.

Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:

He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.

“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”

The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.