All-Stars bigger in Texas
Posted: Monday, July 2, 2012 7:00 pm
By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Josh Hamilton is set to lead a Texas parade to the All-Star game. Now, fans will decide if Chipper Jones gets one final appearance or whether it’s time for teen sensation Bryce Harper.
Hamilton drew a record total of more than 11 million votes, and the slugger was among seven Rangers chosen Sunday as All-Stars. A trio of San Francisco Giants rallied in the last week to claim spots, while three Yankees also made the starting lineup.
“I don’t think the Texas Rangers have to apologize because we’ve got good players,” AL manager Ron Washington of Texas said. “I certainly didn’t pick my guys being selfish, I picked them very deserving of being All-Stars, bottom line.”
Washington fastballer Stephen Strasburg and Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey were two of the 66 players chosen by fans, managers and big leaguers for the showcase July 10 in Kansas City. So was 20-year-old Angels rookie outfielder Mike Trout, who leads the AL in hitting at .339 and drew more than 800,000 write-in votes.
Few of the races for starting spots were close and there seemed to be little complaining about the fans’ choices. OK, sure, David Wright could’ve gotten the nod over Pablo Sandoval.
But there certainly will be campaigning this week when it comes to Jones and Harper after they were left off — for now, anyway.
The NL and AL each have one spot left, with fans voting online through Thursday to select one of five candidates in both leagues. Jones and Harper are two of the NL possibilities.
At 40, Jones is a seven-time All-Star and plans to retire after this season. Banged up, the Atlanta third baseman has managed to hit near .300.
“This being my last year, it would be fun to go. I’d love to take my kids,” Jones said.
At 19, Harper started the season in Triple-A. The Washington outfielder has dazzled since his promotion with his bat, arm and flat-out hustle.
“I’m an old-timer, so I’d probably lean toward Chipper,” NL manager Tony La Russa said on the TBS selection show.
The league that wins the All-Star game gains home-field advantage in the World Series. The NL won last year, then St. Louis became the ninth straight home team to win Game 7 in the Series.
Sandoval was picked for the NL at third base despite missing a month with a broken hand and not matching the stats of Wright.
“I’m surprised I made it,” said Sandoval, popular for his “Kung Fu Panda” persona. “He’s been having a great year but the fans gave me the votes. I can’t thank them enough.”
Wright was diplomatic about the result.
“That’s the way the system is. I understand how the system works and I respect that system. Pablo’s having a very good year. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that I don’t get a chance to start, but I’m going to do everything I can to help win that game,” he said.
Giants catcher Buster Posey, back from a devastating injury last season, was the NL’s top vote-getter and beat out Philadelphia’s Carlos Ruiz, the league’s leading hitter. Wright and Ruiz made the NL team as reserves.
“This is hard to wrap my head around,” Posey said. “I watched all the All-Star games and home run derbies when I was a kid. It’s surreal I get to play in one and get to watch the home run derby.”
Posey, Sandoval and San Francisco outfielder Melky Cabrera overcame late deficits to win starting spots. Giants ace Matt Cain, who pitched a perfect game in June, made the NL pitching staff.
Texas will have a team-record three starters. Hamilton, who hit four homers in a game earlier this season and leads the majors in RBIs, will be in the outfield with Adrian Beltre at third base and Mike Napoli at catcher. A postseason star last year, Napoli has started only about half the time at that spot this year, but still easily outdistanced Minnesota’s Joe Mauer.
“No, it’s not awkward, the fans voted for him,” Washington said. “He’s an All-Star, he’s going to go to the All-Star game. Who’s to say that Napoli may not be the MVP?”
Second baseman Ian Kinsler, shortstop Elvis Andrus, starter Matt Harrison and reliever Joe Nathan also made the AL roster from Texas. The two-time AL champions began the day with a major league-best 50 wins.
“You look up and down our lineup and we’ve been in the World Series the last two years in a row, and there’s a reason,” Hamilton said. “It’s not just one player, but multiple players that have got us there.”
Derek Jeter became a 13-time All-Star shortstop and will start for the AL with Yankees teammates Robinson Cano at second base and Curtis Granderson in the outfield. Injured New York pitcher CC Sabathia was picked, too, and will attend the festivities but not play.
“It’s an honor, especially throughout the years the position I played and all the great shortstops that have been out there,” Jeter said.
Prince Fielder of Detroit will start at first base. He was the MVP of last year’s All-Star game while playing in the NL for Milwaukee.
“Thrilling, every time,” Fielder said.
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp edged Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun by 100,000 votes for the third spot in the NL outfield — Kemp, beaten out by Braun for the NL MVP award last year, is on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring and looks doubtful to play.
Braun leads the NL in home runs. He was the league’s top vote-getter last year, but may have been hurt by drug allegations.
Braun or perhaps Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen could wind up starting in Kemp’s place.
“I’ve always been a person that wanted something because I earned it and that’s what people wanted,” McCutchen said. “It would be awesome to get that, but for me I’d still be feeling like I took someone else’s place because someone got hurt.”
Dickey, at 37, made his first All-Star team. He leads the majors with 12 wins and could become just the second knuckleballer to start an All-Star game. Dutch Leonard did it in 1943, STATS LLC said.
“It’s an honor for every person who’s ever helped me along the way and every fan that believed that special things could happen if you apply yourself,” Dickey said. “So it’s a need to be able to celebrate that with a network of people.
Strasburg is 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA and tops the majors in strikeouts for the NL East-leading Nationals. Last season at this time, he was working his way back to the big leagues while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“It’s going to be a tremendous experience, and it’s a huge honor for me. It’s amazing to think where I was a year ago, so it’s great to see all the hard work has paid off, but it’s not done,” he said in Atlanta. “It’s only the halfway point of the year. We’ve still got a long ways to go.”
The fans, players and managers combined to pick 14 first-time All-Stars in the NL, including somersaulting Cincinnati reliever Aroldis Chapman and San Diego closer Huston Street.
“No way. Really?” Street said.
There were nine first-timers in the AL, including designated hitter Billy Butler from the host Royals. Every team gets at least one All-Star.
The AL starters: Fielder, Cano, Jeter, Beltre, Hamilton, Granderson, Napoli, Toronto outfielder Jose Bautista and Boston DH David Ortiz.
The NL starters: Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, Atlanta second baseman Dan Uggla, shortstop Rafael Furcal and outfielder Carlos Beltran of St. Louis, Kemp, Sandoval, Posey and Cabrera.
The five candidates for the final AL roster spot are all right-handed pitchers: Texas rookie Yu Darvish and fellow starters Jake Peavy of the White Sox and Jason Hammel of Baltimore and relievers Jonathan Broxton of the Royals and Ernesto Frieri of the Angels.
The NL candidates: Jones, Harper, Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill, Atlanta outfielder Michael Bourn and St. Louis third baseman David Freese, MVP of last year’s World Series.
Washington said he felt White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski deserved to be on the roster.
“I consider him a winning player,” Washington said. “He beats you mentally, he beats you physically, so I feel really bad for Pierzynski.”
Said Pierzynski: “If he felt that bad, he would have put me on the team.”
“He had an opportunity to do it. He didn’t do it,” he said.
AP Sports Writers Stephen Hawkins, R.B. Fallstrom, Antonio Gonzalez and Howie Rumberg, Associated Press writer George Henry and AP freelance writers Dale Bublitz, Mike Kelly, Amy Jinkner-Lloyd, Mark Didtler and Doug Gould contributed to this report.
Published in The Messenger 7.2.12