Choosing MLB's 2011 Division All-Stars

  • Friday, July 8, 2011 10:25 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Imagine this crazy All-Star scenario: a team for each division, creating a six-team tournament. Will it happen? No. Should it happen? Also, no.

But if it did, theoretically, I decided to see what the teams might look like. It was an exercise in curiosity about division strength, and also boredom.

Here is a glimpse at each team, ranked in ascending order of perceived strength. Note: I only picked an abbreviated roster for each squad, because that felt like plenty under the circumstances. Another note: Selections are based on 2011 performance only.

AL Central
Starting lineup: 1. Denard Span - CF, 2. Alex Gordon - LF, 3. Miguel Cabrera - 1B, 4. Paul Konerko - DH, 5. Brennan Boesch - RF, 6. Jhonny Peralta - SS, 7. Alex Avila - C, 8. Wilson Betemit - 3B, 9. Gordon Beckham - 2B
Bench: Asdrubal Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Carlos Quentin, Travis Hafner.
Starting pitchers: Justin Verlander, Justin Masterson, Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker, Phil Humber.
Relievers: Sergio Santos, Glen Perkins, Al Alburquerque.

Comments: It’s going to be super awkward when Beckham walks into the team clubhouse and Miguel Cabrera is all like, “What are you doing here? You have a .291 wOBA as of July 7.” And then Beckham gets all defensive because he wasn’t the one who picked the team, and besides, it’s not his fault the other options at second were Chris Getz and Alexi Casilla. What, does Miguel want to cover the whole right side of the infield by himself? No? That’s what I thought.

AL West
Starting lineup: 1. Howie Kendrick - 2B, 2. Michael Young - DH, 3. Josh Hamilton - LF, 4. Nelson Cruz - RF, 5. Adrian Beltre - 3B, 6. Justin Smoak - 1B, 7. Mike Napoli - C, 8. Peter Bourjos - CF, 9. Elvis Andrus - SS
Bench:Ian Kinsler, Bobby Abreu, Coco Crisp, Erick Aybar
Starting pitchers: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Felix Hernandez, C.J. Wilson, Michael Pineda.
Relievers: Jordan Walden, Brandon League, Scott Downs.

Comments: This team obviously has the misfortune of drawing from only four organizations. With two of those being the A’s and Mariners, it’s not surprising the offense is a little underwhelming. Luckily, with the Angels not being defending division champs, Mike Scioscia is not this team’s manager, which means he can’t find a way to play Jeff Mathis (even though he’s not on the roster anyways).

NL West
Starting lineup: 1. Carlos Gonzalez - CF, 2. Matt Kemp - LF, 3. Pablo Sandoval - 3B, 4. Troy Tulowitzki - SS, 5. Andre Ethier - DH, 6. Justin Upton - RF, 7. Miguel Montero - C, 8. Todd Helton - 1B, 9. Jamey Carroll - 2B
Bench:Chris Young, Stephen Drew, Cameron Maybin, Chase Headley
Starting pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Daniel Hudson, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner.
Relievers: Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Sergio Romo.

Comments: Frank McCourt is suing this team for using his players without his permission. This has Helton all bent out of shape, but Ethier just looks at him and is like, “Welcome to our world.” Anyways, this lineup has good thump, something the starting pitchers here are confused but excited about. Luckily the clubhouse is stocked with some helpful brochures titled, “Run Support and You: A Guide To Feeling Loved.”

NL Central
Starting lineup: 1. Andrew McCutchen - CF, 2. Rickie Weeks - 2B, 3. Joey Votto - 1B, 4. Matt Holliday - RF, 5. Prince Fielder - DH, 6. Ryan Braun - LF, 7. Aramis Ramirez - 3B, 8. Yadier Molina - C, 9. Starlin Castro - SS
Bench:Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Brandon Phillips, Michael Bourn
Starting pitchers: Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter, Shaun Marcum, Zack Greinke, Matt Garza.
Relievers: Joel Hanrahan, John Axford, Sean Marshall.

Comments: “Look at all these good players!” Castro says to Ramirez. “They’re on OUR team now!” Ramirez sighs deeply and nods. Memories of the old days flood his head and push a single tear down his weathered cheek. It’s hard to think about but impossible not to. “Live in the moment and enjoy it,” he advises Castro. “People in our situation must savor the good times, fleeting as they are.” Castro looks at his older teammate, sees how the years in Chicago have beaten him down. “Sure, Aramis,” he says. “I got ya.” But he doesn’t truly understand -- not yet.

NL East
Starting lineup: 1. Jose Reyes - SS, 2. Shane Victorino - CF, 3. Gaby Sanchez - 1B, 4. Carlos Beltran - LF, 5. Brian McCann - C, 6. Mike Stanton - RF, 7. Mike Morse - DH, 8. Danny Espinosa - 2B, 9. Placido Polanco - 3B
Bench:Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Daniel Murpy, Martin Prado
Starting pitchers: Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Jair Jurrjens, Jordan Zimmermann.
Relievers: Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Ryan Madson.

Comments: The great thing about an all-star team is getting to imagine what it would be like if a bunch of great players got thrown together and could join forces. Like, imagine a one-two punch at the top of a lineup of Jose Reyes and Shane Victorino. What energy! Or, imagine if you could field a starting rotation with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels AND Cliff Lee! Why, that would be insane!

AL East
Starting lineup: 1. Jacoby Ellsbury - CF, 2. Curtis Granderson - LF, 3. Jose Bautista - RF, 4. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B, 5. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, 6. David Ortiz - DH, 7. Ben Zobrist - 2B, 8. Yunel Escobar - SS, 9. Matt Wieters - C
Bench:Mark Teixeira, Dustin Pedroia, Matt Joyce, Brett Gardner
Starting pitchers: CC Sabathia, David Price, James Shields, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester.
Relievers: Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Jonathan Papelbon.

Comments: “Hey Zobrist,” Shields says, “Did you hear the exciting news? ESPN is going to broadcast all of our all-star team’s games! That’s some great exposure!” Zobrist looks down at his shoes, feeling awkward. James is so clearly thrilled, and it would be a shame to bring him down. But it’s just like his grandpa always said: Tell the truth, even if it hurts. He closes his eyes and steels himself for the task ahead. “Yes, I heard,” Zobrist says. “But there’s something you should know. When nobody on the Red Sox or Yankees is either pitching or batting, they are going to cut to a reel of Jeter’s career highlights.”

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4 Series to Mark on Your Calendar

  • Saturday, February 13, 2010 10:43 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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Four more days until the first pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. Therefore, it seems like a good time to look ahead to four potentially interesting series on the schedule for this season.

I didn’t include matchups between division rivals here, since those are pretty obvious and provide intrigue every year.

April 12, 14-15, Red Sox @ Twins – On the 12th, outdoor baseball will return to Minneapolis for the first time since 1981, the last year of old Metropolitan Stadium. Ever since, the Twins have been safely tucked away in the ugly but warm confines of the Metrodome. Until this season, that is. Target Field is opening its doors for this prime series against the Red Sox. These two teams figure to put on a good show, as long as they’re not frozen solid. The average temperature in Minneapolis in April is a high of 57 and a low of 36, with the record low being a balmy 2 degrees. At least all three games in this series are day games, with the first night contest taking place to start the following series against the Royals. For the sake of Twins fans, let’s hope Target Field has hot chocolate dispensers in the backs of every seat.

June 22-24, Cubs @ Mariners – This interleague series is certainly interesting on its own merits. These two teams figure to be playoff contenders, and the Cubs have visited Seattle only once before, in 2002. But these three games have another storyline as well: Milton Bradley’s first appearance against his last team. Bradley’s brief tenure in Chicago ended with him getting suspended late in the season. The veteran outfielder might have gotten some undeservedly rough treatment from fans and the media – his on-field performance wasn’t as bad as many perceived – but he never fit in a clubhouse that generally got along well. Even Ryan Dempster, a first-class act, said after Bradley’s suspension, “It became one of those things where you see him putting the blame on everybody else, and sometimes you have to look in the mirror and realize that maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself and wanting to be there and wanting to play every day and wanting to have some fun. It didn't seem like he wanted to have very much fun, even from Spring Training.” There could be some serious tension here, assuming Bradley is still on the active roster at that point.

June 25-27, Yankees @ Dodgers – This will be the Bronx Bombers’ first trip to Chavez Ravine since 2004. These are two franchise with a ton of history between them, including 11 clashes in the World Series (four since the Dodgers left Brooklyn). And this series figures to come with both squads near or at the top of their respective divisions. A lot will be made of Joe Torre managing against his old club, but what’s really more interesting is what happens on the field, and this series could feature some exciting matchups. Personally I’m eager to see LA’s 22-year-old lefty strikeout machine Clayton Kershaw test his stuff against New York’s nightmare-inducing lineup, or closer Jonathan Broxton try to finish off a close game against A-Rod. Not to mention that Manny Ramirez against the Yankees tends to be entertaining.

Sept. 17-19, Angels @ Rays – Most of the series at the very end of the season are divisional matchups, as they should be, but this is one late-season interdivisional series that could have huge playoff implications. The Rays seem to be in position to stand up to the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East again, while the Angels likely will have their supremacy in the AL West challenged by at least two division competitors. Depending on how things shake out, this could even turn into a crucial battle for a wildcard berth. Plus, you have a showdown of the minds between Mike Scioscia and former bench coach Joe Maddon, now managing Tampa, and Angels pitcher Scott Kazmir potentially squaring off against his old team for the first time.

Tomorrow: 3 teams to keep an eye on