Thoughts on the All-Star game

Growing up, I thought it was a fact of life that the American League was simply better than the National League every single year, with the senior circuit being a glorified version of Triple-A in a way.   Each July, I watched AL superstars like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, and Ichiro Suzuki beat up on inferior NL pitching while AL aces like Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, and Barry Zito baffled the opposing lineup.  Some years, the game was close.  Some years, the game was a blowout.  Hell, even one year the game ended in a tie.  But one thing remained; the American League did not lose the All Star Game.

For 13 years, the American League went unbeaten, and it wasn’t until 2010 when the National League finally captured that elusive victory (that year’s losing pitcher was Phil Hughes, coincidentally).  Having lost in 2011 as well, the time has come for the losing streak to end and with this stacked American League squad this year, I don’t see how we can lose.  But I’ll get to the game in a bit.  First, I would like to touch upon an event many people prefer over the game itself, the ever popular Home Run Derby, led by our favorite son and defending champion, Robinson Cano.

To be honest, I said before last year’s contest that I thought Cano had no shot to win.  I mean, beating men like Prince Fielder and Jose Bautista, men who hit mammoth blasts like Derek Jeter takes inside fastballs to right field, was impossible, right?  I guess not, as Cano smashed records on his way to home run hitting immortality.  Hey, he even beat a Red Sox in the final round!  Last year’s Derby couldn’t have gone any better for us Yankees fans.  We got to display our homegrown, all smiles superstar to the world and he hasn’t looked back since.  So far, he’s clubbed 20 home runs, with 11 of them coming in the last 30 days, so hopefully he’ll have a chance to repeat.  But history says otherwise, as no Home Run Derby champion has ever won back to back contests, and I’m going to have to side with history.  While I think Cano will make it past the first round, I think arguably the hitter with the rawest power in the game right now will take the 2012 crown.  There’s no way I can pick against that certain Miami outfielder who’s just 18 months older than me.  The guy hits bombs off the top of that stupid home run sculpture as well as missiles that get over the centerfield wall in about .002 seconds, after all.

Now in regards to the actual game, I met Tony La Russa at the Yankee Stadium train station last week and he gave me a sneak peak of what both lineups will look like!  (DISCLAIMER: I did, in fact, meet Tony La Russa.  But he did not give me the lineups.  Here is what I feel the lineups should be)

American League

Starting Pitcher-Justin Verlander

  1. Derek Jeter-SS
  2. Robinson Cano-2B
  3. Prince Fielder-1B
  4. Josh Hamilton-RF
  5. Jose Bautista-LF
  6. David Ortiz-DH
  7. Adrian Beltre-3B
  8. Curtis Granderson-CF
  9. Mike Napoli-C

National League (I’m adding in the players who I think should start at DH and who should take Matt Kemp’s starting spot)

Starting Pitcher-R.A. Dickey

  1. Melky Cabrera-LF
  2. Carlos Gonzalez-CF
  3. Joey Votto-1B
  4. Ryan Braun-DH
  5. Carlos Beltran-RF
  6. Pablo Sandoval-3B
  7. Dan Uggla-2B
  8. Buster Posey-C
  9. Rafael Furcal-SS

On paper, the American League lineup is unbelievably strong from top to bottom.  Hitters two through nine can easily fill the clean up role in nearly any major league lineup while Jeter would do the same for almost any team’s leadoff spot in the lineup.  While the American League lineup has clubbed 163 home runs combined, the National League can only lay claim to 114 combined dingers, so the edge in power goes to the good guys.

The National League’s starting lineup has undoubtedly been hampered by its own fans.  Even the biggest Mets hater will have to agree that Kung Fu Panda has no business starting at third base over David Wright, arguably the MVP of the first half.  It should be Ian Desmond starting at shortstop over the light hitting Furcal.  It also probably should be Brandon Phillips, who wasn’t even selected as an All Star, starting over Uggla, but the biggest starting snub to me is at the catcher position.  How in the world is Buster Posey starting over current MLB average leader Carlos Ruiz, who bests Posey in over ten different offensive categories?  Luckily, the starting lineup doesn’t go more than four innings without seeing replacements slowly eat away at them until a new nine are in the ball game, but by then, it already may be too late if the AL pounds away at Dickey early, like I see them doing.

As for my prediction, I see the massive stockpile of 410 foot missiles and 450 foot bombs being too much for the suddenly human looking R.A. Dickey and probable successor Matt CainGio Gonzalez, doesn’t scare me, as he had a 3.93 career ERA while pitching in the American League and he’s seen his 2012 ERA jump a full run since June 3rd, thanks to eight earned runs in his last ten innings.  Stephen Strasburg and his electric fastball is the only NL pitcher that truly scares me, but considering his crazy innings limit imposed on him by the Nationals front office, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him pitch to only a batter or two, if he even pitches at all.  I think it’s safe to say that, outside of the top 2 starters, this isn’t the most worrisome NL pitching staff we’ve faced, and it seems beatable.   On the American League side, once again, our top flight starters like Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, David Price, and C.J. Wilson have put their dominance on display on a near nightly basis while newcomer Chris Sale has been unbelievable up to this point.  It would not shock me one bit to see the AL squad carve up the NL lineup like a pumpkin and run away with this game by the 5th or 6th inning, but hey, it’s the All Star Game.  If anything, it’s unpredictable.  And along with dream matchups like Strasburg against Josh Hamilton or Aroldis Chapman against Jose Bautista, that’s the best part of the game.  My pick: American League wins 8-2.

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