With All-Star week set to begin, Major League baseball once again faces questions on snubs, selections, and the significance of this Mid-Season Classic. Coming in the American League has won the last 7 games and the National League hasn’t recorded a victory since 1996, but this may be the year that the NL breaks the trend. Blessed with equal if not superior talent on their roster, the National League boasts arguably the three best pitchers in baseball on their staff (Ubaldo Jimenez, Roy Halladay, and Josh Johnson) along with stalwarts Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, and Ryan Braun. With three starters among them, the New York teams aren’t as well represented as in recent years, but the players chosen will have major roles. We’ll break down each team’s All-Stars, their snubs, and the overall significance on the outcome of the game itself.
Position Players: With All-Star regular Carlos Beltran injured for the first half of 2010, the Mets missed out on garnering another selection. Because of injuries and their youth movement, New York has had turnover on their roster and in their lineup. With Jose Reyes and David Wright as the only two Met players who started in last year’s Opening Day lineup, New York has filled itself with cast-offs and prospects who are not quite All-Star material yet.
In Reyes, the Mets have their catalyst for success. As he goes so do they, and his recent resurgence since mid-June has coincided with their run toward the top of the NL East. Although he still hasn’t reached .300 like his former self, Jose seems to be rounding into form after his bout with injuries. While his numbers haven’t reached his usual All-Star level, his impact on the Mets has given him an opportunity to be considered among the league’s best.
A perennial All-Star before last year, David Wright has shown the league that 2009 was an aberration for him at the plate. After starting off the year slow, the third basemen has raised his average 55 points to .314 since June 1. Wright has turned himself into a bona fide MVP candidate as he leads the league in RBIs and continues to carry the Mets offense through their winning streaks.
Jason Bay, a three time All-Star, still hasn’t regained his 2009 form as he would be the only other viable candidate on New York to get an All-Star nod.
Pitching: At the time of the All-Star announcements, Mike Pelfrey was 10-2 with a 2.71 ERA, yet eh did not receive the call. This mistake is right behind Joey Votto’s initial snub from the NL roster. Considered a Cy Young candidate, even after his recent rough stretch, Pelfrey has been the ace for New York’s staff, which has former Cy Young winner Johan Santana in it.
Francisco Rodriguez, while shaky at times, still ranks 6th in teh National League in saves. Sporting a 2.51 ERA, that only recently ballooned from 1.99 after a blown save, K-Rod is living up to his name with an 11.1 K/9, his best since 2007. With two set-up men making the roster, it is difficult to leave off a closer having a very successful season, considering he has a much more important role.
Position Players: A Mark Teixeira slump away from having an All-Yankee All-Star infield, the best team in baseball has four players overall in the All-Star Game. With 24 All-Star appearances between them, A-Rod and Derek Jeter form an illustrious combination on the left side of the AL infield. With the Captain having a subpar year by his standards, he still outranks most if not all AL shortstops for a place in the American League lineup.
MVP candidate Robinson Cano is the last Yankee starter, and the one having the finest season. Hitting .337/16/57, the Yankee 5 hitter has also played a consistently stellar second base in the field. With his growing ability to hit in the clutch, Cano is growing as a hitter and as a main cog in the vaunted Yankee lineup. In order to not stymie his development, Robinson decided to opt out of the homerun derby. Cano didn’t want to fall into the same trap as former Yankee Bobby Abreu, who after participating in the derby, fell into a slump in the second half. A prudence choice, by a maturing player.
After sweating out his first All-Star, Nick Swisher received the nod in the final voting for the AL All-Star team. Hitting .300, with 15 homeruns and 50 RBIs, Swisher has benefited from Cano’s rise and taken full advantage of his opportunity in the Yankee lineup. Developing as a fielder, Swish has also been a great clubhouse presence on the best team in baseball, which adds to his overall impact as a player.
Pitching: With three starters and Mariano getting the call for the American League, the Yankees represent 1/4 of the All-Star staff.
The most deserving of the Yankees almost didn’t get the call as the 11-2 Andy Pettitte finally got a nod as an injury replacement. Andy has been the best 3 starter in baseball as his consistency had helped stabilize the Yankees staff. With his ERA never going above 3.00 all season, and now standing at 2.70, Pettitte has been one of the best pitchers in a tough American League.
Phil Hughes and C.C Sabathia have a combined 22 wins as well as a collective ERA in the 3’s. With the young Hughes vindicating GM Brian Cashman for not trading him over the last three years, 2010 is a culmination of his development as a pitcher. After two recent rough starts, the Yankee pitcher returned with a dominating performance, showing the grit and ability to bounce back of a veteran. With Sabathia, New York has a true ace and one who will go deep in games, as evidenced by going at least 7 innings in his last 7 starts. Although his control hasn’t always been there this season, C.C has been tough to hit all season and remains the stud in the Yankee pitching rotation.
Last but not least, Mariano Rivera once again defies the test of time. At age 40, Rivera is having one of the best seasons of his career with an ERA just above 1 and a minuscule .64 WHIP. Although he is skipping the All-Star Game, Mo has had no signs of injury or slowing down. With the success of the Yankees, Rivera might his 40 saves this year for the 8th time in his career. The best reliever in the game might not show up to the All-Star game, but his presence around baseball is still as strong as ever.
With 10 All-Stars between them, the Mets and Yankees have both made strong impacts in their respective leagues. Although Jose Reyes is a late scratch from the game, David Wright is a proper representation in what has been a successful Met season. In that same breadth, Robinson Cano has helped carry a Yankee team that has been as star-studded as any in recent memory.