LONGSHOTS: Show me the way to that All-Star Game
by Dave Long
During one of my junior years in college I had a chance to see a band called Framptonís Camel. When a friend asked if I wanted to go I said, ďI never heard of him.Ē So why would I spend what little money I had to see a guy I never heard of? Well the answer came that summer when the mega album Frampton Comes Alive hit the airwaves and record stores with the fastest-selling record of all time.
Ever since that day I kick myself when I hear songs from that album or see Peter Frampton selling cheesy zirconium rings on the shopping channels. That miscalculation taught me I should be more open-minded about experiencing something new, ícause you never know what you could miss.
The reason I bring this is up is that tickets for the Eastern League All-Star game go on sale on Saturday and it reminds me a little of the Frampton concert. Unless you have a subscription to Baseball America or know the Eastern League like Kevin Gray (or is it Grey I can never remember) youíre probably not going to know a whole lot about the young players coming to town on July 15 and 16. But if the list of past players in this game is any indication it will bring an inventory of future major-league stars.
There are all sorts of familiar names, like David Ortiz, who earned a trip to the game playing for New Britain while in the Twins organization. And although, if he keeps hitting like he is, he may find himself back in the Eastern League as the game arrives, things for the most part have worked out pretty well for the big guy. Thatís why he is the DH on my all-time Eastern League All-Star team.
Knowing he played in the EL All-Star game once upon a time is a hint of the expected talent at said game. And since Iím a nice guy, Iím going to help you out a little more, by giving you my all-star team from games played after the Pete Tarrier Line ó to include just current major leaguers. Itís based on what they did after they got to the majors from the list of former stars I got from the good folks over in Fisher Cats land. And while the choices are made based on what theyíve accomplished in the majors, there are those whose early returns are so good theyíve passed some solid and more established grizzled vets. And the picks are made on their major-league position, not the one they played in the minors, ícause only Kevin Gray knows that.
First Base: A tough choice among Jim Thome, Ryan Howard and Todd Helton. Helton has big numbers, but they came hitting in mile-high Colorado, and Howard has 127 homers the last three years, but Thome has 509, is clutch and a Red Sox killer ó so Iím taking him.
Second Base: Sorry, Aaron Hill, but youíre against Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano and Dustin Pedroia. Cano nearly won a batting title two years ago, Pedroia was Rookie of the Year and Iím totally biased, but even with the fielding Soriano hit over 30 homers and stole over 30 five times ó so heís it.
Shortstop: With four ex-Sox in Nomar, Hanley Ramirez, David Eckstein and Edgar Renteria among them along with the Mets Jose Reyes itís the toughest field. But Iím taking Derek Jeter because he and Jason Varitek are the best leaders in baseball and I value that more than the numbers. But watch out for Ramirez ó yikes, heís good.
Third Base: The Jaysí Scott Rolen (rollin, Rawhide) vs. David Wright of the Mets. I always thought Rolen was a tad overrated, but he does have nine seasons over 20 homers and five 100-plus RBI. But even though he somehow lasted until the 38th round, Iím taking Wright because in his first three full seasons heís been over .300 and 100 RBI three times, averaged 28 homers and I love his compact swing.
Left Field: Hard to image what Manny being Manny was like when he was 20, but Iíll bet theyíve got some great stories in Canton-Akron from back in the day. We all know how good he is and Iím pretty sure Iíd take him if even Ted Williams were a post-Tarrier Line alum.
Center Field: Grady (I need one) Sizemore or Curtis Granderson? I like Sizemoreís speed and pop, but he strikes out too much and was a dud in the ALCS. Besides, Iím going to exercise my judgeís pick here, because when you get a Willie Mays-like 38 doubles, 20 triples, 26 homers, steal 23 and hit .306 in one year as he did in 2007, you get it on the historical side alone.
Right Field: The Jaysí Alex (blame it on) Rios just got a big contract after a nice year, but Iíve seen Vladimir Guerrero play, sir, and youíre no Vladimir Guerrero. With nine 100-RBI seasons, a lifetime average of .324 and 367 homers at age 32 I didnít need to, but I would have used the judgeís exemption if necessary, as with the fall of the Iron Curtain a while back and Castro out in Cuba, chances are weíre not going to see a lot Vladimirs coming out of the Caribbean for a while.
Catcher: Comes down to youngíns Joe Mauer of the Twins and Victor Martinez of the Indians. I like them both for different reasons ó power and run production vs. hitting and defense. So letís flip a coin.
Starting Pitching: Scott Kazmir, Brad Penny and Justin Verlander are all talented. But Iíll take the 20 wins in 2004 and his post-season record to pick Josh Beckett.
Closer: Technically Jonathan Papelbon was a starter in the Eastern League, but heís been had the best first two years in the majors of any closer in history ó so I doubt youíll have trouble with this pick.
Now, hopefully if youíve been sitting on the fence about getting tickets this will get you to wake up and smell the Bigelow Tea. Because if you donít go, Iíll bet in five years youíll be kicking yourself, just as I do every time ďShow Me the WayĒ comes on the radio.
Dave Long can be reached at email@example.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billyís Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM Ė The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.