April 17, 2008

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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 Frampton’s Camel. When a friend asked if I wanted to go I said, “I never heard of him.” 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, ’cause 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) you’re 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. That’s 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 I’m a nice guy, I’m going to help you out a little more, by giving you my all-star team from games played after the Pete Tarrier Line — to include just current major leaguers. It’s 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 they’ve accomplished in the majors, there are those whose early returns are so good they’ve 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, ’cause 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 — so I’m taking him.

Second Base: Sorry, Aaron Hill, but you’re against Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano and Dustin Pedroia. Cano nearly won a batting title two years ago, Pedroia was Rookie of the Year and I’m totally biased, but even with the fielding Soriano hit over 30 homers and stole over 30 five times — so he’s it.

Shortstop: With four ex-Sox in Nomar, Hanley Ramirez, David Eckstein and Edgar Renteria among them along with the Mets Jose Reyes it’s the toughest field. But I’m 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 — yikes, he’s good.

Third Base: The Jays’ 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, I’m taking Wright because in his first three full seasons he’s 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 I’ll bet they’ve got some great stories in Canton-Akron from back in the day. We all know how good he is and I’m pretty sure I’d take him if even Ted Williams were a post-Tarrier Line alum.

Center Field: Grady (I need one) Sizemore or Curtis Granderson? I like Sizemore’s speed and pop, but he strikes out too much and was a dud in the ALCS. Besides, I’m going to exercise my judge’s 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 Jays’ Alex (blame it on) Rios just got a big contract after a nice year, but I’ve seen Vladimir Guerrero play, sir, and you’re no Vladimir Guerrero. With nine 100-RBI seasons, a lifetime average of .324 and 367 homers at age 32 I didn’t need to, but I would have used the judge’s exemption if necessary, as with the fall of the Iron Curtain a while back and Castro out in Cuba, chances are we’re not going to see a lot Vladimirs coming out of the Caribbean for a while.

Catcher: Comes down to young’ns Joe Mauer of the Twins and Victor Martinez of the Indians. I like them both for different reasons — power and run production vs. hitting and defense. So let’s flip a coin.

Starting Pitching: Scott Kazmir, Brad Penny and Justin Verlander are all talented. But I’ll 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 he’s been had the best first two years in the majors of any closer in history — so I doubt you’ll have trouble with this pick.

Now, hopefully if you’ve been sitting on the fence about getting tickets this will get you to wake up and smell the Bigelow Tea. Because if you don’t go, I’ll bet in five years you’ll be kicking yourself, just as I do every time “Show Me the Way” comes on the radio.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.


4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring

4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat