Six Southern Stars

New York, NY: Notes on an All-Star Monday

The fans and managers of Major League Baseball have cast their ballots, and after the dust settled, six Venezuelans made the annual All Star Game, to be played this season in Minnesota.
Technically, only one VZ player made it as a starter; the ubiquitous Miguel Cabrera of Maracay, first baseman for the Tigers of Detroit (and once upon a time, for the Tigres de Aragua). Cabrera is the best hitter of the past decade, hands down, and at this rate, bound for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Non-starters include Jose Altuve of the Astros. This one makes the true fan a bit angry, because Jose is leading the American League in hits and stolen bases, but who is the “true” fan? The one who voted for Robison Cano? Cano, to be fair, has been the best second baseman in MLB for a while, and it’s the fans’ call. Altuve’s on course for 200 + hits, and at this rate he’ll start the game one year soon. Cano, by the way, is batting .320, is a two-time Gold Glover, and will close in on 1,900 career hits in 10 full seasons if he stays healthy through 2014.
Also in a backup role is Detroit DH Victor Martinez. Say what you will about the Designated Hitter as a rule/way of life, but it seems like V-Mart could be awoken from a deep sleep, driven to the ball park in the back of a 1973 Chevy pickup, dumped into the batter’s box against any pitcher in baseball, and he’d lace a double up the gap.
Salvador Perez is an All Star catcher for the second time in two seasons. He will start the game, although technically, as a substitute: Baltimore fans stuffed the ballot boxes for Matt Wieters, who only played until May 10 before being injured (even catchers have Tommy John surgery these days). Salvador has been consistently good and probably deserved the nod regardless of Wieters’ health—but the modest Kansas City fans didn’t cast as many ballots.
Regular readers know how I favor Royals SS Alcides Escobar, but there was no way Derek Jeter would be denied a start in his last campaign, and Cuban Alexei Ramirez is having a nice season with the White Sox, with a bit more pop in his bat–despite Escobar’s 21 stolen bases (to his credit, Ramirez has stolen 14 himself). Ramirez was recognized for the first time in this, his eighth season; perhaps after a few seasons more for Alcides, the voters will do the same for him.
Naturally, Felix Hernandez made the roster of pitchers named by AL manager John Farrell, as did save machine Francisco Rodriguez of the streaking Brewers in the senior circuit (the 5th selection for both righties). In his ninth full season, King Felix may finally notch 20 wins–his previous high came during an amazing 19-5 2009 season—and his ERA is currently a career-low of 2.11 in a year of outstanding pitching around the big leagues. It would’ve been nice to see Miami’s Henderson Alvarez make the NL squad; he’s thrown 3 complete-game shutouts and has a nasty 2.27 ERA for the middling Marlins; the 6-3 win-loss mark belies his awesomeness this season. Like King Felix, a right-hander from Valencia, maybe Henderson is coming into his own at age 24.
Folks, there are more important elections to get worked up about: the presidential, the gubernatorial, heck, even your local school board elections are more important than the honorific of who starts the MLB All Star Game. But it’s fun to debate who are truly the game’s elite, the best of the best, and once again a handful of Venezuelans have proven their place at the top.

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About vzbaseball

Writer, Musician, Baseball Fanatic. Lonely Planet, Fodor's, scouring the nation and globe for stories. Big fish, small pond.
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