A few weeks ago, I started a draft for a column entitled "Appreciating Lincecum". After writing out some thoughts on that subject, I tried to build an All Appreciation Team from players around major league baseball. There were some positions where I couldn't decide, therefore the post has never seen the light of day.
This morning, I filled out my first All Star ballot online. People may vote up to 25 times. More on this in a second, but first...
Congratulations, Astros fans! Today is the first day of the Jiovanni Mier Era.According to friend of the blog, Keith Law, via MLBtraderumors, the Astros agree to terms with their first round pick, high school shortstop, Jiovanni Mier.
Young Mr. Mier has earned himself a spot on the 25 man roster for the "great name" team.
Scouts have praised this kid's defense, and his tools project well. He's not known as an elite hitting prospect. Hopefully, for the Astros, he will grow into his body, so he can add bat speed and power. He's just a high-school kid, so there's a chance he'll become a better hitter than he's shown.
Anyway, filling out the All Star ballot this morning gave us a framework to discuss the players we appreciate the most around both leagues. Even though the ballots don't allow fans to vote for pitchers, we will vote for a few arms.
1b: Miguel Cabrera
It's a Golden Age of first basemen, as this super star currently sits fourth in voting for AL first basemen. We can't even cry foul, as the three guys ahead of him (Teixeira, Youkilis, & Morneau) are legitimate MVP candidates every season.
2b: Ian Kinsler
Others can have Dustin Pedroia, and his uppercut swing. Give me the speed and power from Rangers sparkplug, Ian Kinsler. The combination of speed and power he has been exhibiting lately is to be recognized. He has 18 home runs and 14 steals, while being caught only twice. For his career, he's only been caught stealing ten times, while swiping 74 bags.
SS: Alexei Ramirez
AlexeiRam does not have the numbers to justify the vote, but Jeter's going to win this & he doesn't need our help. We'll throw out a little support for the Cuban Missile.
3b: Evan Longoria
Longoria is making a case to be considered the best player in the game. He is widely considered the best young player in the game. It's not unanimous, as other's still consider Joe Mauer young. I think Longoria has shown enough to be in the discussion of best player, with Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.
C: Joe Mauer
Nothing needs to be written here to help punctuate what Mauer has accomplished this summer and throughout his career. I'll just add that it's a shame voters aren't showing up for Victor Martinez. He's fifth in the AL, behind inferior players: Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada, and (unbelievably) Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
OF: Nelson Cruz
Salty's teammate, Nelson Cruz, has a chance to be this season's young star who has the biggest breakout season. Adam Jones is making a case for himself in Baltimore, but we appreciate how big and strong Cruz looks. Our old scouting eye is in love with his tools, as they say.
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury has seen improvement in his OBP, .361 this season from .336 last year. Unfortunately, for Red Sox fans, it appears it's from more hits and he's actually not showing much more playe discipline. I'm afraid he may be in line for a bit of regression, with his OBP settling in closer to .349.
OF: Ichiro Suzuki
The first time I saw Ichiro in person was in Safeco Field seven or eight years ago, when Freddy Garcia was pitching for the Mariners. He is still the most exciting player I've ever seen live, and I've seen a lot of them. Ichiro can command an audience's attention like Michael Jordan.
Everyone gets entranced when he digs into the batter's box and points directly at the pitcher. The audience is routinely surprised by his speed to first base, or the way he sprints to the ball on defense. The last thing that stays with me is how he would show text book footwork and mechanics when unloading a laser beam throw from the outfield. Even watching him warm up between innings was impressive. Ichiro is an all time favorite, and I'm excited for his celebration in Cooperstown.
SP: Felix Hernandez
Sure, Greinke, Halladay, Verlander and other AL starters are having great seasons, but if there's one thing I am, it's biased. I love Felix Hernandez like he were a family member and am so pleased that he's been having success so far this season. Let's appreciate the chance to watch this young man turn into an ace in front of our eyes. He was in the majors at such a young age, that we forget he's actually younger than Joba. He really has room to improve, and the stuff he brings to the hill is lethal.
RP: Mariano Rivera
He's still the best. There are other guys out there with better stuff, like Soria and Papelbon. But, this is an All-Star Game, and Rivera is having a good season, while being the most celebrated closer of all time.
1b: Albert Pujols
I don't think I've ever voted for a Cardinal before, so A-Pu should be flattered.
2b: Chase Utley
I'm sticking with the popular vote, but yes - this guy is the NL's best.
SS: Hanley Ramirez
Hanley is putting together another great season, as he looks forward to one day being the highest paid player in the game.
3b: Aramis Ramirez
I should vote for David Wright, but something tells me he'll be just fine without my help.
C: Brian McCann
It's safe to say that Chipper Jones is no longer the best hitter on the Braves. McCann has shown an ability to hit for a high average, maintain a healthy BB/K ratio, and drive the ball with power consistently. Russell Martin used to be an All-Star, but he's recently moved in with a supermodel and lost the drive to be successful, allegedly.
OF: Raul Ibanez
His current DL stint shouldn't detract from the fact that he's been the best offensive acquisition this year. He's carried the defending world champions at times and should represent them, much more than Jimmy Rollins, who until had more votes than Hanley.
OF: Carlos Beltran
Beltran probably won't be able to play in the game, but he should be recognized. He had a case to be NL MVP until his bone bruise forced him on the shelf.
OF: Matt Kemp
This is another one of our favorite contributors. His size, speed, power, and athleticism ooze talent. We'd say he's one of the best young players in the game and could still put up a 40/40 season if everything clicks around 2010 or '11.
SP: Tim Lincecum
The inspiration for these comments. Tiny Tim is such a rare creature that we hope everyone appreciates the chance to watch him pitch. The energy that he gets from his small frame and transfers into the baseball, as he hurls it towards the plate, is astonishing. Sure, we've seen little guys bring heat, like Pedro and Oswalt. But, we haven't seen a guy do a Luis Tiant turn and coil like this before. If you haven't, make sure to check out the legendary Tom Verducci article from two years ago.
RP: Heath Bell
Jonathan Broxton is the Hollywood superstar, and I do appreciate everything he brings to the hill. But, I'd like to see Bell get the save opportunity in this season's classic, if possible. He's such a great story. He was a college closer, but spent most of his time in the big leagues as a set up man for Billy Wagner or Trevor Hoffman. This season, with Hoffman on the Brew Crew, Heath Bell has converted 20 of 21 save chances. He made a splash around here in the offseason, when he reported to camp slimmer and attributed it entirely to messing around with Wii Fit.