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Monday, July 30, 2007

Twins Trade Luis Castillo To Mets

By David

In need of added depth in the infield the New York Mets acquired three-time gold glove second baseman Luis Castillo from the Minnesota Twins for minor league catcher Drew Butera and minor league outfielder Dustin Martin.

"We pride our team as being pitching and defense," said Mets general manager Omar Minaya. "Castillo is one of the best second basemen in baseball."

Although Ruben Gotay has filled in nicely at second for Jose Valentin who fractured his right leg earlier this month, the Mets needed a veteran presence at a critical position as they enter the dog days of summer.

Castillo ,31, is a career .294 hitter and has swiped 315 bases during his twelve big league seasons. In 1999 he had 50 stolen bases, 62 in 2000 and 48 in 2002. He has spent the last two seasons in the Twin Cities after winning a World Series ring during his ten seasons in South Florida.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chicago White Sox Trade Tadahito Iguchi To Phillies

By David

In need of a second baseman after All-Star Chase Utley went down with a fractured right hand, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired Chicago's Tadahito Iguchi for minor league pitcher Michael Dubee.

Although Iguchi is batting a disappointing .251 this season, he is a career .273 hitter in three seasons with the White Sox. He will bring a veteran presence to the Phillies infield and a reliable bat in the lineup. Remember, he was part of the White Sox 2005 World Series team.

Utley will miss at least four weeks after having a pin inserted in his hand last week and his injury could prove to cripple the Phillies chances of reaching the playoffs.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Texas Rangers Trade Kenny Lofton To Indians

By David

The Cleveland Indians re-acquired Kenny Lofton on Friday for minor league catcher Max Ramirez.

Lofton, 40, will enjoy his third stint with the ball club that he flourished with during the mid 90's. He's the all-time stolen base leader (450) in franchise history and ranks third in runs scored (951), tenth in career base hits (1,463) and at-bats (4,872).

He will provide added depth to a young outfield that is comprised of 24-year old all-star Grady Sizemore, 30-year old Jason Michaels and 33-year old Trot Nixon.

General manager Mark Shapiro said, ''This is a guy who brings a lot of energy to us. He is 40-years old with a body of a 25-year old.''

Unlike in Texas where Lofton was playing on a struggling team, he will quickly be thrusted into a pennant race in Cleveland. The Indians are currently leading the wild card race and are right behind the Tigers for the division lead.

Max Ramirez,22, played in the All-Star Futures game earlier this month and was hitting over .300 with Class A Kinston.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bullpen Help Is A Premium As The Trade Deadline Approaches

By David

Having a solid bridge to the end of a ballgame is imperative for every team that is in the hunt for a playoff berth. With an abundance of available relievers on the market many general managers have the undue burden of deciding what players best fit their rotation.

The Rangers Eric Gagne, the Pirates Salomon Torres, the Yankees Kyle Farnsworth and Scott Proctor, the Royals Octavio Dotel, the Nationals Chad Cordero, Luis Ayala and Jon Rauch, the Reds David Weathers, the Astros Dan Wheeler, the White Sox Matt Thornton, the A's Joe Kennedy and the Rockies Brian Fuentes are all viable options for contending teams.

Eric Gagne, Chad Cordero and Octavio Dotel are the most intriguing and coveted names, but they will come with high price tags. All three play for underachieving teams and it would only be logical to expect that management would want mid to high level prospects.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Scott Linebrink Traded To Brewers

By David

In need of added depth and a veteran presence to an inexperienced bullpen, the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Padres set up man Scott Linebrink from the Brewers for right-hander Wil Inman, left-handers Joe Thatcher and Steve Garrison.

Padres general manager Kevin Towers has separated himself as an elite GM due to his propensity for acquiring young talent and transforming them into major league stars. Case in point was last season when he traded for Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young of the Texas Rangers who were thought of at the time as borderline players.

Wil Inman was rated as the Brewers third best prospect according to Baseball America and Joe Thatcher will be added to San Diego's 25-man roster tomorrow when they open up a weekend series in Houston. After the transaction was completed Towers said, ''it was a deal that was by far the best deal. This was one that collectively we looked at and said, we can't pass it up.''

The Padres, who by all estimations have the premier bullpen in baseball, will be losing their set up man that has been with the team since 2003. He'll provide leadership and a short term infusion for the remainder of the season. Linebrink, 30, has posted a 2.82, 2.14, 1.83, 3.57 and 3.80 E.R.A. over the course of the past five seasons. He's appeared in three career playoff games and while he has not enjoyed a great success rate, he'll be able to provide a steady presence late in ballgames.

The one question mark that can be raised about the Austin, Texas native is that his E.R.A has increased substantially the last two seasons. Going from an 8-1 record with a 1.83 earned run average to a 10-7 record with a 3.69 earned run average stages a major red flag in my mind. Nine home runs surrendered in 45 innings is inexcusable for a player of his caliber.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Trade Rumors Swirling As Deadline Approaches

Fact or fiction: the Yankees will acquire a bat off the bench and much needed bullpen help. All of that and much more will be finalized with eight days remaining until the MLB trade deadline.

Will general managers trade for a big name hitter or pitcher or will they remain placid with the hope that they have the team in place to make a run for a playoff berth? July 31st will determine what clubs are contenders and which are pretenders. The underlining truth is that all division leaders and teams in the wild card mix could use an extra arm and fill a void on offense.

With a very scarce pool of quality players available it will be up to the crafty gm's to find value where most others would come up empty. It's an arduous feat to accomplish, but guys like Kevin Towers of the Padres, John Schuerholz of the Braves, Theo Epstein of the Red Sox and Omar Minaya of the Mets have made a living at finding undervalued players.

Two prominent pitchers that will be available are the White Sox Jose Contreras and the Giants Matt Morris. Contreras, 35, is on course to suffer the worst season in his 5-year major league career. At 5-12, he's sporting a 5.76 E.R.A. and has allowed 134 hits in 114 innings pitched. Still, he brings playoff experience and is the cheapest of the White Sox pitchers that Kenny Williams would be willing to trade.

After ending a disappointing first-year by the bay where he lost 15 games, Matt Morris has rebounded nicely to go 7-6 with a respectable 4.08 E.R.A. He's the veteran leader of a young and dynamic pitching staff that is among the best of baseball. He would be the quintessential fit for any playoff bound team.

Rangers' first baseman Mark Teixeira is the hottest commodity available on the trade market and all indications demonstrate that general manager Jon Daniels is willing to deal his franchise player. For a team like the Yankees, Angels, Tigers or Braves to acquire the power hitting infielder, they must be willing to give up several high-profile prospects.

Dodgers are frontrunner to acquire Dotel who's pitching exceptionally well. Is finally healthy.

Yankees Offense Explodes For 21 Runs Against The Tampa Bay Devil Rays

By David

21 runs, 25 hits, six home runs, a 29-minute ten run fourth inning and close to four hours of constant battering of Devil Rays pitching was all in a days order for the Bronx Bombers as they inched closer to the Indians in the highly combustible AL wild card race.

While training camp does not start till Friday for the hometown Jets , the Yankees got off to an early start as they scored three touchdowns and held the woeful Rays to a field goal and extra point. To put the offensive onslaught of New York into perspective, fifteen teams on Sunday combined to score 21 runs and the Rockies, Mariners, Pirates, Cubs, A's and Padres were all shutout.

Shelley Duncan, brother of the Cardinals Chris Duncan and son of St.Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan, went 2-for-4 with two home runs, four runs knocked in and two base on balls. In the fourth inning with two on and two out against left-handed reliever Casey Fossum he belted a Prince Fielder type home run deep to left field. After receiving two curtain calls by the Yankee faithful, the 6-foot-5 power hitter now has three in four days.

"It's pretty exciting. He has a lot of energy," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes we need that energy, so that's good. I'm happy he's here."

A-Rod, who is having one of the most productive seasons in baseball history, blasted his 34th long ball of the season and climbed one RBI away from 100. In 97 games played, he's batting .313 with a .412 on base percentage and .665 slugging percentage. Rodriguez is now two homers shy of reaching the paramount mark of 500 career home runs.

Left Fielder Hideki Matsui added a regular season career-high five hits and scorched his 17th homer of the season to contribute to the offensive explosion. Before the All-Star break, second baseman Robinson Cano was batting a respectable .274. Since play resumed in the second half, he's batting .413 with 19 hits and a .609 slugging percentage. On Sunday, Robby tattooed Tampa's pitching for four hits, 3 runs batted in and a two-run home run deep to right field in the bottom half of the eight inning.

Other notable contributions were made by Melky Cabrera (2-for-4, two walks, two runs scored and a run knocked in), Derek Jeter (1-for-3, two runs scored and an RBI), Bobby Abreu (3-for-4, 3 runs batted in, 2 runs scored and a solo home run), and Jorge Posada (3-for-6, 1 run batted in and one run scored).

Tulsa Drillers coach dies after being struck by line drive

When any individuals life is cut short due to an unforeseen event it is tragic, but the situation is magnified when it occurs in the public spotlight in front of your players and the opposing team.

Although I do not follow the Texas League with great awareness and never heard of Tulsa coach Mike Coolbaugh, my best wishes go out to his family during this unfortunate grieving process.

July 23, 2007

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- Tulsa Drillers coach Mike Coolbaugh died Sunday night after being struck in the head by a line drive as he stood in the first-base coach's box during a Texas League game with the Arkansas Travelers, police said.

The game was suspended in the ninth inning after Coolbaugh was struck by a hard-hit foul ball off the bat of Tino Sanchez and taken to Baptist Medical Center-North Little Rock.

Phil Elson, spokesman for the Travelers, said Coolbaugh was struck by the ball on the right side of his head, or on the forehead -- "I'm getting conflicting reports," he said -- and fell to the ground immediately.

According to a report posted on the Drillers' Web site late Sunday, Coolbaugh was knocked unconscious and CPR was administered to him on the field.

Sgt. Terry Kuykendall, spokesman for North Little Rock police, said Coolbaugh was still alive when he was put in an ambulance for the trip to the hospital, but stopped breathing as the ambulance arrived at the facility.

"They tried to resuscitate him, but he was pronounced dead at 9:47 p.m.," Kuykendall said.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cardinals' Albert Pujols Continues Home Run Tear Against Philadelphia Phillies

By David

Slugger Albert Pujols has taken one step closer to handing the Phillies their 10,000 career lose as he drilled home runs number 19 and 20 on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.

In the fifth inning with Skip Schumaker leading off first he belted a mammoth shot into the right field stands to give starting pitcher Adam Wainwright a 5-0 lead. In the seventh inning against reliever Brian Sanches he hit a solo shot to left field for his 20th home run of the season.

Since second half play began Thursday, he has compiled four home runs and 5 RBI's. It had taken the 5-time All-Star 28 games to hit his last four long balls and in the prior 22 games before the break he was homerless.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Undervalued Commodities In The Marketplace

By David

Power hitting defensive catchers are few and far between in baseball. The list of outstanding back stoppers can be counted on one hand.

The Indians' Victor Martinez, the Yankees' Jorge Posada, the Red Sox' Jason Varitek, the Twins' Joe Mauer and the Tigers' Ivan Rodriguez are all former All -Stars who contribute substantially to their teams success and receive hefty pay checks.

Still, there are several catchers who make close to the league minimum and are playing well.

Brian McCann: The 23-year old is a fixture in the middle of the Braves lineup and one of the premier young players in baseball. An All=Star for the second time this season Brian is one of the top fantasy catchers in the league and has a career .988 fielding percentage. His success is frequently overshadowed due in part to the big name catchers who steal the headlines.

With a salary of $666,667 McCann is a bargain for Gm John Schuerholz.

Russell Martin: Voted in as an All-Star this year by the fans he is a multi dimensional player. The 24-year old brings speed, power, above average throwing accuracy, outstanding hitting ability and athleticism to Grady Little's lineup every night.

To put his agility into perspective, he has 16 stolen bases this season. The rest of the starting catchers in the National League have a combined 12 swiped bags. Additionally, his 61 runs knocked in are sixth best in the senior circuit and his .313 average places him in the top 15.

An .882 OPS(.382 OBP ans .500 SLG percentage) is extremely respectable for a catcher.

Russell's very fortunate to be playing in a big market city like L.A. because it enables him to receive the exposure that he deserves. Not only is he excellent with the bat, but he mans one of the better pitching staffs in the majors very well. In my opinion, he is the most undervalued catcher in MLB.

At $387,500, Martin is earning $7,500 over the league minimum.

Mike Piazza To Leave The Bay Area

By David

The highest paid backup catcher in baseball might be taking his game to another city if general manager Billy Beane can find a viable suitor.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Piazza, who has been out of action since May 2nd with a severely sprained sprained shoulder, is not ready to begin a rehab assignment as a catcher. The future Hall of Famer does not have the strength to throw the ball accurately and if it was up to him he'd return as the designated hitter.

Originally, the A's signed Piazza to be there everyday DH, but once he injured himself Jack Cust resumed that role. Cust has been playing so well (.262, 15 HR's, 42 RBI's, .388 OBP, 556 SLG) that no room remains for the man who holds the record for most home runs by a catcher.

Furthermore, 27-year old power hitting outfielder Nick Swisher would move to first base, but that position is currently occupied by Dan Johnson. However you try to jumble around the lineup card there will be no room remaining for Piazza.

Teams in search of a bat before the July 31st trading deadline include the Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem.

White Sox Slugger Jermaine Dye To The New York Mets?

By David

Two and a half weeks remain until the July 31st trade deadline and there are constant rumors swirling that the Mets are pursuing Chicago Right Fielder Jermaine Dye.

In 74 games this season, Dye is batting .219 with 13 home runs and 41 runs batted in. Not the ideal season to be having when you enter the daunting period of free agency.

In 2006 he enjoyed a career year, batting .315 with 44 home runs, 120 RBI'S, 103 runs scored, 170 hits, 27 doubles, a .385 on base percentage and a .622 slugging percentage. His monster season parlayed into an all-star appearance, a Silver Slugger award and a fourth place finish in the MVP voting, ahead of players such as Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, Travis Hafner and home run derby champion Vlad Guerrero.

Mets general manager Omar Minaya has feverishly been searching for another bat in the lineup for the past several weeks and while the asking price for Dye might be too high it's still worth taking a shot. He made it crystal clear earlier this week that he was displeased with the direction of the offense when he dismissed hitting coach Rick Down and replaced him with first base coach Howard Johnson.

The next step is to acquire a power hitting corner outfielder who can fill the void left by 40-year old Moises Alou and struggling right fielder Shawn Green. Endy Chavez is a spark plug off the bench, but is not the long term solution. The recalling of Lastings Milledge indicates that Minaya is letting other general managers assess the young outfielders ability before they come calling to trade for him. If Dye is to land in the Big Apple Milledge must be included in the package.

With constant speculation mounting whether the Amazins will land the 2-time all-star, let's break down if it really makes sense for Minaya to pull the trigger. A free agent at the end of the season, Dye will demand at least $15-20 million a season and with the statistics he's putting up this season it will be hard for him to plead his case.

Plagued with a left quad injury for the majority of the season, Dye has been unable to generate the power off his bat that fans on the south side of Chicago have become accustomed to since 2004. If he's unable to drive in runners it would be senseless for the Mets to trade a top prospect for a player they'll have for two months. There are other avenues that Minaya can search in order to acquire a productive outfielder.

Two-time World Series winner Jeff Conine would be a solid fit, A's outfielder Shannon Stewart can provide speed and a veteran presence in the clubhouse, Coco Crisp of the AL East leading Red Sox could serve as a cheap addition, 14-year veteran Matt Stairs would be the quintessential power bat off the bench(.288, 14 HR's, 36 RBI's and .556 SLG percentage), Sammy Sosa and Kenny Lofton would both be fine additions and so would the Giants' Randy Winn.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Average Major League Baseball Career Is 5.6 Years, According To New Study

Article from University of Colorado at Boulder website.

July 9, 2007

The average career of a Major League Baseball player is 5.6 years, according to a new study by a University of Colorado at Boulder research team.

The study also revealed that one in five position players will have only a single-year career, and that at every point of a player's career, the player's chance of ending his career is at least 11 percent.

Results of the study, "Major League Baseball Career Length in the 20th Century," will be published in the August issue of Population Research and Policy Review. The study was conducted by former CU-Boulder graduate student William Witnauer, sociology Professor Richard Rogers and doctoral student Jarron Saint Onge. Rogers also directs the Population Program in the CU-Boulder Institute of Behavioral Science.

"Population research can provide rich insight into important and popular social issues, including baseball," Rogers said. "Population research can provide rich insight into important and popular social issues, including baseball," Rogers said.

The study examined the career statistics of baseball players who started their careers between 1902 and 1993. Pitchers were excluded because of their unique positions, career volatility and propensity for injuries.

Between 1902 and 1993, 5,989 position players started their careers and played 33,272 person years of Major League Baseball. Using voluminous baseball statistics, the authors then developed a table of average career lengths for the players.

Everyone knows that Major League Baseball is highly competitive," Witnauer said. "But as Americans enjoy this year's All-Star game, they now have a definitive answer on the average length of a baseball career."

The CU-Boulder Institute of Behavioral Science, established in 1957, provides a setting for interdisciplinary, collaborative research. For more information visit www.colorado.edu/ibs.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Undervalued Commodities In The Marketplace

By David
Oakland Athletics General manager Billy Beane detailed in Michael Lewis's critically acclaimed book Moneyball, how he transformed the second lowest payroll in the league into one of the premier franchises in Major League Baseball.

Beane took what I call undervalued commodities or players that no other team finds desirable, and signed them to budget conscience contracts with the hope that they would produce a winner on the field.

In this article, I will discuss what under appreciated pitchers through the first half of the season have done very well. My analysis is based upon salary and performance of these unheralded stars that have played integral parts in their teams success.

Pat Neshek: Undrafted out of Butler, the 26-year old right-hander is 3-1 in 42.1 innings with an anemic 1.70 E.R.A. His 0.73 WHIP, .129 batting average against and 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio is among the best in the American League. He is the bridge in the bullpen to closer Joe Nathan and in games he appears in the Twins are 22-20. At $395,000, Neshek is making $15,000 over the league minimum.

Fausto Carmona: In his rookie season, Carmona went 1-10 with an inflated 5.38 E.R.A. 38 walks, 7 home runs, 45 earned runs and 88 hits allowed in 74.2 innings would have pushed any 22-year old pitcher to the brinks. Could it be possible for him to rebound and become a mainstay in the Indians starting rotation?

After being optioned down to AAA Buffalo on May 1st, Carmona was recalled on May 7th and he has not looked back since. In 17 games started the Dominican Republic native is 10-4 with a 3.85 E.R.A. In one season he has gone from 10 losses to 10 wins and there is still the second half of the season to play. His 10 wins rank fourth in the AL and his .714 winning percentage is ninth best in the league.

Amazingly, every big league team overlooked his talent as he went undrafted several seasons ago. At $387,500, Carmona has been a bargain find for the AL wild card leading Indians.

Carlos Villanueva: A righty specialists for the NL Central leading Milwaukee Brewers, Villanueva is 6-0 with a 2.83 E.R.A. in 60.1 innings. Undrafted out of the Dominican Republic, he has been effective in both short and long relief for Manager Ned Yost. In five appearances of three innings or more Villanueva has surrendered nine hits and one earned run.

The Brew Crew are 22-14 when Villanueva pitches, and if they are to win their first division title since 1982 he will have to continue his success in the second half. At $384,500, Villanueva is earning $4500 over the league minimum.

Kevin Cameron: While the majority of people have heard of the pitchers listed above, very few outside of San Diego know who Kevin Cameron is. Undrafted out of Georgia Tech, this Yellow Jacket has been stinging opposing hitters all year long to the tune of a 0.31 E.R.A. Stop and indulge the statistic I just provided you. A 0.31 E.R.A. is unheard of in today's world and the only time he's given up a run in his young career was on May 29th at Pittsburgh.

To think that he did not permit a runner to score in April, June or July, and only gave up an RBI single to Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche in May is absurd. Playing for the league minimum, Cameron tops the list of undervalued commodities in Major League Baseball.

Tom Gorzelanny:In his second season with the Pirates, Gorzelanny is 9-4 with a 3.10 E.R.A. in 18 starts. The 24-year old south paw has pitched at least 6 innings or more in 16 of his appearances and has held left-handed hitters to a .202 batting average. His 9 victories are sixth best in the NL, his 3.10 E.R.A. ranks seventh best in the senior circuit, his 119 innings pitched eighth best and his .692 winning percentage is eighth best in the NL.

Clearly, at 24-years of age Gorzelanny is an elite left-hander in the National League and the ace of the Pirates pitching staff. At $386,000, he comes extremely inexpensive to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Tomorrow, I will share who I think the most undervalued catchers in baseball are.

MLB ALL-Star ratings decline

July 11, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -- Television ratings for Major League Baseball's All-Star game fell almost 10 percent from last year.

The American League's 5-4 victory in San Francisco on Tuesday night drew an 8.4 rating and 15 share on Fox, averaging 12.5 million viewers.

Last year's game received a 9.3/16 with an average of 14.4 million viewers.

The rating is the percentage watching a telecast among all homes with televisions, and the share is the percentage tuned in to a broadcast among those households with televisions on at the time. A ratings point represents 1,114,000 households.

The total number of viewers for the game increased, up to 31.4 million from 31.2 million in 2006.

The game and pregame show averaged a 7.9/14, giving Fox the highest-rated night of prime time on any network since its "American Idol" finale on May 23.

Ichiro Suzuki Blasts A 2-Run Inside The Park Home Run and Wins MVP

By David

AT & T Park was filled to capacity Tuesday night to watch the AL all-stars continue their dominance over the NL. On a cloudy and cool summer night by the bay Ichiro Suzuki and Victor Martinez blasted two-run home runs and Josh Beckett pitched two scoreless innings to hand the AL their tenth victory in the last eleven years.

In the top of the fifth inning with one out Mariners Center Fielder Ichiro Suzuki ripped a Chris Young offering off the right field wall that Ken Griffey Jr. was unable to handle. The ball took a crazy bounce off the 309 marker and rolled away from Griffey, and from there Ichiro was off to the races. Brian Roberts scored from first and Ichiro easily rounded home plate to give the AL a 2-1 lead. This was the first inside-the park home run in All-Star game history.

Suzuki finished 3-for-3 with a run scored and was named the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player of the 78th All-Star game. He was rewarded with a new SUV and possibly a five-year contract worth $100 million from the Mariners.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Red Sox Reliever Hideki Okajima Added To AL All-Star Roster

By David

Boston set up man Hideki Okajima was the winner of the 32nd man Internet vote edging out the Twins' Pat Neshek , the Tigers' Jeremy Bonderman, the Blue Jays' Roy Halladay and the Angels' Kelvim Escobar.

A record 23 million votes were cast during four hectic days in the sixth annual Monster All-Star Final Vote. Okajima will be attending his first career All-Star game along with teammates Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papalbon, Mike Lowell, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Boston is the first team to win the All-Star Final vote three times and that honor is mostly attributed to their loyal fans who come to the ballpark to cheer on their favorite team each and every night.

''I appreciate all the fans who voted for me.'' ''American baseball fans and Japanese baseball fans, teammates, everybody. Big thanks to all the people that supported me,'' said Okajima.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My 2007 NL All-Star Picks

By David

The all-stars have been selected, the rosters are nearly full, and now it's time to dissect if the fans and players have made the right decisions.

Although the fans do not vote based on players performance, they did make pretty shrewed decisions this year. The popularity contest that usually culminates in non-deserving players going to the summer classic has resulted in very deserving players heading off to San Francisco next week.

In the National League, catcher Russell Martin, first baseman Prince Fielder, second baseman Chase Utley, shortstop Jose Reyes, third baseman David Wright and outfielders Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Carlos Beltran were voted in by the fans.

As of Wednesday, Mets third baseman David Wright was batting .290 with 14 home runs, 45 runs batted in and a .502 slugging percentage. Conversely, Marlins third baseman Miguel Cabrera is batting .329 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI's and a .580 slugging percentage. Cubbies third baseman Aramis Ramirez is tearing it up with a .311 with 15 home runs, 49 runs batted in and a .566 slugging percentage in 18 fewer games. Take your pick between Cabrera and Ramirez.

Roaming in the outfield are three elite players, but only one has the statistics that could warrant an all-star start. 11-time all-star and 10-time gold glove winner Ken Griffey Jr. is having a phenomenal season as he continues to inch up on the career home run list. He's batting .286 with 23 homers, 59 runs batted in and 49 runs scored in 82 games. His 23 blasts rank third in the National League and his .568 slugging percentage places him in eighth place in the NL, behind the likes of all-stars Miguel Cabrera, Chase Utley and Prince Fielder.

The two glaring weaknesses that are visible in the outfield are Barry Bonds and Carlos Beltran. Even though the game is being played in San Francisco and Bonds is 5 home runs away from breaking Hank Aaron's record, the numbers he put up in the first half were not impressive. Barry's .295 average with 17 home runs and 42 runs batted in is not deserving of a start.

Carlos Beltran has become invisible in the Mets lineup this season with a .264 average and 16 home runs. Because the fans are allowed to vote for what players they want to see start in July's exhibition game he was given the starting nod. All I can say is that no slugger, despite the fame or money they have deserves to be rewarded for playing poorly.

Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies and Carlos Lee of the Houston Astros are tearing the cover off of the baseball this season. Holliday, 27, is batting .341 with 15 home runs and 69 RBI's. His average is fourth best in baseball, his RBI's seventh and his .573 slugging percentage is good for eleventh in the majors.

In his first season with Houston ''El Caballo'' leads the NL with 73 runs batted in and has been a fixture in the Astros everyday lineup. It's unfortunate that baseball is not showcasing their premier talent in Tuesday's game, but as we've learned over the years MLB couldn't give a damn about what the fans think. As long as they money continues to flow in at a record pace everything will be ok for the commissioner's office.

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