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2005 All-Stars

As baseball commentators from all around the crowded ‘net have opined, we’re entering a bit of a silly-season for talking about baseball. The time for predictions is long past. Comments on hot or cold starts have already been made, and while the sample sizes they’re based on are trickling towards relevance, they’re not there yet. It’s also too early for talk about pennant races or contenders, and it’s too early to determine who should play for next season and who should, to borrow an expression that’s gone from obscure to overused in the course of a few months, go all in. No problem, though. We can watch games, or even go outside and enjoy the springtime.

We can also look ahead to the Midsummer Classic, to be held this year in lovely downtown Detroit. For years the Tigers have been merely incidental participants, granted a lone player but without a star or a storyline aside from whether or not a Detroit player will actually enter the game. Last year was an exception. Two Tigers made the roster for the first time since 1994. Ivan Rodriguez started, batted second, and went 2-4 with a triple, though Carlos Guillen, the fourth shortstop on the AL team, didn’t get any PT on the 30-man team.

I think we can be fairly sure that any Tigers that squeak onto the roster this year will make appearances in front of the hometown fans. What are the chances that we’ll get more than the obligatory one player? Let’s take a look.

Alan Trammell, odds: 1:10,000. This one’s cheating a bit, as Trammell has already been named a coach for this year’s team, under BoSox manager Terry Francona. It seems to be something of a tradition to name the home team’s manager a coach. Jerry Manuel was on the squad for the 2003 game at Comiskey though he would be fired at season’s end, and Jimy Williams received the same “honor’ last year in Houston even though he’d be fired the next week. Trammell is in no such immediate danger, however, and deserves a chance to receive a lusty cheer on national TV during the intros.

Ivan Rodriguez, odds: 2:3. Pudge was named starter by the fans last year, but may lose out to Jason Varitek as the inescapable outpouring of Red Sox love extends into the All-Star voting. Furthermore, though he’s off to a decent start, Varitek, Javy Lopez, and Joe Mauer are all off to significantly better ones. Still, Pudge is well-liked, will be hitting .300, and is seen as the best player on the team. It says here that if Mauer stays healthy for the first half of the season, Francona squeezes four catchers onto the roster. Maybe they should always have a DH in the All-Star game so they can overload a position. At catcher, I think they’re going to need to for some of these guys to get a chance, because the era of Mauer is about to begin.

Carlos Guillen, odds 2:3. Guillen is the AL batting leader, and his odds are only this low because of the chance that he could get hurt. He, Miguel Tejada, and Derek Jeter should make the team. The only thing, aside from the DL, that could keep Guillen out is a serious slump coupled with Red Sox nation throwing Edgar Renteria or even Orlando Cabrera into the mix as the starter.

Jeremy Bonderman, odds 3:1. Bonderman just needs to keep it up. He’s currently tied for second in the league in wins, he’s third in strikeouts, and 19th in ERA. If a couple of bad outings push his ERA up into the upper fours, he’ll struggle to make it. If he’s got 11 or 12 wins with an ERA under four come selection time, he’ll be hard to deny.

Dmitri Young, odds 8:1. Nothing wrong with Dmitri’s start: .302/.362/.528, 15th in the AL in OPS as of this writing. The fact that he’s quotable, gregarious, and made headlines on opening day doesn’t hurt, either. He’ll need to pick up the home-run pace, however, not to be denied by a decent cornerman from a one-player team. Players like Mike Sweeney, Aubrey Huff, and Travis Hafner stand directly in Young’s path.

Brandon Inge, odds 15:1. Inge’s fast start has been tarnished by a flu-influenced slump, and he’s clearly behind the likes of A-Rod, Melvin Mora, Hank Blalock, and Adrian Beltre in the ranks of most valuable AL third basemen. Still, Beltre is off to a horrific start, Blalock a mediocre one, and Mora’s emergence is not so widely recognized that should he get cold and Inge hot, the true order of things might get reversed. It’s not terribly likely that he’ll be better than Mora, but that doesn’t mean that Inge’s improvement over the last couple of years is any less remarkable.

Ugueth Urbina, odds 40:1. Troy Percival’s injury opens the door here. Urbina has started to pitch well; no reason he can’t uncork 20 saves in 35 games if the team gets hot and Percival doesn’t come back.

Troy Percival, odds 70:1. No reason he can’t uncork 20 saves in 35 games if the team gets hot and he comes back in the minimum 15 games.

Jason Johnson (100:1), Nate Robertson (95:1), and Mike Maroth (80:1). All three pitchers are off to reasonable starts with ERAs under 4.00. It’s not likely however that they’ll both improve on their performances and vulture some wins. Maroth has the best chance, as he’s striking out more hitters than at any point in his career and might seem like he deserves a reward for 2003. Robertson and Johnson are walking as many batters as they strike out.

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