CHICAGO — Too bad Major League Baseball no longer showcases a second All-Star Game.
With Jered Weaver and, to a lesser extent, Howard Kendrick denied invitations to represent the American League in the All-Star Game in their home park, the Angels are not alone in their frustration and confusion.
So many qualified players were overlooked this season, MLB could stage a second Midsummer Classic with those neglected athletes and it would be almost as talent-rich as the one that will unfold on July 13.
I was dumbfounded when I learned Weaver, leading the Majors in strikeouts with a 2.82 ERA and 8-3 record, wasn’t chosen. I figured he was a dead-solid lock. You can make a strong case that he has been as good as any starter in the league, rising to the challenge of replacing good buddy John Lackey as the no-nonsense, no-doubt ace of the staff.
In fact, Weaver was that guy last season but nobody seemed to notice. This should be his second straight year in the All-Star Game, but he’ll be home with family members, pulling for Torii Hunter to represent his team with his customary passion, style and grace.
Hunter was visibly distressed when he learned that Weaver and Kendrick, who has been durable and productive, didn’t get the call. It stripped from Torii much of the satisfaction he took from earning the vote of his peers.
But even there, I was baffled. How could Jose Bautista of Toronto claim 10 more votes from the players than Hunter, who finished sixth in the players’ balloting? Sure, he’s hit a lot of home runs this season, but in no way, shape or form does Bautista compare with Hunter as a total performer.
The players’ infatuation with the Blue Jays, currently one game below .500, was puzzling. Vernon Wells is having a terrific season, but he’s not in my view the player Carl Crawford is. Yet Wells collected 64 more player votes than Crawford to finish third, ahead of the Rays’ star.
And don’t even get me started on the catching outcome. Toronto’s John Buck was third on the players’ ballots, ahead of Oakland’s Kurt Suzuki, arguably the most underrated player in the game. The only area of the game where Buck compares with Suzuki is in lifting big flies.
By taking Suzuki, rather than Buck, to replace injured Victor Martinez on the AL roster, manager Joe Girardi could then have taken Weaver rather than right-hander Trevor Cahill, the Athletics’ representative. A promising right-hander, Cahill is having a solid season, but he is not in Weaver’s class yet.
In Suzuki and Weaver, the AL would have two truly deserving, no-doubt All-Stars.
Yes, Weaver is due to work on the Sunday preceding the All-Star Game, making him ineligible to pitch in the game. But that didn’t prevent Girardi and the AL decision-makers from selecting CC Sabathia, whose spot was awarded to Yankees teammate Andy Pettitte. If Nick Swisher, running second behind Kevin Youkilis in the Final Vote, joins the party, that would be eight Yankees All-Stars, if you’re counting.
Hunter, as the lone All-Star from the Angels, clearly must be the league’s MVP at this point in keeping his team in the hunt for what would be a fourth consecutive AL West title.
As for the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler getting the call over Kendrick, the players could not have been paying enough attention to what these two second baseman have done this season. Kendrick clearly has been the more productive performer, given all the games Kinsler has missed.
The lack of respect shown the Angels was just as glaring with their neighbors to the south. Padres manager Buddy Black, Mike Scioscia’s former pitching coach, has done a masterful job with that club. The Padres had at least three richly-deserving pitching candidates for the big show and none got the call.
Judging by the performances of their teams, San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez, like Hunter, must be the MVP at the midway point of the season. The first baseman is the only representative of the club with the NL’s best record.
One final thought, regarding the phenom: Stephen Strasburg should be in this game. The whole point of elevating the importance of the All-Star Game in attaching home-field advantage in the World Series to the winner was to make sure that the best players competed at a high level and didn’t coast through the game.
If you’re the NL, and you’re serious about ending the AL’s run of dominance, you want Strasburg on the mound for an inning or two. You can’t tell me there are 13 better pitchers in the National League than this kid. I’m not sure there are three better than Strasburg. – Lyle Spencer
Nick Adenhart was in trouble right out of the chute. He walked Jamey Carroll on four pitches, then fell behind Mark De Rosa 2-0 before the Indians’ third baseman lined a single to left center, sending Carroll to third.
This is where the new and improved Adenhart surfaced. Taking his time, along with deep breaths, Adenhart gathered himself, made good pitches to the heart of the order, and escaped unscathed. Victor Martinez grounded to Chone Figgins at third for an out at home. Travis Hafner, the muscular cleanup man, went down swinging on an off-speed delivery. Shin-soo Choo, who starred for Korea n the World Baseball Classic, popped out.
This is exactly how you want to respond to adversity if you’re a young pitcher trying to carve out a rotation spot on a championship-caliber team.
Adenhart, settling into a groove, retired six of the next seven he faced, with Ben Francisco beating out an infield hit.
Held back by some early-spring right shoulder tightness, Jered Weaver didn’t get through the first inning in his Cactus League debut against the Indians on Wednesday — but he showed no signs of physical discomfort.
Weaver’s issue was with the strike zone. He had trouble finding it. His best pitch was to first base, picking off Jamey Carroll after his leadoff flare fell into right field for a single. Weaver walked David Dellucci on a full count and Travis Hafner hit a bullet over the pitcher’s head — barely — for a single. That might have gotten into Weaver’s head a little, because he went to 3-0 on Victor Martinez before he flied to right. But line drive singles by Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Garko ended Weaver’s day after 26 pitches.
His line: two-thirds of an inning, four hits, one walk and one earned run — thanks to reliever Ryan Brasier, who retired Josh Barfield to leave the bases loaded.
Weaver was elevated to No. 3 starter before throwing his first pitch with Ervin Santana (sprained right elbow ligament) starting the season on the 15-day disabled list.