The Midsummer Classic is upon us once again, which means the usual groaning and moaning by those fans whose favorite players were not selected. Making the cut is never an easy decision, and this year was very tough indeed. The San Francisco Giants are the defending World Champs; thus giving skipper Bruce Bochy the duty of managing the National League squad. Boch had the final say as to who will and won't make the team, and with all favoritism aside, he chose four deserving Giants. There might have been some very worthy players unfortunately left off the team, but Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Brian Wilson are All-Stars, and have the stats (and the stories) to back it up.
But first we should look back at last year's All-Star game, the game that may have had a big hand in making many dreams come true. If not for Brian McCann's three-run double in the bottom of seventh, the National League wouldn't have won the game(the first time in 14 years for the NL mind you), meaning the Giants wouldn't have had home-field advantage in the World Series, meaning who knows how the Fall Classic would have turned out with those first few games in Arlington instead of the Bay. But the Giants won, meaning Bochy is named the NL's manager in 2011, thus he gets to choose who's on the squad. Funny how things work out like that.
The All-Star game is rich in Giants tradition, dating way back to its inception. Ted Williams once said that All-Star game was invented for Willie Mays, a stage to present one of the most talented and exciting ball players ever to have lived. The All-Star game's inherent design isn't only to showcase the absolute best players for the first half of the season, but also to showcase the stories behind the players themselves. People eat them up; they want to see the human side of the game as well. And Bud Selig and the powers that be know that.
This will be the first time since 1993 that San Francisco will have four players represented in the Midsummer Classic. Back then it was Barry Bonds, Robby Thompson, Rod Beck and John Burkett. This time around It's three starting pitchers and the domineering closer; trading in the handlebar moustache and dangling arm for the mysterious beard and an intimidating stare. Tim Lincecum is always a fan favorite, Matt Cain is as good as it gets, while Ryan Vogelsong has become one of the better stories in baseball. These guys not only bring the heat, they fill the seats, and people want to see them play.
Yes, some other pitchers could have been chosen, a few of them from the crazy good Atlanta Braves' pitching staff for sure. But Bochy didn't pull any punches, he said from the jump that he's going to show some love to his boys, and can take any flack that comes from it.
"Nothing I can't handle. I said I'd be biased toward my guys, and I was. But they were all deserving, too."
Wilson and Vogelsong were too good not to be on the squad. Wilson, who gets one of only three reliever spots on the team along with Atlanta's Johnny Venters ands Pittsburgh's Joel Hanrahan, is tied for second in saves in the league, and has 36 strikeouts in 38 2/3 innings pitched. His 3.03 ERA and 1.42 WHIP aren't the tidiest amongst relievers, but his style induces excitement (sometimes in the form of torture), which makes people want to watch. Not to mention he's become one of the MLB's poster children; you think Major League Baseball wouldn't have that guy there? I hope he gets the save chance in the ninth, wearing the orangest (yes I said it) shoes you've ever seen.
As for Vogelsong, what else needs to be said? 6-1 in 13 starts with a 2.13 ERA, just two outs shy of the minimum needed to qualify for the NL lead in ERA at 2.13. He's pitched gems at home, as well as in horror stories (remember the storm in Chicago?) His story is incredible, almost unbelievable, and becomes only the second player ever to be out of the majors for four years and be selected to an All-Star team. The other was the Red Sox's Mickey Harris in 1946 (thanks Buster.)
Matt Cain, a very soft-spoken personality in his own right, doesn't bring the flair or attention that comes with being the Freak or the Beard, but he still is 7-4 with a 3.02 ERA thus far, not exactly slacking off on the job if you ask me. He was 4-0 in June with a 1.65 ERA in six starts, and if it wasn't for getting some of the lowest run support in all of baseball, could have been even more dominant. In his four losses he never got more than two runs out of his offense, and still pitched like a bulldog. Atlanta fans can breathe a sigh of relief though as Cain is scheduled to pitch Sunday, leaving him ineligible for the All-Star game, and likely would be replaced by Tim Hudson or Tommy Hanson.
As for Lincecum, he hasn't started out looking like the 2011 Cy Young Award winner yet, but he's definitely shown enough signs of it to make the All-Star team. He was seventh in votes for starrting pitchers, but 126 K's so far and 1.19 WHIP, that's good stuff. He's had more than a few of tough luck losses, but that's baseball, especially pitching for this schizophrenic Giants offense. I mean, come on, he's Timmy, Big Time Timmy Jim, The Freak, The Franchise, you name it. He's a superstar in this league and the people want to see him pitch. Let's just hope he doesn't have a repeat performance of his 2009 start (no more bean balls at least).
Bay Area fans really wanted to see Pablo Sandoval get a spot on the team, especially with how he's been playing since returning from wrist surgery twenty some days ago. But unfortunately Panda missed a little too much time to really get to that All-Star level, and Bochy made the right call not choosing him, and Kung Fu understood.
Let's not forget Buster Posey, a leading vote getter in the National League before he went down for the season, as well as Freddy Sanchez, who's gold-glove caliber defense and solid bat at least merited a possible nod. The Giants could have had even more All-Stars, but they didn't. Bochy stretched very little with his selections , and it was just the right amount of Black and Orange.