Inside the ballot: My AL All-Star team

More: Stan McNeal’s National League All-Star picks

There are three days until the 2010 All-Star rosters will be announced. You know what that means? Time to pick your team.

Guideline No. 1: It isn’t always about the most deserving players. Because every team must be represented, some deserving players will miss the chance to play in Anaheim on July 13.

Elvis Andrus' glove should make him an All-Star at shortstop.
Elvis Andrus’ glove should make him an All-Star at shortstop.

Other guidelines:

• Fan voting, which closes tonight on mlb.com, determines the AL’s starting nine and the NL’s starting eight (no DH on the NL ballot).

• Players vote for backups at each position, five starting pitchers and three relievers.

• Managers Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel fill out the rosters, which are comprised of 21 position players and 13 pitchers (including at least three relievers).

• A new wrinkle: Any starting pitcher who works on the Sunday before the game will not be eligible to pitch in the game. He still will be on the team and a replacement will be added to the roster. Add these last-minute pitchers and injury replacements (there will be a bunch this year) and the 34-man rosters could swell closer to 40.

Even with two fewer teams, picking the AL squad is tougher than the NL. Maybe that is what happens when there are more worthy position players and not as many pitchers.

My 34-man AL roster:

First base (4): Justin Morneau went into the last week of fans’ voting needing to hold off Mark Teixeira for the start. Teixeira shouldn’t even make the team considering his numbers and the depth at this position. And nobody should start ahead of Miguel Cabrera, who is hitting .337 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs. Paul Konerko, Kevin Youkilis and Billy Butler all have put up worthy numbers, but Butler loses out because only one Royal makes my team.

Second base (2): Robinson Cano leads the majors in hitting and is a no-brainer to start. Being a Yankee hasn’t hurt him running away with the fans’ vote, either. With Dustin Pedroia (foot) out, there is an open spot. I’ll go with Ty Wigginton to fulfill the Oriole requirement even though he is no more deserving than Nick Markakis or Adam Jones.

Shortstop (2): Elvis Andrus’ offense might never catch up to his defense, but that is because his defense is that good. He has been better than the fans’ favorite, Derek Jeter, so Andrus warrants the start. But considering he is only 21, he should not mind stepping aside for his elder this time.

Third base (3): Evan Longoria has a huge lead in the fans’ voting and was my starter, too, until his June swoon. Adrian Beltre hasn’t slowed down and he steps into the starting spot on my team, with Michael Young right behind. Sorry, Alex Rodriguez. Your slow start cost you.

Catcher (2): Even in a subpar (for him) season, Joe Mauer makes this the easiest position to pick — just like he did last year and just like he will next year and the following year and … you get the point. Picking his backup is a bit more difficult with Victor Martinez (thumb) on the disabled list. Kurt Suzuki gets the nod over John Buck because Suzuki is as close as deserving as anyone on the A’s.

Outfield (7): Josh Hamilton figured to win a spot in the fans’ voting even if he hadn’t hit a major league-best .454 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in 26 June games. Now the only question is whether he hit third or fourth. Carl Crawford leads AL outfielders in runs and is hitting over .300, so he warrants the fans’ support he is receiving. It would be a very unusual season if Ichiro Suzuki wasn’t on pace for 200 hits — and starting in the All-Star Game.

There is a surplus of deserving backups, including two leading candidates for comeback player of the year: Vernon Wells and his former teammate Alex Rios. Torii Hunter gets a spot because he is the face of the host team. He also is hitting .290 and is on pace for 25 homers, 100-plus RBIs and another Gold Glove. David DeJesus edges Butler as my pick from the Royals because his numbers are a bit better. Apologies to rookie Brennan Boesch, Jose Bautista, Shin-Soo Chin and Brett Gardner.

DH (1): Vladimir Guerrero showed the Angels what they are missing when he beat them with a grand slam Wednesday night. He will get another chance to showcase his talent when he is announced as an All-Star starter in his old home stadium. I’d feel worse about leaving off David Ortiz if he hadn’t slumped in June.

Starting pitchers (10): No pitcher has been better than Cliff Lee over the past few weeks, and he deserves to start. If he doesn’t, let Andy Pettitte do so before he retires. He has shown he can pitch in big games. Only a few others are obvious: AL wins and ERA leader David Price, strikeouts leaders Jered Weaver and Jon Lester, who wouldn’t be such an easy selection if Clay Buchholz (hamstring) were healthy.

My second five: CC Sabathia, who seems to be getting stronger while Phil Hughes has faltered; Fausto Carmona, the lone Indian; AL innings leader Felix Hernandez; Ricky Romero, third in innings and seventh in ERA; and Jeff Niemann, because of his season-long consistency and 2.72 ERA.

Relief pitchers (3): Reserve a spot for Mariano Rivera every year until he retires (which should be, what, in another five years?). Jose Valverde is just as automatic this season with one more save and an even better ERA than Rivera (0.53 to 0.92). Rafael Soriano has been the third most effective AL closer and makes this team.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

More: Stan McNeal’s National League All-Star picks

There are three days until the 2010 All-Star rosters will be announced. You know what that means? Time to pick your team.

Guideline No. 1: It isn’t always about the most deserving players. Because every team must be represented, some deserving players will miss the chance to play in Anaheim on July 13.

Elvis Andrus' glove should make him an All-Star at shortstop.
Elvis Andrus’ glove should make him an All-Star at shortstop.

Other guidelines:

• Fan voting, which closes tonight on mlb.com, determines the AL’s starting nine and the NL’s starting eight (no DH on the NL ballot).

• Players vote for backups at each position, five starting pitchers and three relievers.

• Managers Joe Girardi and Charlie Manuel fill out the rosters, which are comprised of 21 position players and 13 pitchers (including at least three relievers).

• A new wrinkle: Any starting pitcher who works on the Sunday before the game will not be eligible to pitch in the game. He still will be on the team and a replacement will be added to the roster. Add these last-minute pitchers and injury replacements (there will be a bunch this year) and the 34-man rosters could swell closer to 40.

Even with two fewer teams, picking the AL squad is tougher than the NL. Maybe that is what happens when there are more worthy position players and not as many pitchers.

My 34-man AL roster:

First base (4): Justin Morneau went into the last week of fans’ voting needing to hold off Mark Teixeira for the start. Teixeira shouldn’t even make the team considering his numbers and the depth at this position. And nobody should start ahead of Miguel Cabrera, who is hitting .337 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs. Paul Konerko, Kevin Youkilis and Billy Butler all have put up worthy numbers, but Butler loses out because only one Royal makes my team.

Second base (2): Robinson Cano leads the majors in hitting and is a no-brainer to start. Being a Yankee hasn’t hurt him running away with the fans’ vote, either. With Dustin Pedroia (foot) out, there is an open spot. I’ll go with Ty Wigginton to fulfill the Oriole requirement even though he is no more deserving than Nick Markakis or Adam Jones.

Shortstop (2): Elvis Andrus’ offense might never catch up to his defense, but that is because his defense is that good. He has been better than the fans’ favorite, Derek Jeter, so Andrus warrants the start. But considering he is only 21, he should not mind stepping aside for his elder this time.

Third base (3): Evan Longoria has a huge lead in the fans’ voting and was my starter, too, until his June swoon. Adrian Beltre hasn’t slowed down and he steps into the starting spot on my team, with Michael Young right behind. Sorry, Alex Rodriguez. Your slow start cost you.

Catcher (2): Even in a subpar (for him) season, Joe Mauer makes this the easiest position to pick — just like he did last year and just like he will next year and the following year and … you get the point. Picking his backup is a bit more difficult with Victor Martinez (thumb) on the disabled list. Kurt Suzuki gets the nod over John Buck because Suzuki is as close as deserving as anyone on the A’s.

Outfield (7): Josh Hamilton figured to win a spot in the fans’ voting even if he hadn’t hit a major league-best .454 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in 26 June games. Now the only question is whether he hit third or fourth. Carl Crawford leads AL outfielders in runs and is hitting over .300, so he warrants the fans’ support he is receiving. It would be a very unusual season if Ichiro Suzuki wasn’t on pace for 200 hits — and starting in the All-Star Game.

There is a surplus of deserving backups, including two leading candidates for comeback player of the year: Vernon Wells and his former teammate Alex Rios. Torii Hunter gets a spot because he is the face of the host team. He also is hitting .290 and is on pace for 25 homers, 100-plus RBIs and another Gold Glove. David DeJesus edges Butler as my pick from the Royals because his numbers are a bit better. Apologies to rookie Brennan Boesch, Jose Bautista, Shin-Soo Chin and Brett Gardner.

DH (1): Vladimir Guerrero showed the Angels what they are missing when he beat them with a grand slam Wednesday night. He will get another chance to showcase his talent when he is announced as an All-Star starter in his old home stadium. I’d feel worse about leaving off David Ortiz if he hadn’t slumped in June.

Starting pitchers (10): No pitcher has been better than Cliff Lee over the past few weeks, and he deserves to start. If he doesn’t, let Andy Pettitte do so before he retires. He has shown he can pitch in big games. Only a few others are obvious: AL wins and ERA leader David Price, strikeouts leaders Jered Weaver and Jon Lester, who wouldn’t be such an easy selection if Clay Buchholz (hamstring) were healthy.

My second five: CC Sabathia, who seems to be getting stronger while Phil Hughes has faltered; Fausto Carmona, the lone Indian; AL innings leader Felix Hernandez; Ricky Romero, third in innings and seventh in ERA; and Jeff Niemann, because of his season-long consistency and 2.72 ERA.

Relief pitchers (3): Reserve a spot for Mariano Rivera every year until he retires (which should be, what, in another five years?). Jose Valverde is just as automatic this season with one more save and an even better ERA than Rivera (0.53 to 0.92). Rafael Soriano has been the third most effective AL closer and makes this team.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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