The Latin Link: Here’s an All-Star twist, Hispanic style
Last year was a fluke. When it comes to the modern day All-Star Classic, the American League is just flat out better, in my humble opinion. Armed with the designated hitter, they just score more runs, even in “post-juice” times. But take that advantage away and it doesn’t matter. The New York Yankees are light years ahead of every team on the planet in home runs, even with a struggling Jorge Posada. And just to solidify my argument, the “Junior Circuit” almost always takes the upper hand during interleague play as well.
Now here’s a scenario not quite as decisive: With the parade of Hispanic players dominating the action on big league rosters these days, which league would win an All-Latino mid-season showdown? Even with stars like Albert Pujols, Martin Prado and Johan Santana currently on the shelf, the National League would appear to have a slight edge on paper. Let’s check it out.
As starting pitchers go, the American League could boast the services of Felix Hernandez, Francisco Liriano and Cleveland Indian’s workhorse Carlos Carrasco. The National League could counter with Johnny Cueto, Yovani Gallardo, Jaime Garcia and Houston Astros kingpin Wandy Rodriguez. The obvious closers would be All-Star Mariano Rivera and Francisco Rodriguez. No clear advantage for either side that I can see.
Catching might be a different story. In the AL, the only player who stands out is Cuba’s Brayan Pena of the Kansas City Royals. All-Star Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers is Cuban-American and wouldn’t qualify for this team. That leaves Avila’s tutor, Victor Martinez, as a backup, along with Carlos Santana, not the musician, who mostly plays first base for the Indians.
The NL is deep behind the plate, with All-Star Yadier Molina and a supporting cast that would probably include Carlos Ruiz and Geovany Soto. It’s Ruiz who handles that pitching staff in Philadelphia with rave reviews, and Soto would be useful as a DH. Give the “Senior Circuit” a clear edge here.
The infield puzzle would seem to fit better for the AL. You’ve got Adrian Beltre, Asdrubal Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera in their natural positions, and all are going to Arizona. On the other side, you’ve got All-Stars Starlin Castro, Jose Reyes and Gaby Sanchez, and you could put Aramis Ramirez at third base. As for who would play second, flip a coin.
The outfield is a wash. It would pit power-hitting All-Star Jose Bautista, Magglio Ordonez and Nelson Cruz or Melky Cabrera against All-Star Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gonzalez and “El Caballo” Carlos Lee. Then maybe you could throw in Emilio Bonifacio and Andres Torres for speed and defense.
Then, of course, you have that looming threat of David Ortiz, DH extraordinaire. The man was just made for that role. On second thought, I’m giving the nod to the American League in this game too. “Big Papi”, Bautista and all all those Yankees put them over the top. And I’ll predict something else. These two fantasy teams combined just might beat a pooled version of the remaining All-Stars from both leagues.
It goes without saying that all these comments are pure speculation and one man’s opinion. But one thing for certain is that Latino players are a rising force in the major leagues. Contrary to independent reports on opening day, foreign-born Hispanics currently represent about 3o percent of all players on big league, 40-man rosters. And that doesn’t include scores of Latino-American players like Alex Rodriguez and Adrian Gonzalez, who played for the Dominican Republic and Mexico respectively in the World Baseball Classic.
Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, never afraid to express his views, likes to rant that “Latino players don’t get no respect.”
Don’t worry, Ozzie. Respect comes in numbers. And these guys will get there.