Start Me Up

Baseball season is finally back, and although the offseason for the Boston Red Sox didn’t go the way I’d hope it would, I’m still optimistic for a successful 2009 campaign.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Theo Epstein and Terry Francona don’t read thefoulline.com. If they had, we’d be watching Mark Texiera and Derek Lowe gearing up for the season in Fort Myers, while watching the enigmatic Julio Lugo and overrated Jason Varitek packing their bags to destination Anywhere But Boston.

But after my initial disappointment with the lack of big name signings, I’m starting to really like the additions of Brad Penny, Takashi Saito and especially future Hall of Famer John Smoltz. These guys are low cost, with potential huge rewards for Boston. Even though Smoltz won’t be ready until June, he could be the big addition to the lineup that usually takes place at the trade deadline. If Boston makes the postseason, a lineup with Josh Beckett and John Smoltz would be scary.

Before we can talk about the playoffs, there are a lot of questions about this team that could severely affect their post season chances. Will Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, and Mike Lowell rebound from their 2008 injury-plagued season? With Coco Crisp shipped off to Kansas City, is Jacoby Ellsbury ready to be the everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter? Can a full season of Jason Bay make up for the loss of Manny? Who will be the Red Sox catcher of the future?

To make matters worse, rivals Tampa Bay and New York revamped their already dangerous lineups. The Yankees decided to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on big-game choker CC Sabathia, the oft-injured A.J. Burnett, and current thefoulline.com public enemy #2 Mark Texiera. Will this high priced talent lead to a return to the postseason for the Bronx Bombers? Or will these guys wilt under the pressure of playing in the Big Apple like Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano? Let’s hope for the latter.

As for the Rays, I really like the additions of Pat Burrell and Matt Joyce to fill the right field and designated hitter spots. This is a big upgrade of the Gabe Gross/Cliff Floyd combo. I’m interested in seeing whether Evan Longoria can duplicate his rookie season, and if the Rays can repeat their success with their closer-by-committee bullpen.

The good news is baseball is back.
The competition  for the AL East crown promises to be fierce.
Let the games begin!

All Star

Baseball has some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in all of sports, but for some reason, when the fans have the chance to select the starters for the mid-summer classic, they have the tendency to pick with their hearts instead of their brains. As much as I like players like Jason Varitek and Ken Griffey Jr., they are not deserving of an All Star nod. With the All Star selections being announced at 2:00 p.m. today, I’m going to jump the gun and give you the players that have truly played like an All Star during the first half of the season.

Although I’d like to make the team entirely of Red Sox players, I’m going to try to be as impartial as possible, which means there may be a Ray or a Yankee on the team. Ugh!

American League

Catcher: Joe Mauer
Pencil him in for the next ten years.

First Base: Justin Morneau
This was a close race between Youkilis and Morneau. Both players have similar numbers. I just think Morneau is better.

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia
This guy is a great hitter and an under-appreciated defender. His defense gives him a slight edge over Ian Kinsler.

Third base: Alex Rodriguez
After a controversial week in the tabloids, this selection should soothe the Material Girl’s pain.

Shortstop: Michael Young
Sorry, Jeter. I know that this is the last year in Yankee Stadium, but Young is better than you.

Outfield: Josh Hamilton, Grady Sizemore, Carlos Quinton
There have been some great performances by AL outfielders during the first half of the season. These three have been the best.

Designated Hitter: Milton Bradley
Even with one arm, I think Big Papi should be the DH. But I’m afraid that Bradley will hunt me down and beat me to a pulp if he’s not picked.

Starting Pitcher: Cliff Lee
11-1, 2.26 ERA. Lee has been the biggest pitching surprise in the league.

Reserves:
Dioner Navarro C
Kevin Youkilis 1B
Ian Kinsler 2B
Brian Roberts 2B
Evan Longoria 3B
Derek Jeter SS
B.J. Upton OF
Nick Markakis OF
Ichiro Suzuki OF
J.D. Drew OF
Roy Halladay SP
Ervin Santana SP
James Shields SP
Justin Duchscherer SP
Joe Saunders SP
Gavin Floyd SP
Jon Lester SP
Jonathan Papelbon RP
Francisco Rodriguez RP
Mariano Rivera RP

National League

Catcher: Russell Martin
Martin is in a class by himself. Easily the best catcher in baseball.

First Base: Lance Berkman
After an amazing first half, Berkman is the NL MVP.

Second Base: Chase Utley
24 ding-dongs on the season so far. He has carried the Phillies.

Third base: Larry Jones
Grown men shouldn’t be called Chipper, even when they hit close to .400.

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez
This guy makes the game look easy. He’s a lock for the next ten years.

Designated Hitter: Ryan Howard
I like that this guy will either strikeout or go yard. There is no in-between.

Outfield: Nate McLouth, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Braun
These three aren’t the biggest names in the National League, but they’ve been carrying their respective teams.

Starting Pitcher: Tim Lincecum
This kid weighs 120 pounds and throws 98 MPH. The fact that he’s 10-1 and is the lone bright spot on the Giants also helps.

Reserves:
Geovany Soto C
Brian McCann C
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Derrek Lee 1B
Dan Uggla 2B
David Wright 3B
Jose Reyes SS
Miguel Tejada SS
Carlos Lee OF
Pat Burrell OF
Matt Holliday OF
Edinson Volquez SP
Brandon Webb SP
Dan Haren SP
Cole Hamels SP
Ben Sheets SP
Ryan Dempster SP
Kerry Wood RP
Jose Valverde RP
Brad Lidge RP

So there you have it, the official thefoulline.com 2008 All Star Team.