The All-Star teams that get to play, that everyone remembers, get picked at the beginning of July when there's an awful lot of baseball yet to be played. Let's do this thing right!
Catcher - Joe Mauer, Minnesota.
That was easy. Mauer basically repeated his 2006 and 2008 seasons, when he won the Gold Glove and finished in the top five in MVP voting. It would have been nice to see him keep the HR power he suddenly showed last season, but he's still a great player without it. It's much more difficult trying to figure out who should be the runner-up. Victor Martinez, the best hitter in the rest of the field? A.J. Pierzynski, for all his Intangible contributions to a surprisingly decent White Sox team? Actual All-Star John Buck? I say Martinez, my own self.
First Base - Miguel Cabrera, Detroit.
I still think he's been the most valuable bat in the AL this season. Josh Hamilton is the closest competitor, but Hamilton being out of the lineup for most of a month has no value at all and Hamilton also gets a big boost from his home park. Paul Konerko is a pretty easy choice as the runner-up.
Second Base - Robinson Cano, New York.
Cano will receive an awful lot of support in the MVP voting, if he doesn't win the thing outright. Obviously the best second-baseman in the league this year - what's surprising is that he was the only really good one. The AL East alone used to throw a bunch of quality second basemen out there, but Pedroia and Roberts had seasons ruined by injuries and we were all here to witness the Trials of Aaron Hill. Best choice for runner-up is probably our old pal Orlando Hudson.
Third Base - Adrian Beltre, Boston.
Evan Longoria has had a great year, Beltre's just been better. The Yankees have a guy who drove in 119 runs, which used to impress people a lot - he isn't even being considered. It's a tough crowd this year.
Shortstop - Alexei Ramirez, Chicago
Oh, but the mighty have fallen. The guy in New York isn't even a contender this year. Ramirez is the best of a pretty weak crop. Played good defense and has a little pop at the plate. If Elvis Andrus would ever hit anything more impressive than a single, he'd be the guy (17 extra base hits? In 600 plate appearances?)
Right Field - Jose Bautista, Toronto.
I trust no one will argue with this. Tough to pick a runner-up - I think it's between Shin-Soo Choo and Nick Swisher, with Ichiro Suzuki on the fringes. I think Choo plays better defense than Swisher. Swisher does get to play half his games in that bandbox in the Bronx, but it doesn't seem to help him any - he has no Home/Road split to speak of.
Centre Field - Vernon Wells, Toronto
Another very easy choice - Wells was the best centre fielder in the majors this season, and is there a single living breathing soul who foresaw that back in March? (Hey - if you've got the best guy in the major leagues at his position, is an A- that far out of line?) Are we suddenly seeing a trend - teams are going with really impressive defensive centre fielders who can't hit much at all - Gutierrez in Seattle, Borbon in Texas. Mike Scoscia keeps playing Peter Bourjos in CF - an amazing defender, but helpless at the plate. I assume everyone would rather have a more complete player - like Wells, or our 2010 runner-up Torii Hunter. But we're getting regular centre fielders who don't hit as much as your average shortstop...
Left Field - Josh Hamilton, Texas
When the Rangers clinched, Hamilton thought it best if he retreated to the trainer's room rather than participate in the usual hi-jinks of beer and champagne being sprayed all over the place. This is wholly understandable - Hamilton is going to spend the rest of his life fighting a hideously strong and ugly monster, one who never gets weak and never gets tired. But gosh, I just thought it was just so damned sad. That's why they play the long season. It's a shame when you can't go to the party and celebrate your achievement. But good for Josh, anyway. Obviously, he blows away the field at his position - it's a long way down to our runner-up, which would be Carl Crawford by a nose over Delmon Young.
DH - David Ortiz, Boston
Not done yet, although Luke Scott has himself a case. It's very close between Ortiz and Scott and Papi's edge may be as slight a thing as being able to make it to the ballpark more often. (Scott was out of the lineup for a few weeks in mid-season.) They're both a clear step ahead of Vlad Guerrero, who had himself a nice bounce-back year anyway.
Starters - Felix Hernandez, Seattle.
Apologies to C.C. Sabathia, Jon Lester, David Price. And Clay Buchholz. And Justin Verlander. I assume, like everyone else, that the Cy Young voting will be a battle between Hernandez and His Numbers and Sabathia and His Wins. I think if you traded the two guys for each other, it would be a battle between Sabathia and His Numbers and Hernandez and His Wins. Hernandez has a ballpark that helps him rather than one that turns routine fly balls into homers. Hernandez has infielders behind him who can still move and field a ground ball. Sabathia has two Hall of Famers sending their statues out to the field every day. I'm pretty cool with flipping a coin between the two of them.
Relievers - Joakim Soria, Kansas City.
There's not much to choose from between Soria and Rafael Soriano, now that Mariano Rivera's September struggles have brought him back mere mortal status. Daniel Bard had a great year for the Red Sox.
Manager - Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota.
No Joe Nathan? No Justin Morneau? No problem. I think the runner-up will be Ron Washington, unless Joe Maddon sneaks in there. Honourable Mentions for Ozzie Guillen, Terry Francona, and Cito Gaston. Best Manager having a lousy year? That would be Mike Scioscia, but losing your best hitter in a home plate celebration would make anyone lose his mind.