The American League is a powerhouse.
To put their dominance in perspective, they have not been defeated in the Midsummer Classic since 1996.
Every year, the National League pre-game media talk swirls around "this being the year" that they break the American League's reign of terror.
And every year, they have failed. Just ask Cubs fans how the "this is the year" slogan has gone for them over the past century.
This year's AL squad will be just as good as previous versions of it.
The fact that the game is being played in the National League (St. Louis) doesn't figure to handicap the AL; when you're good, you're good.
Let's look at each American League team and their All-Star candidates.
Boston Red Sox
Candidates: Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay, Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Jonathan Papelbon
Basically everyone is a candidate. In terms of bats, the Red Sox will be well represented. Bay is the leading vote-getter among outfielders, so he will surely be in.
Youkilis and Pedroia are neck and neck with Mark Teixeira of the Yankees and Ian Kinsler of the Rangers, respectively, but neither should get voted in.
Pedroia has taken a step back from his MVP season a year ago, while Youk-dog was injured earlier in the year.
Ellsbury could steal (no pun intended) a reserve spot, but Lowell's right hip has just cost him 15 days on the disabled list, ending his already slim All-Star chances.
Varitek is not an All-Star, Boston fans. Please stop making him second in the voting.
Pitching-wise, Papelbon and his sub-two ERA are an All-Star lock. Lester is likely to miss out because of an ERA in the mid-fours.
Beckett (nine wins) and Wakefield (ten wins) look like All-Stars on paper, but only Beckett deserves to go out of the two.
IN: Bay, Papelbon, Beckett, Ellsbury
OUT: Pedroia, Lowell, Youkilis, Varitek, Lester, Wakefield
New York Yankees
And you thought the Red Sox had a lot of candidates?
This list of candidates is very generous, seeing as A-Rod and Posada are only included because they are both in the top-three in their position votes (apparently the use of steroids has not registered with Yankees fans yet).
Also, Burnett, Pettitte, and Chamberlain will all likely cancel each other out for a roster spot, not that it would have mattered.
Swisher is also out because of his .237 batting average.
We've trimmed our list and will go ahead and pencil in Jeter as a lock. The leading AL vote-getter will start at shortstop.
Cano has a tough road to climb, though his numbers are there. But in a league with Aaron Hill, Ian Kinsler, and Ben Zobrist, can there really be room for Cano?
Big Tex is in, and there should be room for Damon as a reserve outfielder (14 HR, 46 RBI, .288 BA).
That leaves Sabathia and Rivera; both will be close calls.
IN: Jeter, Teixeira, Damon, Rivera
OUT: Rodriguez, Posada, Burnett, Pettitte, Chamberlain, Swisher, Cano, Sabathia
Tampa Bay Rays
Candidates: Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Carlos Pena, Evan Longoria, Jason Bartlett, Ben Zobrist, James Shields, Matt Garza
Clearly, there is a lot of talent in this division.
Crawford, on pace for 83 steals, will find a spot somewhere on this roster, as will Longoria, the leading vote-getter among third basemen.
Bartlett is hitting an astounding .368 with 17 steals; he will likely back up Derek Jeter.
It gets a little tricky after that, as Upton, Pena, and Zobrist all deserve a hard look.
Upton is hitting less than .250 with over 80 strikeouts, so he is out. Pena is out, despite his AL-leading 23 home runs (his 99 K's and .238 batting average stand out in a very negative way).
Zobrist gets in thanks to his 1.026 OPS, but where will he play?
Shields and Garza will have to pick it up to get serious consideration for a spot on the roster.
IN: Crawford, Longoria, Bartlett, Zobrist
OUT: Upton, Pena, Shields, Garza
Toronto Blue Jays
Candidates: Aaron Hill, Scott Rolen, Marco Scutaro, Adam Lind, Roy Halladay, Scott Richmond
Our friends to the north will send Hill, Lind, and Halladay for sure, with the possibility of a few more.
Hill and Halladay have eye-popping numbers, and Lind has proven he belongs.
Rolen is currently second in the American League in batting average, and Scutaro has an impressive .381 OBP in the weak shortstop class.
Richmond will be on the outside looking in.
Also, will someone please vote for Aaron Hill? He has not even surpassed one million votes yet. Come on people.
IN: Hill, Lind, Halladay
OUT: Rolen, Scutaro, Richmond
Candidates: Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, George Sherrill
If the game were played in April, Markakis and Jones would be locks.
As it stands now, both are on the bubble.
Roberts won't crack the roster with Aaron Hill, Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist, and Robinson Cano around.
Sherrill only has 16 saves, but his ERA is very good (2.05).
OUT: Roberts, Markakis, Sherrill
Candidates: Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, Brandon Inge, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Edwin Jackson, Fernando Rodney
Verlander and Jackson will represent the American League pitching staff, while Porcello's recent rough outing could have hurt his chances.
The 20-year-old rookie should keep his head high; he'll be an All-Star soon.
Rodney has an ERA near four which won't cut it for an All-Star roster.
Cabrera will get in as his numbers are sky-high (.331 BA, .397 OBP, .556 SLG).
Granderson has the power (18 HR) and the speed (13 SB), but his .258 batting average might hurt his chances.
Inge is on the fringe, plain and simple.
IN: Verlander, Jackson, Cabrera, Inge
OUT: Granderson, Porcello, Rodney
Candidates: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Joe Nathan
Mauer could get elected Governor of Minnesota if he wanted, so being elected starting catcher for the American League will be no problem. His running mate will be Morneau.
Kubel is a DH in a game without one, so likely will be watching this game from home.
Blackburn sports an impressive 3.10 ERA, but drags his numbers down with his uninspiring 45:27 strikeout-to-walk-ratio.
Slowey's 10-3 record can't hide his 4.41 ERA, but Nathan will make the Twins a trio of All-Stars.
How does a 1.50 ERA look to you? To me, it says he's an All-Star.
IN: Mauer, Morneau, Nathan
OUT: Kubel, Blackburn, Slowey
Chicago White Sox
Candidates: Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Bobby Jenks, Mark Buehrle
Konerko is not in the same category as the Justin Morneau's and Miguel Cabrera's of his division, but Dye's .563 slugging percentage is very impressive.
Jenks has 18 saves, but his 3.21 ERA is a little too high for an All-Star closer (compare his ERA to Joe Nathan's and you'll see what I mean).
Look for Buehrle to represent the Sox in the All-Star game in St. Louis.
His 7-2 record and 3.26 ERA are good enough for me.
Can we start giving Buehrle a little more respect? All this guy ever seems to do is take the ball every fifth day, and deliver a quality start.
OUT: Konerko, Dye, Jenks
Kansas City Royals
Candidates: Alberto Callaspo, Zack Greinke, Joakim Soria
Callaspo doesn't have All-Star numbers...unless he's looking at the AAA All-Star game, that is.
Soria is healthy now, but missed about a month of action in May and June and can not reasonably expect a spot on the roster this year.
Greinke's story is remarkable, worthy of his own separate article.
He is the definition of All-Star. If you are able, look at his statistics so far this season.
They will make your jaw drop.
OUT: Callaspo, Soria
Candidates: Victor Martinez, Shin-Soo Choo, Cliff Lee
Can someone explain to me why Martinez is only fifth in the fan voting for catchers? Seriously, folks, wake up.
He is hitting well over .300 with 14 home runs and 57 RBI. And he's a catcher. Need I say more?
Choo is good but will be hard to choose (sorry I couldn't resist).
Lee does not have enough wins, but his sub-three ERA is remarkable on a team this bad.
OUT: Choo, Lee
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Candidates: Chone Figgins, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Brian Fuentes
Hunter will make the team as he is having an outstanding year (17 HR, 56 RBI, .306 avg., 12 SB).
Figgins will likely get in with his .315 batting average and OBP of .392. Also, 23 stolen bases can't hurt his resume.
On the surface, Abreu should make the team, but his low home run total (four) might keep him away.
Rivera will have to go on some kind of tear to get in.
Weaver and Saunders have similar records, but Weaver's numbers are far better so he will get the nod on the staff.
Fuentes' 3.62 ERA has no place on an All-Star team, even with 22 saves.
IN: Hunter, Figgins, Weaver
OUT: Abreu, Rivera, Saunders, Fuentes
Candidates: Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Kevin Millwood, Frank Francisco, Scott Feldman
Kinsler is in a battle with Boston's Dustin Pedroia for the starting gig at second base, though Kinsler is at the very least a reserve infielder and a sure-fire All-Star.
Young could sneak in at third base, though Chone Figgins and Brandon Inge have better resumes.
Cruz has the same numbers as Detroit's Curtis Granderson, but is doing it in a more hitter-friendly park; he is out.
Hamilton is only listed here because the fans currently have him as the third outfielder. He's played 35 games this season; wake up people.
Franciso's injury costs him a spot in the bullpen, while Feldman's less-than-thrilling numbers earn him a spot on his couch at home.
Millwood looks like an All-Star (8-5, 2.64 ERA), however.
IN: Kinsler, Millwood
OUT: Young, Cruz, Hamilton, Francisco, Feldman
Candidates: Ichiro Suzuki, Russell Branyan, Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, Jarrod Washburn, David Aardsma
The Mariners will have plenty of candidates from their pitching staff.
Aardsma will get in because his ERA is too good to pass up at 1.49.
King Felix will get in because he has almost as many K's as innings pitched (107 in 109).
Erik Bedard would have gotten in if he was healthy, but he has only made 11 starts this season. Washburn is about 50/50.
Ichiro will be voted in by the fans, so pencil him in there. Branyan is an interesting story.
His 19 home runs are impressive, but, again, the league is filled with superstar first basemen. Big Tex, Miggy, and Morneau are all more deserving.
IN: Aardsma, Hernandez, Ichiro
OUT: Branyan, Bedard, Washburn
Candidates: Dallas Braden, Andrew Bailey
This team will not get a bat, that's for certain.
Bailey is your best bet, A's fans.
With 54 K's in 46 innings and a 2.14 ERA, he looks the part.
Braden does not have enough K's or wins to make this All-Star squad.
So there you have it.
There are 35 players listed, but that could change with fan voting and injuries of players.
Any way you slice it, the American League will be stacked yet again.
Can the National League prevail after a dozen years of futility?
From the looks of it, it will be very, very tough.
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