The 2008 MLB season has been the stuff of baseball lore.
We had the meteoric rise and subsequent collapse of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the emergence of the surging take-no-prisoners Tampa Bay Rays.
We've woke up in late June to find the Yankees in last place and the Rays in first place.
We've witnessed the late arrival of a bonafide superstar (Josh Hamilton), and the early arrival of another one (Evan Longoria), as well as a plethora of overhyped rookie pitchers (Max Scherzer, Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw, Jeff Niemann).
We've seen relatively unknown players morph into stars (McLouth, Quentin, Ludwick, Volquez), the rise of the two bagger (Utley, Kinsler, Uggla, Phillips, Upton, Roberts, Pedroia) and the fall of the shortstop (cricket chirp).
We've watched Lance Berkman and Chase Utley positively tear the cover off the ball and enjoyed Chipper's pursuit of history as he attempts to become the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams almost seventy years ago.
Despite the NL's dominance at the skill position (offensively speaking at least) the AL still seems to have its way with the National League. Berkman, Utley, Chipper, Han-Ram, and McCann are all the best offensive players at their respective positions right now, but the AL dominates. Can this year's NL team return respect to the Purists League? If they field this team, they most certainly can...
At the turn, here are my picks for the NL 2008 All-Stars. I stuck to the premise that every team should have a representative and the bench must be able to field a player at each position.
C – Russell Martin, LAD: Toss up between McCann and Martin here. Martin gets the nod for his defense, plus the Dodgers need a representative.
1B – Lance Berkman, HOU: Banner year for Berkman. Top five in the league in R, H, HR, RBI, AVG, OBP.
2B – Chase Utley, PHI: Leads league in HR and top five in R, H, and RBI.
3B – Chipper Jones, ATL: Chipper is batting .391 as of July 3, and has a chance to become first .400 hitter in almost 70 years.
SS – Hanley Ramirez, FLO: With speed and power, Han-Ram does everything well.
LF – Ryan Braun, MIL: Last year’s ROY proving he was no fluke. On pace for 90 R, 40 HR, 120 RBI, and 20 SB.
CF – Nate McLouth, PIT: From out of nowhere, he is on pace for 120 R, 30 HR, 100 RBI, and 20 SB.
RF – Matt Holliday, COL: Despite injuries early on, Holliday is hitting .330 and leading his team in RBI.
DH – Adrian Gonzalez, SAD: Third in the league in both HR and RBI.
C – Brian McCann, ATL: Best offensive catcher in baseball.
1B – Albert Pujols, STL: Apologies to Derek Lee but this position is just too deep in the NL.
2B – Dan Uggla, FLO: The Rule Five Draft poster boy.
3B – David Wright, NYM
3B – Aramis Ramirez, CHC
SS – Jose Reyes, NYM: Washington’s Christian Guzman was close here, but in the end, you can’t deny Reyes’ skill set, even if he is a head case.
OF – Carlos Lee, HOU
OF – Pat Burrell, PHI: Pat the Bat finally makes an All-Star squad.
OF – Ryan Ludwick, STL: Joins McLouth, Ludwick, Quentin, and Volquez on the All-Surprise team.
Starter – Brandon Webb, ARI: Gets the start on the strength of his Cy Young award and 9-0 start.
SP – Tim Lincecum, SFG: The only thing Tiny about Tim is his 2.38 ERA. He’s 9-1 with 114 K.
SP – Ben Sheets, MIL: Can he stay healthy and lead his team to the playoffs?
SP – Edinson Volquez, CIN: Nearly unhittable through July. 10-3, 113 K, 2.24 ERA.
SP – Johan Santana, NYM: Even a bad season by Santana’s standards is stellar.
SP – Dan Haren, ARI: Biggest acquisition of the offseason has kept Arizona atop the pitiful NL West.
SP – Cole Hamels, PHI: The future in Philly.
SP – Aaron Cook, COL: Unimposing staff ace in Mile High City leads team with 11 wins.
RP – Jon Rauch, WAS: Someone from Washington had to make the squad. Rauch has had a great year.
RP – Taylor Buchholz, COL: Only six runs allowed in 40 innings of work.
RP - Hong-Chih Kuo, LAD: Steady as a rock for the floundering Dodgers.
RP - Brandon Lyon, ARI: Lyon answered skeptics by not allowing a single run from April 9th to June 17th and converting 17 of 17 save opps. in that time.
SU – Brad Lidge, PHI: A return to form.
SU – Billy Wagner, NYM
CL – Kerry Wood, CHC: A career saved, this converted starter has been automatic.