Torii Hunter leads the L.A. Angels in batting (.293), on-base percentage (.367), slugging percentage (.528), OPS (895), homers (12), RBI (50), doubles (22), and total bases (130). Hunter also continues to play consistently stellar defense in centerfield, and is generally considered to be one of the true "good guys" in baseball. Torii always gives a memorable (and quotable) interview, regularly has a big smile on his face, and is an energetic and vocal leader on the Angels ballclub. With the MLB All-Star Game visiting Anaheim this season, there is no question who should be starting in centerfield for the American League: the Angels' own main man, Torii Hunter.
Here's the problem: as of June 14th, Torii Hunter is in 7th place amongst American League outfielders (only the top 3 start the All-Star Game, regardless of position). Further complicating the issue is the fact that Hunter is over 300,000 votes behind 3rd place vote recipient Nelson Cruz (with Josh Hamilton, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson all blocking his way to the field as well).
Now don't get me wrong: I believe that Torii Hunter will make the American League All-Star team. His 2010 OPS is actually higher (by 26 points) than his stellar 2009 season, and he is one of the hottest hitters in the American League (his line in June is an eye-popping .353/.439/.691/1.130 with 5 HR and 21 RBI in 19 games). Torii's offensive resurgence after a sluggish May (703 OPS) is one of the main reasons the Angels have vaulted over the .500 mark and are fighting it out for first place with the Rangers.
However, just making the All-Star team is not enough this season. With the game at Angel Stadium, there needs to be an Angel starting. It is easy to remember just how electrifying it was for the crowd in Busch Stadium last year to see hometown superstar Albert Pujols participate in the home run derby and get the starting assignment at first base. The atmosphere in Anaheim would be just as electric if the AL All-Stars were led onto the field by the Angels' own leading man, Torii Hunter.
Ryan VanderYacht is a feature columnist for LA Angels Insider.com