All-Star Crew? Aramis heads worthy candidates
Brewers third baseman in line to start, with results announced Sunday
MILWAUKEE -- By Wednesday, Aramis Ramirez had a day to contemplate the latest round of National League All-Star balloting results, and the idea that he might just be the league's starting third baseman for the first time in nearly a decade.
Brewers All-Star Game starters
|1978||Don Money||2B||San Diego|
|1980||Paul Molitor||2B||Los Angeles|
|1980||Ben Oglivie||OF||Los Angeles|
|2007||Prince Fielder||1B||San Francisco|
|2008||Ben Sheets||P||New York|
|2008||Ryan Braun||OF||New York|
|2009||Ryan Braun||OF||St. Louis|
|2012||Ryan Braun||OF||Kansas City|
"I could, that's nice," Ramirez said in his typically even tone. "We've got some other guys here who deserve to go, too. Hopefully there are a lot of us going to the All-Star Game."
Brewers players were all over the latest vote totals. Ramirez led the league's third basemen, and Carlos Gomez was running second among outfielders, with the top three vote-getters earning the start. Ryan Braun was fifth on that list, and Khris Davis was up to seventh. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, first baseman Mark Reynolds and shortstop Jean Segura were each second at their position. Part-time second baseman Rickie Weeks was fourth.
Online balloting was to remain open until 10:59 p.m. CT on Thursday. Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian, the results of which will set each league's starters for the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15.
The All-Star teams will be unveiled just after 6 p.m. CT on Sunday.
"There's a few [Brewers] that are going for sure," Ramirez said. "Gomez is going for sure. I'd be shocked if Lucroy isn't going for sure. K-Rod [Francisco Rodriguez] should be in there. Even [Will] Smith, [Kyle] Lohse. We have many guys who could be there."
Here's a look at the Brewers' leading candidates:
Bidding for his second straight All-Star nod, Gomez (3,169,748 votes) was bunched at the top of the outfield list between Andrew McCutchen (3,173,810) and Yasiel Puig (3,001,907) when the latest numbers were released Tuesday, with two days of voting to go. The next player, Giancarlo Stanton, was more than 300,000 votes behind.
Gomez is statistically worthy. His .888 OPS ranks fifth among qualifying outfielders, and his 3.4 wins above average rank fourth.
"I mean, last year I made the All-Star team. Starting would be another step for me in my career," Gomez said. "Being in second place, that's a good position and good expectation to start. But I'm more concentrated on what's happening here now. If it happens, it happens. The only thing I can do is my job.
"If they believe I'm an All-Star player, I'm going to be there. So far, all the expectation is that I'm going to be there."
Rank among NL catchers (min. 200 PAs)
He probably won't catch the Cardinals' Yadier Molina in fan balloting, but Lucroy's emergence as one of the game's most well-rounded catchers made him a compelling candidate on the players' ballot.
His 4.3 WAR is third-highest among all NL players, regardless of position, behind Troy Tulowitzki and Stanton. Among catchers with more than 200 plate appearances, Lucroy is first with a .331 batting average, first with a .911 OPS and second with 43 RBIs.
He would be a first-time All-Star.
"We're all pretty excited, I think," he said. "It's kind of a culmination of hard work and being recognized for it. It's good for individual stuff. But on the other side of it, for me anyway, whenever I worry about the team and winning as a team, I play better."
He did not allow a run until his 20th appearance and leads the Majors with 27 saves. Not bad, considering no one knew Rodriguez was going to serve as the Brewers' closer until the bullpen door opened in the ninth inning on Opening Day.
The Brewers made the last-minute decision to use Rodriguez in the role over Jim Henderson, who had a subpar Spring Training and wound up on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
"It's not like it was something I asked for," Rodriguez said. "Everything seemed to be fine with Jim, and this opportunity came to me. I just did not want to let it slip away. I wanted to take advantage of this good opportunity for me. [The opportunity to close again] has been something I've been looking around for for a long time."
Considering his workload, a rest over the All-Star break would be nice. But Rodriguez would not decline an All-Star invitation.
"If I go, it would be awesome," he said. "If not, I get four days of vacation."
His hopes hinge on winning the fan vote, since Ramirez missed a month of the season with a hamstring injury and was not able to separate himself statistically from a field of other candidates, including Todd Frazier of the Reds, Anthony Rendon of the Nationals, Casey McGehee of the Marlins, David Wright of the Mets and Pablo Sandoval of the Giants.
Ramirez was previously an All-Star in 2005 and '08 with the Cubs, starting in '05 after making the team via the player ballot because Scott Rolen was injured.
"That's the goal. If you go to an All-Star Game, you want to play," Ramirez said. "Some guys get to go and don't even get an at-bat or a pitch. If you go there, you want to play, and to start is huge. It's just a fun experience for anybody to do."
The right-hander has been the Susan Lucci of baseball. Always an All-Star contender, never an All-Star, even though he's had compelling numbers before. Most recently, Lohse was 9-2 with a 2.79 ERA in the first half of 2012, when his former manager Tony La Russa, had the final say on rosters.
This year, he enters an Independence Day start against the Reds at 9-2 with a 3.08 ERA. Lohse could have as many as 14 victories, but he has been the victim of a team-high five blown saves.
"Yeah, it would be cool, but that's not what I'm here for and trying to do," Lohse said. "It's more important to pitch well and help us get into the postseason. Obviously it would be an honor, but it's not going to make my season or ruin my season."
Smith's "slider of death" would come in quite handy for an All-Star Game manager playing to win, but he is in the same position as so many setup men before. It's hard to crack the team when you don't have a gaudy save total.
Asked whether he'd thought about his candidacy, Smith said, "I haven't, no. We've got plenty of other guys who are deserving to go. [Rodriguez] and 'Luc' and 'Ramie' and 'Gomey.' There's a bunch of guys we can send, so I haven't thought about it at all. Winning baseball games is all I care about."