Participants in baseball’s mid-summer classic are chosen in two ways. First, balloting by fans takes place to determine who will start at each position except pitcher. This is followed by each league’s players and manager choosing a pitching staff and reserves. Each team must represented by at least one player. The Rays are not going to get any starters. There isn’t a large enough fan base locally and the Rays, with their current record, are not attracting a lot of national attention. That leaves pitchers and reserves as the only possibilities for the Rays to land an All-Star spot. Who might be the logical candidates to represent the Rays in the 2014 MLB All-Star Game? Let’s take a look.
Despite 6-7 win/loss record, Price is probably the hottest pitcher in baseball right now, striking out 10 hitters in each of his last 5 games. He has a respectable 3.63 ERA on the year and an incredible 144 strikeouts to 14 walks. Throw in a nice 1.09 whip and Price could easily be 10-3 if he had gotten any decent run support. Of course, to choose Price as a Ray, he would have to be on the team in mid-July, and at that point he could have already been traded.
Players are often chosen because of their popularity and their body of work over a career. Derek Jeter could hit the Mendoza Line and he’s going to be on the All-Star team. Longoria is very popular and one of the faces of baseball. He has had some MVP years and has never had a real down year. This year, he is second on the Rays in average at .268, first in home runs at 10 and second in RBIs at 37 while playing outstanding defense. Not great numbers, but the Rays would be even further in the hole without him.
In the All-Star game, the starting pitcher only goes a couple of innings, and while that does not preclude another starter relieving him, it has put more of a premium on having more relievers on the team. In addition, setup men have become a more valued commodity. Enter Jake McGee, who quickly gaining a reputation as a premier setup man. In 33 innings this year he has an amazing 38 strikeouts, 1.36 ERA, and a 0.82 whip. Add to that a fastball that regularly hits the upper 90’s and he’s not only effective, he’s fun to watch.
A player like Evan Longoria has personality and power going for him. Unfortunately, James Loney has neither. But if you picked a player based on value to the team, Loney would be a shoo in. He leads the team in average at .289 and rbi’s with 38. He has struck out only 39 times in 297 at bats. His defense is flawless. Loney’s problem is that he is a mild-mannered guy who doesn’t hit for power at a position that has traditionally called for power. Managers are going to pick the Edwin Encarnacion’s and Jose Abreu’s ahead of him. It’s a shame. But maybe Loney’s true value is recognized, so you can’t completely count him out contention for an All-Star spot.
So who’s going to get the call from the Rays? If the players pick a Ray and his is still on the team, it will be David Price. Evan Longoria might be the player’s choice if Price is gone. If manager John Ferrell gets to pick a Ray, it will be Jake McGee. Ferrell is a former pitcher and he knows the value of good setup men. I wish I could say that David Price will be the starting pitch for the American League and wear a Ray’s hat. I wish that I could say that Evan Longoria would be the starting third baseman in place of the virtually unknown Josh Donaldson of the Oakland A’s. However, it’s not going to happen and that’s just the way the Rays season has played out. That being said, the Rays will be represented by a deserving player in the All-Star game. We will just have to wait to see who exactly it will be.