The annual mid-summer waste of time has commenced. Every year at this time, the Major League Baseball All-Star teams are announced. And every year at this time, the talking heads debate who should have/should not have made the team, which manager did a good/bad job picking the teams, and how the whole process should be changed/fixed. (Heck, even I joined in on the fun last year: Building a Better Baseball, Part 2.)
But I’ve decided to use a different tact this year. With all of the questions swirling around who’s used steroids in the past and who’s on something new, I’ve decided to form the first-ever “Drug-Free All-Star Team.” How do I know who isn’t using steroids? As the great (although sometimes only in his own mind) Joe Morgan once said, “If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it must be a duck.” Or something like that. I think I’ve successfully figured out who isn’t using. So they’re getting my All-Star votes.
The Drug-Free All-Star Game will be played in Pittsburgh, home of this year’s Major League All-Star Game. No need to spend any extra money—everyone will be there already anyway. We’ll play the game next Wednesday—the Drug-Free team vs. the Minor League Drug Free team (sign up here to be the one to figure out that roster). Corporate sponsors will include The Partnership for a Drug-Free America and Pfizer. Instead of the Home Run Derby, we’ll have the Bunt, Field, and Slide Competition. Our Old Timers’ Game will include everyone who retired before 1992 and was just as thin at the end of their careers as they were at the beginning. We’ll give them all amphetamines and they’ll be good to go.
Without further ado, I’m happy to present the First Annual Major League Baseball Drug-Free All-Star Team:
Catcher: Paul Lo Duca, New York Mets
The everyday catcher for the Mets has just 3 home runs. If he’s using something, he needs to ask for his money back. Because it’s not working. Although he did show a little flash of “roid rage” the other day when he yelled at A-Rod after the Yankees’ 3rd baseman hit a grand slam, I’m going to chalk that one up to plain old-fashioned frustration. Besides, Lo Duca should feel good knowing that A-Rod won’t be on this team with him.
1st Base: Conor Jackson, Arizona Diamondbacks
(the Toughest category in which to pick someone, what with names such as Albert Pujols, Jason Giambi, and Jim Thome in the mix.) I’m going with a virtual unknown: Arizona’s Conor Jackson. His 6 home runs pale in comparison to the bigger name players. His physique also pales in comparison—at 6’2”, 225 pounds, he looks like an average 24-year-old (i.e., one who isn’t on steroids).
2nd Base: Brian Roberts, Baltimore Orioles
Roberts went crazy last year, hitting a career-high 18 home runs, which was 6 more than he had hit in the previous four years combined. This year? The 5’9”, 170 pound Roberts has just 1 home run. We’ll forgive him his bizarre power outburst of last season and add his solid average and defense to the squad.
Shortstop: David Eckstein, St. Louis Cardinals
Have you seen David Eckstein? He’s the shortest baseball player since PT Barnum’s publicity stunt. You can have your Jeters, Garciaparras, and Tejadas, I’ll take Eckstein and his 1 home run any day. (I almost went with Yuniesky Betancourt here—just because I liked his name. And I passed on Royce Clayton because he has 0 home runs. Zero? Come on, Clayton, I think even I could hit 1 home run in 200 at-bats.)
3rd Base: Freddy Sánchez, Pittsburgh Pirates
The first of this year’s All-Stars also to make the Drug Free team, Sánchez actually leads the National League in hitting but has just 5 home runs and 186 pounds on his 5’10” frame. He’s going to have a busy week.
Left Field: Matt Murton, Chicago Cubs
Murton, who could play Richie Cunningham in the remake of Happy Days, might have gotten the most votes for this team (if anyone other than me had a vote).
Center Field: Ryan Freel, Cincinnati Reds
I was all set to go with Gary Matthews, Jr. until I saw him don a red cape, leap 14 stories into the air, and rob Lex Luthor of a home run the other day. Instead, I’m going with the Reds’ version of Superman, Ryan Freel, who has played five different positions this year. He’s logged the most time in the center (36 games) and already has his career-high in home runs. Five.
Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
Another of this year’s All-Stars, Ichiro is simply amazing. He has 128 hits through 85 games. He’s on pace for his second 250-hit season. And yet he looks like a high schooler. A very rich, well-built high schooler.
Designated Hitter: None
There will be no DH on this team. I went through the list—it’s impossible to pick out a full-time DH that’s positively clean. So I’m not going to change it.
Starting Pitcher: Tim Wakefield, Boston Red Sox
One look at Wakefield’s best pitch—the knuckleball—should tell you that he’s not using anything other than his fingernails to aid his performance. He’s the starting pitcher and lifetime achievement award winner for the Drug-Free Team.
Pitcher: Greg Maddux, Chicago Cubs
Maddux has won 325 games by changing speeds and keeping hitters off balance. And yet his fastball is only around 92 miles per hour. Another Steroid Free Hall of Famer, and another addition to the 2006 team.
Closer: Bob Wickman, Cleveland Indians
The 37-year-old Wickman’s been around since the pre-Steroid Era when he was a starter and reliever for the Yankees. He became closer in ’98, and, although he never has overpowering stuff, he’s been a solid closer for the last 9 years. Last season, he had 45 saves for Cleveland, while only striking out 41 batters. So far this year, he’s got 13 saves and 16 strikeouts in 26 innings. Now that’s my kind of closer.
Those are this year’s Drug-Free All-Stars. Following the National Anthem (performed by Aerosmith), the ceremonial first pitch will be thrown out by former President Bill Clinton (“I did not inhale”). There will be the official “Peeing in the Cup” ceremony. Barring the results from the said ceremony, the players will take the field. Play ball!