Young players poised to be All-Star fixtures
New generation in line to join ranks of longtime participants
As their All-Star appearances move into or toward double digits, players like Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki and Albert Pujols are among those fans expect to see on the rosters for the Midsummer Classic.
As the rosters came together for the 2010 All-Star Game, to be played Tuesday in Anaheim, a few more players appeared to be making their way to becoming annual fixtures on the game's most prestigious guest list.
Consider Evan Longoria, the Rays third baseman who was voted in a second time and will be making a third appearance in his three years in the Majors, the first coming only a few months after his Major League debut, when he won the Final Vote in 2008.
Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez leads an NL East bloc of infielders that has taken a foothold, giving the National League several voices that wouldn't seem to be excusing themselves from the All-Star conversation any year soon.
And then there's the Joe Mauer-Justin Morneau combo in Minnesota, a 2-3 punch that could hold down spots at catcher and first base for the American League for years to come.
Fact is, there's plenty of All-Star talent to get us to the next decade, and then some.
Mauer, for instance, was the overall voting leader this summer with 5,372,606 votes, the third-highest total ever. Not only does that demonstrate that the 27-year-old catcher has some serious staying power as an All-Star regular, but, in making his fourth appearance and third as a starter, Mauer clearly has the attention of the All-Star voting populace.
"That's not just people voting from Twins Territory, it's all across the country," said Morneau, who was voted to the starting lineup but will not play because of lingering concussion symptoms. "And that's a real show of how he is as a player and how he's thought of across the league and the country."
You don't get to All-Star Games as many times as Alex Rodriguez (13), Jeter and Mariano Rivera (11), Ichiro (10) and Pujols (nine) without proving it year in and year out. So any of the players currently building impressive All-Star resumes have a lot of work to do before they can truly claim such a legacy.
But certainly in the cases of Mauer, Longoria, Ramirez and a few others throughout the game, getting some appearances under one's belt early in one's career is a fine way to start.
Ramirez, 26, is the only player in Marlins history to be voted into the starting lineup by the fans more than once, and he will be making his third start in as many years. After getting through a first half that tested his will with a well-publicized incident involving his hustle, or lack thereof, Ramirez seems to realize that earning a spot on the All-Star Game lineup card is a testament not only to incredible talent, but hard work as well.
"Like I've been doing, I'm trying to keep working every year, every second, every day," Ramirez said upon learning of his winning bid. "You never know when it's going to be your last day in the game. You've got to do the best you can every day."
Many believe teammate Josh Johnson, the tall right-hander getting his second nod, could be there every year, right alongside Ramirez. And with fellow NL East combatants Ryan Howard (third selection) at first, Chase Utley (fifth) at second even while injured and David Wright (fifth) at third, that's just part of the preview of the future this year's All-Star rosters provide.
Some of the future has been in our faces for some time now. It seems easy to take them for granted since they've been stars since early on, but Miguel Cabrera (his fifth All-Star appearance, and starting in place of Morneau) and CC Sabathia (his fourth, though scratched from the roster because he pitched on Sunday) also are only just beginning what figure to be double-digit years in the All-Star Game. You might say the same about stars like Adrian Gonzalez (third) and Brian McCann (fifth), or others who are in their 20s and have multiple All-Star appearances under their belts.
There's also the AL's big-market duo at second base of Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia (honored despite an injury) that doesn't seem to be going away, and Ian Kinsler could find himself with them in a lot of All-Star Games over the years. Fellow Rangers All-Star Josh Hamilton is young enough still that he could put together a good run, too.
In the NL, Ryan Braun already has established a spotless All-Star resume at an early age, and it's easy to imagine Yadier Molina making a long All-Star run behind the plate. And he will be there with teammate Adam Wainwright, making his first appearance. Another teammate, Matt Holliday, is on his fourth All-Star team, and he just turned 30.
Braun, in particular, has lived a charmed early Major League life, what with his third consecutive All-Star selection -- all three by the fans.
"It is amazing, it is definitely special," said Braun, 26. "I always say that this time of year is one of the few opportunities to reflect on where you're at, or what your accomplishments are. For me, I realize how fortunate I am to be in this position, and it is amazing. I never take it for granted, and it is humbling."
Tim Lincecum is feeling that sentiment. While he and first-timer Ubaldo Jimenez figure to be on the same staff this one time a year for many years to come, Lincecum was surprised to get an All-Star nod this season, alongside another possible perennial in teammate Brian Wilson, who will be making his second appearance at age 28.
Lincecum's 9-4 record and 3.16 ERA piled on top of back-to-back Cy Youngs appears to be a humility-seeking missile.
"Guys with spectacular stats are having trouble getting in," said Lincecum, 26, while grudgingly accepting his honor.
Maybe so, but making that first impression count has something to do with All-Star longevity, that much seems clear. As the likes of Longoria and Ramirez can attest, getting into the party early isn't a bad thing.
To wit: Is this just the first in a long line of honors for Jason Heyward? Or Elvis Andrus, as cool a name as ever has graced an All-Star lineup card? While Heyward won't be able to play because of a jammed left thumb, Andrus has turned any thoughts of a sophomore jinx into a second-year celebration.
"He is the best up-and-coming shortstop in the league right now," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu recently said of Andrus. "Physically, he has an opportunity to be one of the best, if not the best, shortstops in the game."
It remains to be seen whether that means Andrus will become the next Jeter, or even the next Ramirez, when it comes to the All-Star Game.
But, like a few others, he's off to a good start.
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.