Votebook: No shortage of veteran power at DH
Ortiz, Hafner, Young among those deserving of AL start
This much is known: The July 12 All-Star Game at Chase Field will bring the designated hitter to a National League park for the first time in Midsummer Classic history.
Now all there's left to figure out is who that will be.
Among the adjustments Major League Baseball made to its All-Star Game roster rules last April was the use of a DH regardless of venue. In 2010, that was irrelevant because the Midsummer Classic took place in an American League city (Anaheim, home of the Angels).
This year, though, fans have the opportunity to select the starting AL DH even though the Diamondbacks will serve as hosts (Giants manager Bruce Bochy will select the DH for his NL squad).
The 2011 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Sprint is available online until 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30, with the AL and NL rosters being unveiled July 3 during the 2011 MLB All-Star Game Selection Show on TBS.
Will the hot-hitting David Ortiz reclaim a spot he previously held, or will sizzling starts by the Indians' Travis Hafner and the Rangers' Michael Young be too stiff a competition?
As of now, those three lead a group of DHs that includes plenty of star power: Bobby Abreu of the Angels, Adam Dunn of the White Sox, Johnny Damon of the Rays, Vladimir Guerrero of the Orioles, Victor Martinez of the Tigers, Hideki Matsui of the Athletics and Jorge Posada of the Yankees.
After dreadful starts to his previous three seasons, Ortiz -- the Red Sox icon who has been an All-Star six times -- has started strong, batting .309 while leading his DH counterparts with 10 home runs and a .935 OPS entering Friday's games.
But two players many didn't know what to expect from this season have been at least as impressive.
Hafner was among the most feared sluggers in baseball from 2004-06, then fell off rather dramatically from 2007-10. But he looked like he was rounding back into form at the start of this season, batting .345 with 22 RBIs and a .958 OPS in 32 games before landing on the disabled list with an oblique strain last Friday.
The 33-year-old's injury isn't expected to be a prolonged one, though, so it looks like he'll be back in time to make a push for his first All-Star selection.
That is, if Young doesn't step in his way.
After playing second base, then shortstop, then third base for the Rangers, Young was initially opposed to spending most of his time as a DH after the free-agent signing of Adrian Beltre, so he requested a trade prior to Spring Training because he felt he no longer fit in Texas.
Turns out the Rangers would be lost without him.
With sluggers Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz missing time recently because of injuries, Young has stepped up, batting .340 while driving in 33 runs and tying for second in the AL with 16 doubles.
Prior to missing it last season, Young was an All-Star for six straight years and was the Most Valuable Player in 2006. Now he's making a case to return.
"He's a steady guy," said Rangers manager Ron Washington, who will manage the AL All-Stars this year. "Nothing changes. He makes his adjustments, he's been around long enough. He's one of the veterans that we have that knows what he has to do to be consistent."
But don't forget some of the other Midsummer Classic veterans. Like Guerrero, a nine-time All-Star and the AL's DH last year, who's hitting .302 with five homers and 21 RBIs. Or Damon, a two-time All-Star who has a .272 batting average and seven homers.
And then there's Martinez, who signed a $50 million contract as a free agent last offseason and then missed time on the disabled list in mid-April with a groin injury. Now, he finds himself batting .288 with a .357 on-base percentage for a Tigers team that's keeping pace in the AL Central.
Meanwhile, Dunn is still scratching his head.
Having left Washington to sign a $56 million contract, Dunn was supposed to be the threatening middle-of-the-order lefty bat the White Sox coveted after Jim Thome's departure. But so far, he has been quite the hindrance, batting .186 with 65 strikeouts in 45 games.
"This is ridiculous," Dunn said about his struggles upon being dropped from the No. 3 spot to No. 5 on Tuesday. "I've never [done this]. There's a first for everything, but this is not something I wanted to ever happen. There's only one way to get out of it, and that's just to keep swinging."
While a new situation has seemingly hurt Dunn, age has continued to catch up with guys like Abreu (.259 batting average), Matsui (.230) and Posada (.183). But then there's the other side -- less-accomplished hitters like Billy Butler of the Royals (.395 on-base percentage) and Jason Kubel of the Twins (.306 batting average) who are off to solid starts.
The DH spot seems to have a little bit of everything this year.
Except defense, of course.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.