07/04/10 5:02 PM EST
Hanley, JJ to represent Marlins as All-Stars
Florida's shortstop voted by fans as starter; players pick righty
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
Once again, the two building blocks of the Marlins are headed to the All-Star Game. Based on their immense abilities, they should contend annually.
For the third straight year, Hanley Ramirez is the people's choice to represent Florida as the National League starting shortstop.
Josh Johnson, meanwhile, was picked by his peers. The ace of the staff will be headed to his second consecutive All-Star Game.
"Obviously, very deserving, and congratulations to them. I hope they do well," said Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, who was worthy of consideration, but didn't make the squad. "As long as he stays healthy, I think J.J. will be in Cy Young contention every year. I think he will be in All-Star consideration every year. He's as good as it gets.
"Hanley, the same way. I expect Hanley will be there every year, given that they're healthy."
Ramirez, the 26-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, continues to set new standards for the Marlins. He is the club's only player to be voted into the starting lineup by the fans more than once.
"Like I've been doing, I'm trying to keep working every year, every second, every day," Ramirez said. "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."
Established as one of the elite offensive players in the game, Ramirez is on pace for another 20-plus homer, 100-plus RBI season as Florida's No. 3 hitter.
Also representing the Marlins at the All-Star Game will be Sean Cunningham, who was named one of the NL trainers.
All-Star voting wrapped up Thursday, with the final tallies being cast online at MLB.com.
Fans, having already decided the starters and this week the final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 13 will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB.com, MLB Network and Sirius XM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
For Ramirez, it has been a volatile first half. His numbers are down a bit from last year, but he's still hitting around .300, and, entering Sunday, he had 13 homers and 52 RBIs.
In May, Ramirez had a run-in with Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez over a lack of hustle in the field. Gonzalez was dismissed June 23, and Ramirez's production has picked up in recent weeks.
Being recognized by the fans and his peers is a source of pride for Ramirez.
"They know we respect each other when we're on the field," Ramirez said. "Everyone knows I'm a good guy. What happened in the past, just happened. I look forward to getting better."
It has been a rough first half for the Marlins as a team. They are slipping out of contention. To make a run, they will certainly need Ramirez to play at a high level.
"I will say that Hanley has the potential to be one of the top players in baseball, period, National or American League," manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "It's a matter of him maturing. Being able to bring his 'A' game on an everyday basis. I think we're watching something special in Hanley."
Johnson, 26, has established himself as not only the ace of the staff, but also as one of the top pitchers in the game. His 1.82 ERA entering Sunday was the best in baseball.
Because his next start is scheduled for Wednesday at the Dodgers, Johnson will be available to pitch in the All-Star Game. He has made a case to be considered as the starter.
"That would be amazing to have that possibility. To me personally, I think [Ubaldo] Jimenez should get it," Johnson said of the Rockies' right-hander.
Johnson, the hard-throwing right-hander from Oklahoma, recently placed his name alongside Hall of Famer Bob Gibson. J.J. had a string of eight straight starts of allowing one or zero earned runs. In 1968, Gibson ran off 11 in a row.
In MLB history, the eight consecutive by Johnson tied J.R. Richard (1979) and was two behind Jack Coombs (1910).
A year ago, Johnson made the All-Star Game, and he went into the break at 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA. Because he threw on the Sunday before the break, he wasn't used in the game.
In January, Johnson signed a four-year, $39 million contract, and he projects to be the team's ace for the foreseeable future.
A mild blister problem, coupled with his catching a stomach virus, hindered him in Spring Training. When the season opened, it took him four starts before he found his groove during a complete-game win over the Padres on April 26. From May 13 onward, he has been as good as anyone in the game.
"It was a tough spring for me in general," Johnson said. "Not just getting sick. I had some blister problems. All sorts of stuff. I think after my first live bullpen, I started getting a blister. Ever since then, I couldn't move forward.
"It was all a mess. I finally got through it. Kept plugging through and finally found my rhythm. It's gotten better since then."
Even though he got off to a slow start, Johnson said he wasn't trying live up to his contract.
"It might have seemed like it," Johnson said. "I think it might have been because of the tough spring. Nothing was going right. I came in throwing really well in Spring Training.
"You definitely want to say I'm worth this [salary] or whatever. I'm not the type of person who says, 'I've got to prove myself.' The only thing I'll say is, 'I'm going to go out there and pitch, and improve my game.' "
Initially, Ramirez had an uphill climb in voting, as Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins led in early balloting. On June 7, Ramirez claimed the lead and maintained it until the All-Star teams were announced Sunday.
Ramirez is part of a select group of Marlins to reach the All-Star Game three times. Mike Lowell and Luis Castillo each made three visits to the Midsummer Classic wearing a Florida uniform.
The Marlins record for All-Star appearances is four, set by Miguel Cabrera from 2004-07. In each of those seasons, Cabrera was selected by his peers.
Ramirez logged 2,573,961 votes. The threepeat is the longest uninterrupted streak at NL shortstop since Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith's streak from 1983-92. Ramirez finished ahead of Rollins (1,788,778) and Jose Reyes of the Mets (1,554,069) for the starting nod.
"He does everything, the most talented player in the game today with no doubt," TBS analyst Dennis Eckersley said during the Selection Show.
Accolades have followed Ramirez since he first stepped on the field with the Marlins in 2006. Acquired before that season from the Red Sox as part of the Josh Beckett-Lowell trade, Ramirez was the '06 NL Rookie of the Year.
In 2009, he became the Marlins' first batting champion, when he hit .342. He has also won the Silver Slugger Award for NL shortstops the past two seasons. Ramirez, Gary Sheffield and Cabrera are the Marlins' only two-time Silver Slugger winners.
During the 2009 All-Star Game in St. Louis, Ramirez had the chance to talk with Smith. It was one of his highlights of the week.
"Ozzie, I had the chance to talk with him in St. Louis. He has a great heart," Ramirez said. "I talked with him for about an hour. He talked about his preparation. He told me about going out there, playing hard and give 150 percent, and try to help your team win, and respect the game."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.