7/6/2013 9:30 P.M. ET
Fans got it right, chose best baseball has to offer
All-Star Game an opportunity to celebrate career greatness, new stars
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
Take a good look at the National League's starting infield. Someday, they may have a reunion in Cooperstown.
And, yes, the fans got it right.
They voted for career greatness. They voted with an eye on this season as well. And maybe that's what the All-Star Game is supposed to be.
It's a time to show off baseball's biggest stars. It's also a time to introduce a new generation of talent.
So it's for established stars like Jose Bautista and Yadier Molina. And it's for youngsters like Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter, too.
Ask any player about his first All-Star Game, and he'll talk about that initial moment in the clubhouse when he looks at the other names on the lockers and begins to grasp what it all means.
This All-Star Game begins with two players -- Orioles first baseman Chris Davis and Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera -- in very different places in their careers.
Cabrera is well on his way to punching his ticket to the Hall of Fame. Davis is just getting started. On this one night, they'll be teammates, and isn't that one of the really cool things about every All-Star Game?
Cabrera's 11th season is another one of monstrous production. Fresh off winning the American League Triple Crown and Most Valuable Player Award, he's leading the AL in batting average, RBIs, hits, etc.
When Tigers manager Jim Leyland talks about him now, he begins by saying that we're seeing one of the great offensive players in the history of the game.
And he's only 30.
Cabrera won the ballot at third base against four others who might be among the AL's top 10 or 20 players -- Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre.
There's certainly a case to be made for Machado having a season every bit as good, but Cabrera is the living, breathing definition of greatness in baseball.
Davis had a roundabout path to this All-Star Game. Once upon a time, the Texas Rangers believed he would rewrite their record book in terms of home runs and run production.
He's beginning to do just that for the Baltimore Orioles, following nicely in the footsteps of Boog Powell and Eddie Murray.
Davis was traded to the Orioles at a time when his confidence was shaken, and his rise is a testament both to his own gifts and to the great work of O's manager Buck Showalter to restore his confidence.
OK, back to that NL infield. On the right side, fans voted for two Cincinnati Reds -- Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.
They represent so many things to their sport, not just excellence, but also a commitment to professionalism and working hard and giving back to the community.
They're still among the best at their position, too, and this All-Star Game will have exactly the right feel, because they'll be on the field when the first pitch is thrown.
Likewise, the left side of the NL infield has David Wright at third and Troy Tulowitzki at short.
They've been the NL's best players at their position this season, but they represent so much more than that.
Tulowitzki is one of the shortstops every other in the game is measured against, and he is the player who best represents what the Colorado Rockies would like every player to be.
Wright's nickname is Captain America. Yeah, his teammates see him that way, too. He's a great player in every way the word can be defined.
He's also a great teammate and someone who cares about the bottom line. As an example, he asked the Mets to tone down their All-Star campaign for him because he didn't feel right being promoted at a time when the team was struggling.
And there's Cardinals catcher Molina.
He's the best player on one of the game's most successful franchises. This will be his fifth All-Star appearance in 10 seasons, and he's only 30 years old. By the time he's done, there'll be no way to have a conversation about the greatest catchers of all-time without including him.
Even with Carpenter and Goldschmidt having tremendous seasons, even with Giants catcher Buster Posey also among the best at his position, the NL infield is a statement by the fans that they get it.
That's how it is in the NL outfield as well. Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals is one of the great players -- and one of the really good people -- of his generation. And Bryce Harper of the Nationals burst onto the scene at 19 a year ago and has impressed his teammates, manager, etc., with his work ethic, professionalism and production.
That Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez joins these two is an appropriate tribute, because for a couple of years, teammates, scouts and opposing players have raved about how good he is. Now, all the fans who don't see the Rockies every night will get a chance to see for themselves.
In short, he belongs. So do Joe Mauer and Bautista and David Ortiz. They'll stand there alongside Mike Trout and Davis and Harper. And it feels right. In ways large and small, the fans got it right.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.