First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston

First Pitch: A starless summer in Boston
June 30, 2012, 12:23 pm
Share This Post

SEATTLE -- On Sunday afternoon Major League Baseball will reveal the rosters for the All-Star Game, to be played on July 10 in Kansas City.

David Ortiz, who was the leading vote-getter in fan balloting when the last totals were released, will undoubtedly be the starting DH for the American League.

Beyond that, however, the Red Sox aren't guaranteed any other All-Star representatives. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who belted his 15th homer of the season Friday night, could be selected as a reserve, but that's far from assured.

Saltalamacchia must battle Matt Wieters, Joe Mauer and Mike Napoli at the position.

The Sox, then, for the first time in more than 10 years, face the very real possibility that they will have only one representative (Ortiz) in the All-Star Game, quite a dropoff from recent seasons.

Only last year in Phoenix, the Red Sox had five representatives -- Ortiz, Jon Lester, Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett. The year before that, 2009 in Anaheim, the Sox had no fewer than six players selected to the squad: Ortiz, Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Clay Buchholz and Adrian Beltre.

Indeed, for the better part of the last decade, the Red Sox have almost always sent a multitude of players to the mid-summer classic. To find a year in which only one Red Sox player was chosen, you have to go back to 2001: Manny Ramirez.

(That season, both Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, perennial All-Stars at that point in their careers, were injured.)

This summer, it isn't injuries so much as underperformance. Lester has been healthy all year, but has just five wins. Beckett, who is coming back from a brief DL stint, has four wins. Both Beckett and Lester, nominally the top two starters on the staff, have ERAs over 4.00.

It's the same around the infield: Gonzalez is hitting under .270 with just a half-dozen homers as the season reaches the midway point and Pedroia, though undoubtedly hampered by a thumb injury for nearly two months, entered Friday's game hitting .267.

What does the lack of All-Stars say about the current edition of the Red Sox?

It's too simple to suggest that a lack of All-Stars signifies a poor team, or, conversely, that an abundance of Stars guarantees success. The last two years, in which the Sox placed five (2011) and six players (2010) on the squad, they failed to make the playoffs either season.

Then again, the fact that only Ortiz is assured of being on the A.L. team does seem to say something about the current Red Sox and explain some of the apathy toward the team.

Some of the ill-will felt by fans toward the team is undoubtedly the result of last September's bitter aftertaste. But there's also a distinct lack of star power, especially with Ellsury and Carl Crawford missing almost the entire first half of the season, and Pedroia and Gonzalez underachieving.

Beyond the likes of rookie Will Middlebrooks and persevering journeyman Daniel Nava, there's not a lot of individual appeal to this edition. For a team which so carefully markets itself and presents itself as much an ongoing TV show as a baseball team, that's a curious end result.

Perhaps this lack of star power is temporary. Perhaps, by next summer, Middlebrooks and others will be more established and the veterans will have rebounded and the Sox will again pack the American League All-Star roster.

But in two weeks, for this season anyway, the team with the third-biggest payroll in the game might not have any more representatives than cellar-dwelling non-contenders like San Diego and Houston.