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A BIG HIT: Angels outfielder Torii Hunter has an All-Star caliber season with his offense as well as his leadership in the clubhouse following the tragic death of pitcher Nick Adenhart.Â â€“ AP Photo
Angels’ Hunter, Dodgers’ Hudson deserve to be All-Stars on July 14
There’s a week left to vote for players to start in the 2009 All-Star Game on July 14 and while it may be too late to impact the frontrunners in some races, here’s two local players who should find their way on the bench for the Midsummer Classic.
Instead of just naming them, let’s state the case why all three should be on the bench. Consider this a trial on the diamond where fans will judge if the parties are worthy based on their body of work.
Torii Hunter, Angels: A slam dunk when you consider what he’s meant to this team.
Forget the fact that he’s more than picked up the slack for a slumping Vladimir Guerrero. Forget the fact that he gives up his body on every play despite how invaluable he is to his team – missing three games last week with a bruised shoulder.
Hunter’s impact this year was seen the minute he stepped up as team spokesman and clubhouse leader after the tragic death of pitcher Nick Adenhart. His calming, steady presence has been an influence on a team fighting for the AL West lead with Texas.
The 33-year-old centerfielder is in the Top 10 for home runs, RBIs, slugging, on-base percentage and batting in the AL and leads the teams in all but the latter category. Put it simply, without Hunter, the Angels would be flying pretty low to earth.
He’s currently fifth in voting among AL outfielders and it’s worth noting that Texas Rangers’ slugger Josh Hamilton (No. 2) has been injured all month. With all due respect to Jason Bay, Ichiro Suzuki and Carl Crawford – no outfielder has meant more to his team than Hunter.
His chances of reaching his third All-Star Game are pretty high and it’s deserving for a player who has led his team in more ways than one this year.
Orlando Hudson, Dodgers: This is an easy case as Hudson is ranked second in voting among National League second basemen – although well behind Chase Utley (Philadelphia Phillies).
Since making a splash at Dodger Stadium with a cycle in his first home game, Hudson has remained a steady cog in the lineup with a career-high in batting average (.315) and on-base percentage (.388).
Hudson is in the Top 5 in hits and runs scored in the National League and has been a big reason the team has the best record in baseball. He’s also on pace to set a career high in several categories.
Assuming that Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Broxton are selected as well, Hudson is the one player in the line-up that should represent baseball’s best team. Consider that he also has eight go-ahead hits as well, there’s no reason that he won’t find a seat next to manager Joe Torre in St. Louis – despite going through a mini-slump this month.
Juan Pierre, Dodgers: If you would’ve imagined that Pierre would go from an afterthought on the bench to playing a key role in the Dodgers’ success this year -you should be offering people numbers for the lottery.
If you imagined that Pierre would be playing at a near All-Star level since entering the starting line-up on May 7 – you should go ahead and predict the weather on August 25, two months from now.
Enough has been said about the 31-year-old’s preparation before this season and the reaction to his performance. He’s finally earned enough plate appearances to crack the Top 10 among the NL batting leaders and Top 5 in stolen bases.
Along with Hudson, nobody can be credited more in the line-up with helping the Dodgers get to where they are and if you took some votes for first half MVP, it would surprise no one if Pierre got a few.
Since he was on the bench at the start of the year, his name wasn’t on the All-Star ballot but if you selected players based on their value and how they’ve played this first half – few made the most of their situation than Pierre.
It was hard enough replacing Manny Ramirez in left field, but not only did Pierre do it, he did so better than anyone imagined, serving as a catalyst of the team’s success.
Â With a week to go, cast those last votes for your favorite player but if want to support local players who deserve a midseason vacation to St. Louis, cast a ballot for Hudson and Hunter – and perhaps a write-in for Pierre.