Reporting Greg Bowman
There is justice after all. Thanks to a last minute surge in fan voting, led by manager Jim Leyland and Pitcher Justin Verlander’s Twitter campaign, Alex Avilla will be the starting catcher for the American League at the 2011 All Star Game. Detroit will be well represented at the game, with four Tigers chosen to play for the Americans. Along with Avilla, First Baseman Miguel Cabrera, and pitchers Justin Verlander and Jose Valverde will be making the trip to Arizona for the mid-season classic. And Catcher/DH Victor Martinez is one of five players still in the running for the final vote, to be chosen by fan voting on the internet.
Despite the Tigers good showing, the fan voting for the starters shows there is a need for a reform in how the players are chosen. Four New York Yankees will be starting, and it would have been five if Avilla hadn’t edged out Yankee Catcher Russel Martin. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano are certainly deserving. But Derek Jeter and A-Rod are not, especially Jeter, who has two home runs to show for the season and is just coming off the Disabled List. Jhonny Peralta is having a career year for the Tigers, and is more much deserving to start at shortstop. But as long as fans are allowed to stuff the ballot box, you will get players chosen just on popularity, name recognition, and the size of the market where the players’ teams are located.
Unfortunately, Justin Verlander won’t be able to start the All Star game, even though he is on his way to a Cy Young season. He’s pitching on Sunday, so he won’t be available to pitch in the All Star game.
So the Tigers have fired pitching coach Rick Knapp? It’s not a total shock, since Justin Verlander has been the only reliable starter in recent weeks. And things did not go better with Coke, in the turning Phil Coke into a starter experiment. And the bullpen has been shaky, except for closer Jose Valverde. But the timing seems odd, halfway through the season, with the Tigers just a game out of first place. Whoever is in charge of the pitching staff has some major challenges, trying to figure out what is wrong with Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, who have been very inconsistent and have been hit hard in their last few outings. Porcello looked much better against the Giants on Sunday, and Brad Penny has put together three good outings in a row. But the Tigers have to get more innings out of all their starters not named Verlander. And the team is said to be searching to see if any pitching help might be available through a trade. But every team is always looking for pitching, and how much would the Tigers have to give up to get something worthwhile in return? Don’t be shocked if the Tigers bring up their star prospect Jacob Turner after the All Star break, especially if the current rotation continues to falter.