As you surely know by now, Kansas City will be hosting the 2012 All-Star Game. Sure, there are ill-informed people bashing the choice, but I'm excited. I'm confident KC will put on a good show and all those east coast elitists will be...well, they probably wouldn't admit being impressed, but at least satisfied. I doubt they'll die of boredom out here in flyover country, anyway.
OK, enough good old-fashioned Kansas City inferiority complex. There is too much to be excited about...2012 figures to be an interesting year for Royals fans. We should be beginning to see all that talent at Northwest Arkansas reach the majors and hopefully start to contribute. Meanwhile, with the big contracts of Jose Guillen and Gil Meche off the books, there is a chance for the Royals to add an important free-agent piece, as well. Throw in the fact that 2012 is the last season of Zack Greinke's current contract, and suddenly it looms as a very important year for the franchise.
So, who will represent the Royals in the 2012 All-Star Game? That player (or players) will be seen as the face of a franchise that (we can only hope) will be seen as on the rise. Here are my candidates, with what I think are the odds they will be selected. Please note, I am not a gambler, so these odds should be taken with an entire salt shaker.
Zack Greinke: Probably the best-known Royal to baseball fans across the country. An actual star after his Cy Young Award last year. And you can never have too many pitchers on the All-Star teams in case the game goes 20 innings. Possible complication: that pesky business about his contract being up after 2012. Will he still be a Royal in July 2012? Or will they feel the need to trade him? Odds: 2-1.
Joakim Soria: As I said, you can never have too many pitchers in this game. And it's nice to have some relief pitchers on the staff. If Zack is still getting the run support in 2012 he's received this year, Soria might end up being the choice. Odds: 3-1.
Billy Butler: First base is a loaded position, especially in the American League. Billy has a chance at an All-Star nod this year, so that might help him be on the radar in two years. But he has to overcome Miguel Cabrera, Paul Konerko and Justin Morneau, and that's just in his own division. Odds: 5-1.
Alex Gordon: I'm not hopping off this bandwagon. This is a rant for another day, but I seriously cannot believe Gordon is being allowed to put up a 1.100 OPS in Omaha while Scott Podsednik puts up a .689 in the majors. For comparison purposes, Miguel Cabrera leads the AL with a 1.056 OPS. I'd be willing to live with the occasional error as Gordon "learns to play left field" (seriously, is it that difficult?) in the majors to get that bat in the lineup. Anyway, the average AL left fielder this year has a .759 OPS. Alex put up a .735 in his rookie year and a .783 in 2008. He still figures to improve offensively, as he's only 26. Odds: 10-1.
Kila Ka'aihue: Currently putting up a 1.105 OPS in Omaha. Yep, even better than Alex Gordon. Kila has to overcome the same group of first basemen that Butler has to, plus Kila has to overcome Billy Butler. And the Royals' bizarre reluctance to give him a chance. Odds: 25-1.
Luke Hochevar: It looked like the light was starting to come on before his last start, which we now know was cut short by elbow soreness. With the old Royals' training staff, I would have expected the "sprained elbow" to become Tommy John surgery within months, but I think we're in better hands now. Anyway, if the Royals can improve their infield defense before the 2012 season, this ground-ball pitcher might have a chance. Odds: 40-1.
Mike Moustakas: Hey, Evan Longoria did it in his rookie season! Odds: 50-1.
Mike Aviles: The Royals will keep looking for middle infielders to replace this guy until they find one who can hit over .210. Age is working against him, though--he will be 31 when the 2012 season starts. Odds: 60-1.
David DeJesus: Probably won't even be a Royal in 2012, although he seems like he would be willing to re-sign with the team after his contract is up in 2011. But he might be too expensive, especially for a guy who will turn 32 after that 2011 season. Too bad, he's a fan favorite who would have ESPN on his jock if he played for the Yankees or Red Sox. Oh wait, I was going to stop the inferiority complex. Sorry about that. Odds: 75-1.
Yuniesky Betancourt: No.