Loaded American League All-Star lineup foolproof
Leyland knows there are no wrong choices for Junior Circuit's batting order
NEW YORK -- As Tigers manager Jim Leyland toyed with different lineups for his American League squad in the 2013 All-Star Game, he kept coming back to one thought.
"Even I can't mess this one up," he said.
Leyland was given a roster with so much talent, so much production, so much experience that he could have picked the names from a hat and gotten it right.
That said, Leyland didn't pick the names from a hat. Instead, he began by writing down the name of baseball's best offensive player -- his own AL Triple Crown Award winner Miguel Cabrera -- in the third spot in his batting order.
What does a Triple Crown winner do for an encore? In Cabrera's case, he's almost as dominant as he was in winning the AL Most Valuable Player Award last year.
Cabrera is leading the AL in runs (73), hits (132), RBIs (95), walks (60), batting average (.365), on-base percentage (.458) and OPS (1.132). He's not leading in one Triple Crown category, trailing Orioles first baseman Chris Davis in home runs, 37 to 30.
OK, so there's that.
After that, Leyland went for two things: a great leadoff hitter and a balanced lineup. He got those things by making Mike Trout his leadoff man. A year after finishing second to Cabrera in the AL MVP Award voting, Trout is on pace for 51 doubles, 37 stolen bases, 14 triples and 26 home runs.
Since Cabrera and Trout are both right-handed hitters, Leyland broke them up by putting Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano in the second spot in his lineup. With 21 home runs and a .302 batting average, Cano could have batted almost anywhere and made a positive impact.
"You just sit down, we put speed up front and a bunch of power guys together, a little lefty-righty," Leyland said. "I don't think that makes a lot of difference in that game, but you don't know how it's going to play out. You have to put them somewhere, and I feel comfortable with the lineup that I made out. And I feel very comfortable with it, as I'm sure Bruce [Bochy, National League manager] does his. Like I said, it's pretty hard to mess that one up."
Leyland's cleanup hitter was an obvious choice: Davis, who happens to be a left-handed hitter.
Davis is on a 60-home run pace and has made pretty much every ballpark look small. After that, Leyland alternated his left- and right-handed hitters, going with Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays in right field, David Ortiz of the Red Sox at designated hitter, Adam Jones of the Orioles in center, Joe Mauer of the Twins at catcher and J.J. Hardy of the Orioles at shortstop.
Leyland's lineup has eight of the top 16 home run hitters in the AL, including five who've already cracked the 20-homer club -- Davis, Cabrera, Trout (21), Cano (21) and Bautista (20).
He has two others -- Ortiz and Jones -- with 19 home runs and Hardy, who has 16. Leyland's catcher, Mauer, is the only AL starter with fewer than 15 home runs.
Still, when Leyland talked about his favorite All-Star Game memories -- this is his third time managing an All-Star team -- he talked about something that had nothing to do with putting together a lineup or winning a game.
"People ask me, 'What is your favorite memory of All-Star Games?'" he said. "My favorite memory is not necessarily being with all the great players that you are with and you get to manage for a day. I think the best thing I like about the All-Star Game is to see a dad with his kid for the first time at an All-Star Game. When you see them in the stands and we are taking batting practice in the game, and you can see that smile on that face, it's an unbelievable feeling and I'm sure a great moment for father and son. That's my favorite memory of the All-Star Game."
This is the 11th time that home-field advantage in the World Series will be decided by the All-Star Game. The AL won the first seven, but the NL takes a three-game winning streak into the contest on Tuesday at Citi Field. In that time, the team with home-field advantage in the World Series has won eight of 10 times.
Leyland said the numbers support the importance of home-field advantage. He also supports having the All-Star Game decide home-field advantage.
"I think it's a nice touch," he said. "You win this game, you do get that. I think you do live by the old saying, 'There's no place like home.' I think that pretty much sums that up. It statistically says that it does give you an advantage.
"We are going to do our best to win this game. I think it's a combination of things. I think you want to see these great players showcase their talent. Yes, you're trying to win the game because of what's at stake now. And I think there's a lot of things involved in this game, and I want to try to make it the total package for the American League."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
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.