Snubbed by fans, Laird still an EL All-Star
Fortunately for Thunder third baseman Brandon Laird, fans do not get the only vote for the Eastern League All-Star Team.
Had that been the case, arguably the league’s midseason Most Valuable Player would not have made the roster.
Despite leading all of professional baseball with 79 runs batted in and ahead of all EL players in home runs (19), hits (90), extra-base hits (39), runs scored (60) and total bases (169), Laird needed a push from the media, league managers and officials to make the Eastern Division squad.
Laird, a 27th round draft pick of the Yankees in 2007, is on pace to obliterate Raul Gonzalez’s franchise record for RBIs (103) set in 1999 and could challenge Shea Hillenbrand’s 1999 hit mark of 171.
The slugging third baseman will be joined on the Eastern Division team by catcher Austin Romine, unbeaten starter David Phelps and right-hander Lance Pendleton.
The 2010 EL All-Star Game will be held July 14 at Metro Bank Park in Harrisburg, Pa.
Earlier this season, Laird (.297) became just the second player in Thunder history to hit for the cycle and has twice hit a three-run home run and a grand slam in the same game.
Of the four players representing Double-A Trenton, only Romine and Phelps were selected via fan balloting.
Romine is hitting .290 with five home runs, 41 RBIs and a team-high 20 doubles and was regarded as the Yankees’ No. 2 prospect by Baseball America prior to the season. However, some feel Romine has surpassed Triple-A catcher Jesus Montero for top prospect status and he is expected to be targeted around the league in the event the Yankees choose to upgrade their roster with another starting pitcher (Cliff Lee?) on or before the July 31 trade deadline.
Romine has two separate hitting streaks of 10 or more games this season, including a team-high 14-game streak earlier in the year, and was selected last week to represent Team U.S.A. at the XM Futures Game in Anaheim July 11.
With a perfect 6-0 record and a 2.04 ERA _ second best in the Eastern League _ the right-hander Phelps assumed the role of Trenton staff ace once Christian Garcia was lost for the year in the season-opener against Erie.
Phelps leads the EL with 84 strikeouts and has held opponents to a .199 batting average, which also is tops in the league.
The Yankees’ 14th round draft pick out of Notre Dame in 2008, Phelps has not lost since August 18, 2009 for Class-A Tampa.
Garcia tearing a second elbow ligament since 2007 opened the door for Pendleton, who has taken full advantage with five wins in his last six decisions and a 3.70 ERA in 15 starts.
Pendleton, a fourth-round pick out of Rice University, has delivered six or more innings in five of his last seven outings and is second on the staff behind Phelps in innings pitched (80.1) and strikeouts (71).
Each all-star roster consists of 24 players, including at least three players from each of the Eastern League’s 12 teams. At least one position player and one pitcher from each team were selected by fans through online and stadium balloting.
The remaining selections were made through voting by league media, managers and officials.
The Thunder tied a team record by sending five players to last year’s EL all-star game at Waterfront Park.
Of the five only one, reliever Josh Schmidt, is still at Double-A.