Big League Stew - MLB

The date of baseball's All-Star Game is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it breaks up the season nicely, allowing everyone to take a breather and watch the game's best while Bud Selig does what Bud Selig does and puts homefield advantage in the World Series on the line.

On the other, it honors the best players over the first three months of the season, never allowing us a chance to go back and celebrate those who got the job done the entire way. 

With that in mind, we at the Stew decided to create baseball's version of the Pro Bowl team, judging the near-complete work of each player to decide who gets a fictional trip to Hawaii — and which of the original All-Stars must stay home. Unlike the All-Star Game, not every team has to be represented.

The National League is up first.  Click here to see our picks in the American League.

* denotes original All-Star starter

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Late Bloomers — Who we added

Jose Reyes, SS:  Reyes has a .300 average 16 HR, 67 RBI and 52 stolen bases. The Mets' shortstop is still one of the best all-around players in baseball and if you think it seems like no All-Star team should ever be complete without him, you're right.

Carlos Delgado, 1B: If Delgado had hit in the first half like he is hitting now, Willie Randolph would still be the Mets' manager and Delgado would have been on the actual All-Star team. Since struggling through the first few months of the season, Delgado has hit .310 with 20 HR and 58 RBI since the break.

Carlos Lee, OF: Lee was in the middle of a monster season before it ended in August because of  a fractured finger. The Astros' outfielder hit 28 HR and 100 RBI before being knocked out of the lineup, enough to earn him the postseason All-Pro honor.

Cole Hamels, SP: The Philly left-hander leads the NL in innings pitched at 227 and 1/3 and has 196 Ks.

Johan Santana, SP: Santana has given the Mets the top of the line starter they needed so badly. Oh yeah — he also has 15 wins and a league leading 2.64 ERA.

Jose Valverde, RP: The big right-hander looks a little crazy on the mound, but whatever he has been doing is working. Valverde has 42 saves and given the Houston 'pen a major lift for the run that got them back into wild card contention. 

CC Sabathia, SP: The biggest Brewer is 9-2 with 110 Ks since coming to Milwaukee. He didn't make the American League squad, but there's no doubt he belongs with the best of the NL.

Yadier Molina, C:  Not only is Molina one of the best defensive catchers around, he has a .305 average, the highest of any NL catcher.

Manny Ramirez, OF: The only person on this list that actually played for the AL team in New York.  Manny has been killing the ball since arriving in Los Angeles. He is hitting .395 and has 16 HR and 51 RBI while wearing Dodger blue.

Ryan Howard, 1B: Yes, the .248 is ugly looking but the 46 home runs and 141 RBI should make Philly fans smile all the way to the postseason. It also gets him a ticket aboard the All-Star team plane.

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The Uninvited — Who we dropped

Kosuke Fukudome*, OF: At the beginning of the season, Fukudome had become one of the most popular players on the team and the league. Now, people are ready to kick him and his $48 million dollar contract out of town. Since the break, the Cubs' outfielder is hitting just .226. Not even his defense can excuse that performance. 

Corey Hart, OF: Hart's numbers say that he has had a solid year, (.273, 20 HR, 89 RBI) but he is hitting just .249 since the break, and is part of the reason why Ned Yost is looking for work before the season is even over.

Alfonso Soriano*, OF: Soriano has solid numbers but he missed almost two months of action — including the All-Star Game — because of various injuries. Plus, someone's All-Star must die so that Manny's can live. 

Brian Wilson, RP: Yes, Wilson has 40 saves. But that 4.33 ERA has given Giants' fans a reason to feel queasy when he comes into the game.

Nate McLouth, OF:  McLouth has had a nice season and it hurts to do this to such a nice guy. The Pirates' outfielder has 26 dingers and 94 RBI, but there are other players who are more deserving and, like we said, we don't have to have a rep from every organization on this team. (Yes, we do wonder who's going to throw out Dioner Navarro in the bottom of the 11th, though.)

Cristian Guzman, SS: Falls into the McLouth category. Nice season, leads shortstops in average at .312  and is Washington's MVP, but Reyes has better all-around numbers.

Billy Wagner, RP: Wagner had 27 saves for the Mets but his season is over due to an elbow injury.

Carlos Zambrano, SP: Big Z is so up and down that it's scary. One night he can throw a no-hitter and the next start he can get lit up and last just over an inning. Simply put, he's not consistent enough to make this team.

Aaron Cook, SP: Cook might have had the most impressive performance of the actual All-Star Game , working three innings and giving up no runs, but he has a 4.71 ERA since the break and has not looked like the same pitcher.

Russell Martin, C: Martin will probably be an All-Star for the next decade, but this is a numbers game and his .278 average and 12 home runs just didn't cut it this year.

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The Consistently Consistent — Who we kept

Albert Pujols, 1B: Pujols proved once again that he is one of the very best in baseball. The leader for  NL MVP is hitting .350 on the year and has 34 HR and 108 RBI. The lowest batting average the Cardinal first baseman has had since becoming a major leaguer is .314. If we're doing this over again, he's definitely starting at first over Berkman. 

Geovany Soto*, C: All-Star voters got this one exactly right. The soon-to-be NL Rookie of the Year has been one of the Cubs most consistent players this season. The 25-year-old catcher has 23 home runs and 86 RBI on the year and should be a force in Chicago's lineup for years to come.

Lance Berkman*, 1B: The Big Puma got off to one of the hottest starts in years in the first half, but has cooled off since then. Still, he stays on the list because of his .314 average, 28 HR and 102 RBI.

Chase Utley*, 2B: The Phils'  second baseman has become one of the most solid players in baseball over the last few years. He has hit at least 20 home runs and picked up at least 100 RBI in each of the last four seasons.

Hanley Ramirez*, SS: The Marlins gave Ramirez a big contract earlier this season and he has backed up that decision by having another stellar season. The shortstop has hit 61 home runs over the last two years and has become the face of the franchise.

Chipper Jones*, 3B: The wily old Braves' veteran flirted with the .400 mark for much of the first-half. Despite, several lingering injuries during the summer, Jones is still hitting .364.

Ryan Braun*, OF: Braun made the first of what shoudl be many starts in the Midsummer Classic and he's had another huge season after signing a big money deal of his own earlier in the year. The Brewers' star has 69 home runs and 197 RBI over the past two seasons.

Matt Holliday*, OF: The Rockies' outfielder has compiled video game like numbers over the last three years and positioned himself for a big contract after the '09 season, if not before. He has 95 home runs and 334 RBI during that 3-year span, despite having spent some time on the DL this season. He's on the verge of hitting at least .320 for the third year in a row.

Ryan Ludwick, OF: Ludwick has had the biggest breakout season in baseball. Playing for the first time as an everyday starter, the Cardinals' outfielder made fans wonder why he hasn't been in the lineup all along. The 30-year-old has 35 home runs and 106 RBI on the year.

Ryan Dempster, P: Dempster has become the Cubs' most consistent starter this season, earning 17 wins in the starting rotation, just one year after serving as the team's closer. The Canadian pitcher has earned Cy Young consideration in the process.

Dan Haren, P: Haren made a smooth transition into the D-Backs' rotation this season after being traded by Oakland. The right-hander has 16 wins and has given his new team another top of the line starter to go alongside Brandon Webb.

Tim Lincecum, SP: Lincecum is second in the NL with a 2.66 ERA and may end up taking home the Cy Young award. Lincecum has been a workhorse on the team's staff, accounting for 220 innings. He also leads the NL in strikeouts with 252.

Brad Lidge, RP:  "Lights out" Lidge has returned this season in Philadelphia. The power-armed right-hander has 40 saves this season and has not blown one regular-season opportunity. The Phillies' closer has been the NL's most dominant reliever this seaso and has even been mentioned as a darkhorse candidate for the NL Cy Young award. 

Carlos Marmol, RP: Marmol was a late addition to the All-Star and many people wondered how he would fare after struggling towards the end of the first-half. He answered those critics by working a spotless inning of relief in the All-Star Game and compiling a 1.34 ERA since the break.

Ben Sheets, SP:  When Sheets is healthy, he is one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball. The Brewers' right-hander has 13 wins (the most he's ever had in one season) and an ERA under 3 for just the second time in his career.

Edinson Volquez, SP: Volquez burst onto the All-Star scene this year with some electric stuff. The Reds' right-hander has 17 wins and should become a mainstay on the ASG roster for years. He'll have a chance to atone for the two runs he gave up during the game itself.

Brandon Webb, SP: Webb may be well on his way to another Cy. He leads the league in wins with 22.

Kerry Wood, RP: Wood has made the transition from starter to closer a good one, earning 33 saves on the year. At times, especially during the second-half, Wood has struggled, compiling a 4.12 ERA since the break. Still, the right-handed flame thrower has still become one of the most feared relievers in the game.

Brian McCann, C: The Braves catcher continues to be one of the best in baseball. McCann has 23 home runs, 86 RBI and may end up finishing the season with a .300 average.

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: For the second straight year the Padres slugger has at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI, which is saying something considering his home park is pitcher-friendly Petco.

Dan Uggla, 2B: Ok, I know, if you could pull a Doc Brown and go back in time, you wouldn't put Uggla on the team. He was terrible in the All-Star Game itself. Thing is, he still hit 31 home runs and has 90 RBI on the year, leading all second basemen not named Utley.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B: The Cubs' third baseman has had a workman-like year hitting .287 with 26 HR and 109. His bat has helped deliver the North-Siders to the post-season for the second year in a row.

David Wright, 3B: The Mets' star was the best third baseman in New York City this season (Yeah, A-Rod we're talking to you) hitting .300 with 33 HR and 122 RBI.

Miguel Tejada, SS: Despite adding two years onto his age before the season, Tejada had a solid year in his first NL campaign. However, the power numbers have surprisingly tailed off. Tejada hit just 13 home runs this season.

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Coming Thursday: The renamed American League squad 

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