With slightly more than a month before the All-Star Game, I was given the task of selecting the teams for the American and National leagues. It was very difficult. There were too many players at some positions, not enough at others, too many worthy All-Stars on .500 clubs, not enough All-Stars for division contenders and so many players with similar statistics.
I'm glad someone else has to make the official selections in about a month. Good luck to American League manager Terry Francona and National League manager Clint Hurdle. If things don't get clearer by then, they'll need it.
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Twins: This was relatively easy. Mauer is among the league leaders in hitting (.327) even though he has only two home runs.
Reserve: A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox.
First base: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: This is a premium offensive position that usually provides several worthy candidates. But this year, no AL first baseman is having a terrific year (though three NL first basemen are). We'll take Youkilis, based partly on his very good defense.
Reserves: Jason Giambi, Yankees, and Justin Morneau, Twins.
Second base: Ian Kinsler, Rangers: He leads the league in runs scored, shares the league lead in hits with teammate Josh Hamilton, is second in total bases and has nine homers.
Reserve: Brian Roberts, Orioles.
Third base: Joe Crede, White Sox: A year ago, his back injury was so bad that he couldn't even stand without tremendous pain. Now his back has healed, and he's seventh in the league in slugging.
Reserve: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees. He makes it despite missing almost a month.
Outfielders: Milton Bradley, Rangers, Josh Hamilton, Rangers and Carlos Quentin, White Sox: Bradley leads the American League in hitting, on-base percentage and slugging percentage … quietly. Hamilton leads the AL in home runs, RBIs and total bases, and he's in the top 10 in hitting. He's a legitimate Triple Crown candidate and the best story in the game. Quentin made the White Sox this spring because Jerry Owens was hurt. Now he's second in the AL in homers and RBIs and sixth in the league in slugging.
" Observations: The Rangers are at .500, and they have four starters. The A's are above .500, and they have one guy on this All-Star team. The Orioles have more selections than either the Tigers or the Indians. It's not a good year for catchers, first basemen, second basemen or third basemen. But there are so many outfielders worthy of selection that I left a bunch of them off the list.
Second base: Chase Utley, Phillies. He's the NL MVP and the first second baseman ever to hit 20 home runs by the end of May.
Reserve: Dan Uggla, Marlins (a starter in almost any other season) and Mark DeRosa, Cubs.
Third base: Chipper Jones, Braves. He is hitting .414 -- .404 left-handed and .444 right-handed, and with power from both sides. He's 94-for-227. Think about how good that is.
Reserve: David Wright, Mets.
Outfielders: Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals, Nate McLouth, Pirates and Pat Burrell, Phillies: Ludwick is another great success story, as he's improved from a fourth outfielder to an All-Star. I was told McLouth would have a breakthrough year. I didn't listen. Burrell is in the top 10 in slugging percentage and is in the top five in on-base percentage.
Reserves: Ryan Braun, Brewers, Aaron Rowand, Giants and Xavier Nady, Pirates.
Starting pitchers: Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, Cubs, Edinson Volquez, Reds, Ben Sheets, Brewers, Aaron Cook, Rockies, Tim Lincecum, Giants and Todd Wellemeyer, Cardinals.
" Observations: Where have all the outfielders gone in the National League? And when is the last time the NL had four catchers who had every right to play on the All-Star team, including the Cubs' Geovany Soto? The Cubs have a possible All-Star at every offensive position, including two outfielders, and I took only one. How can the Giants have more All-Stars than the Dodgers?
Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book "Is This a Great Game, or What?" was published by St. Martin's Press and became available in paperback on May 27. Click here to order a copy.