Shanoff's W.U.C.: Celebrate July 4 With A Vote

Today's Calls: July 4 vs. All-Star Voting, Ben Zobrist vs. Conventional Wisdom, Ben Gordon vs. AI, Charlie Villanueva vs. Zach Randolph, Ron Artest vs. Hedo Turkoglu, Hank Blalock vs. Colby Rasmus, Manny Ramirez vs. Nelson Cruz and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Nothing says "Fourth of July" like ... last-day voting for the MLB All-Star Game! ↵

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↵So how do you pick YOUR All-Stars? ↵

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↵Yeah, you are allowed a little hometown bias — but, please, be reasonable. Raul Ibanez? Yes. Jimmy Rollins? Come on. Over Hanley? ↵

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↵I would say not to waste your vote on a player who has no chance of winning — yay, democracy! — instead of focusing on casting a decisive vote between, say, Youkilis-Teixeira or Kinsler-Pedroia. ↵

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↵But fans have a glorious tradition of surprising the cranks by picking the deserving over the hyped. (Not always, but enough.) I would hope you vote for at least one player outside of the standard star system — Jeter, Wright, Name-Your-Red-Sox-Player, etc. — whose play this season has merited an ASG start. ↵

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↵For me, that player is Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist. He wasn't even getting consistent playing time until late May — he was so good that he earned his way into the everyday lineup. Since then, the Rays have turned their season around to become one of the Top 3 teams in the American League. Zobrist is a big reason. ↵

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↵Zobrist is, astoundingly, leading the A.L. in both slugging and OPS. That is better than Youkilis, Morneau, Teixeira or any of the standard stars usually atop the A.L. stats list. Notably, it is ahead of any other A.L. outfielder. ↵

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↵One more detail, which shouldn't necessarily qualify him as an All-Star starter, but certainly sways my vote — his value as an early-season Fantasy free-agent pick-up: Not only has he delivered with the stats, but he is position-eligible all over the place: OF, SS, 2B. Fantasy 1st-Half MVP! ↵

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↵You have until 11:59 ET tonight to cast your votes. Celebrate America on the eve of the Fourth of July: Vote Zobrist! ↵

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↵The rest of my MLB ASG ballot: ↵
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↵A.L.: Mauer (C); Youkilis (1B); Kinsler (2B); Longoria (3B); Jeter (SS); Zobrist, Ichiro, Hunter (OF); Greinke (SP) ↵

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↵N.L.: Sandoval (C*); Pujols (1B); Utley (2B); Reynolds (3B); Ramirez (SS); Ibanez, Braun, Hawpe (OF); Lincecum (SP) ↵
↵* — Sandoval fantasy-eligible at C! ↵

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↵(The expansion of All-Star rosters to 33 per side won't help a position player like Zobrist — it is for carrying an extra pitcher. But though Zobrist won't be a starter, I don't think he has to worry about being snubbed as a reserve. Coming Monday: My annual lobbying for an "Extra Man" candidate!) ↵

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↵NBA Free Agency: Pistons go for broke. Detroit committed $85 million over the next five years to sign Ben Gordon (to replace Allen Iverson) and Charlie Villanueva (to replace Rasheed Wallace). They get younger and more athletic — but that much better? Both Gordon and CV31 need their shots. Ruling: Meh. ↵

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↵Biggest Remaining Free Agent Story: Ron Artest. Will he go to the defending champs? There is also scuttlebutt that he is being recruited by the Cavaliers (a GREAT fit alongside LeBron — Artest would shut down Rashard Lewis). Or will the Rockets keep him? There it is: Artest is the 2010 NBA title X-factor. ↵

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↵(What about Hedo? He is visiting the Blazers today, who appear to be the leading suitors, along with the Raptors. The Blazers are on the verge of a breakthrough into the West elite; as he was with the young Magic, Turkoglu could be the final piece to make that happen.) ↵

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↵NBA Trade: Zach Randolph is no longer the Clippers’ problem; they smartly offloaded him to the Grizzlies, who could certainly use Z-Bo's 20 and 9 in that gaping hole at power forward next to Gasol and Thabeet, but just wait until they experience his attitude. (Couldn't Memphis have had David Lee for cheaper?) ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points ↵

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↵— Three Words: Manny. Returns. Tomorrow. ↵

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↵— Shake It Off:: Red Sox give it back to O's ↵

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↵— Milestones: Papelbon Boston career saves leader (already?) ↵

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↵— Walk-Off Watch: Hank Blalock's Rangers ↵

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↵— Why Hanley rules: 10 straight games w/ RBI ↵

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↵— Injury Watch: Nelson Cruz (back) ↵

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↵— Series of the Weekend: Rays-Rangers (AL) | Mets-Phillies (NL) ↵

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↵— Fantasy Stud: Adam Wainwright (9 IP, 1 ER, 12 K) ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: Steven Jackson has burned fantasy owners for a couple of years running now. But new coach Steve Spagnuolo's confidence in him might lure you back ... yet again. ↵

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↵CFB: Surprise! Florida State really doesn't want to have to give back those wins. For every other school in the country, relinquishing wins from the record book (usually years after the fact) is the most costless punishment there is; at FSU, where they care more about Bobby Bowden's legacy than actually winning football games (let alone caring about epidemic academic scandals), the proposed hit to Bobby's win total IS the scandal. ↵

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↵Must-Read: Strat-O-Matic. Perhaps the greatest game ever invented — and a dominant memory of my awkward years from 12-15. Great Sporting Blog post about the country's biggest Strat tournament. ↵

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↵The Last Word: No Wake-Up Call tomorrow, but I will be back on the regular schedule bright and early Monday morning. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July weekend. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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