They are the players you draft too early on your fantasy baseball team. You root for them. You're happy when you see their names at the bottom of the screen on ESPN.
They are the team you would choose if you were first captain and decided to pick all of your friends.
DH: Ken Griffey Jr.
Of all the players of prominence during the steroids era, no one would have broken our hearts more if it would have been proved he was involved than Ken Griffey Jr. That potential heartbreak only proves why he is so beloved.
Griffey's return to Seattle only increases the sentimentality, and I hope the Mariners' early success translates into a berth to the postseason, and maybe Griffey's first trip to the World Series. Here's hoping...
LF: Carl Crawford
Crawford's speed has always been something that has made him an exciting player. The years of toiling with the perpetually bad Rays paid off last year, even though he missed the stretch run with injuries.
His historic six-steal night against the Red Sox only cemented Crawford's place on this team. I also respect that Crawford increased his batting average in each of his first six major league seasons. It proves to me he cares about baseball and works to get better. It's exactly the commitment we hope to see in our baseball stars.
CF: Curtis Granderson
He's one of the players who has it all: power, average, speed, and defense. Granderson is also a good teammate. When Jim Leyland benched him against lefty starters, he worked harder to become an every-day player.
He is articulate and has a future as a commentator when his days are done. For now, I just enjoy watching the guy play and believe he will be one of the best.
RF: Vladimir Guerrero
I like Vlad for several reasons. First, he swings at almost everything and still is able to hit for power and a good average. He has a remarkable .322 career average and should hit his 400th home run this season.
In addition to his performance on the field, Guerrero has also established himself as a humanitarian off the field. He donates more than 10,000 tickets per year to various charitable organizations in southern California, mostly focused on the needs of children. He has invested heavily into various businesses in the Dominican Republic and donated $50,000 for Hurricane Katrina relief.
3B: Brandon Inge
A utility player who looks like he finally found his permanent job, there may be no other player that I have been rooting for more this year. His power numbers this year indicate his 27 home run campaign in 2006 was no fluke. His ability to play catcher, third, and every outfield position makes him invaluable.
I also like guys who play their entire career with one team. They're a dying breed. Inge has been with the Tigers since being drafted in 1998.
SS: Derek Jeter
That is what we call a segue. Jeter has been producing for the Yankees since 1995. Not only has he been Mr. Clutch, he has also been Mr. Reliability—playing in at least 149 games every year with only one exception.
Jeter may not be the most popular choice on this list, but he's hated only because he is good. Good-looking, good-natured, a good teammate, and good player. I root most for him to get his 3,000th hit and look forward to the Yankees retiring another single-digit number.
2B: Ian Kinsler
The second youngest member of my team, Kinsler is going to be a guy to watch for many years to come. He just keeps getting better, and he was my spring training pick to win the AL MVP.
What I like best is the way he runs. It's not just that he's fast; there are plenty of fast guys. Kinsler runs one way: hard. He runs hard to first, turns second looking at third, and hits home plate going full speed. That's the way we want our baseball players to play.
1B: Prince Fielder
I root for Prince Fielder for a couple of reasons. First, there's something in me that likes the fat man who can be a successful athlete. The inherent paradox of being successful in sports while having a bigger belly than me just makes me feel better about myself.
Second, he is the son of another man who succeeded under a similar diet plan. Their 437 father/son home runs are approaching their 500 pounds of combined weight, which will be an important but probably unnoticed milestone.
C: Russell Martin
The durable catcher in today's game is a rare sight. Russell Martin could be called Mr. Durability. I also love the way "Russell Martin" sounds when spoken by the legendary Vin Scully. Listen for it the next time you watch a Dodgers game. In the meantime, I'll be hoping Martin gets his hitting stroke going.
Martin is a catcher with speed, a rare commodity in a backstop, and he does it all playing almost every single day.
So what does this group have in common? For one, they have had stability in their playing career. Only Guerrero and Griffey have played for more than one organization.
This group also plays the game the right way. To me, that means no complaining, fighting through nagging injuries, and hustling every inning of every game.
Isn't that what we all want from our ball players? Isn't that what we should root for? It's what I root for.
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