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Why do I believe that the National League will win the All Star Game? They haven’t fared too well recently, having lost quite a few of the recent All Star matchups, but the tables will turn. Here is group-by-group breakdown of the competitors, which explains to you how and why.

Catcher Ivan Rodriguez vs. Mike Piazza: Mike is the greatest offensive Catcher of all time, no doubt. Even if his throwing arm leaves something to be desired, he’ll make up for it with his lumber.

First Base Jason Giambi vs. Albert Pujols: Jason was a great First Baseman/DH. Albert Pujols is the greatest active first baseman and a soon-to-be Gold Glover there. The real reason that the Spiderman logos didn’t get put on the bases was because the ads would play first better than Giambi. And that’s when parasites weren’t bothering him.

Second Base Alfonso Soriano vs. Jeff Kent: This is pretty much an even battle, but Kent’s stats this year are slightly better than Soriano’s, and an even slighter edge is given to Kent due to home field advantage and his cool mustache.

Third Base Alex Rodriguez vs. Scott Rolen: A-Rod leads the MLB in dollars paid for a third baseman (or any player for that matter.) Rolen leads the MLB in RBI’s and defense. Which one would you pick?

Shortstop Derek Jeter vs. Edgar Renteria: Jeter has horrible range at short. Sure, everyone brings up the point of Jeter diving into the crowd to catch a ball, but if either Alex Gonzalez (of the Marlins or Cubs) made that play, would anybody care? Would anybody make a big deal about it? Of course not. Plus, Edgar has a little Gold, and he’s pretty good, at least Jeter’s equal, with the lumber.

Left Field Manny Ramirez vs. Barry Bonds: I’m sorry, Manny, you’re great, but Bonds is the greatest player in the Major Leagues. He’ll probably be intentionally walked, though. Oh yeah, Bonds has close to 700 homers.

Center Field Ichiro (Suzuki) vs. Ken Griffey Jr.: Ichiro is a very good defender with very good lumber, but not as great as seasons past. Griffey’s power and RBIs are there, but not the average. He has also been missing time with calf/thigh injuries. Ichiro has the edge over Griffey. Oh yeah, Junior has 500 homers.

Right Field Vladimir Guerrero vs. Sammy Sosa: Power. Speed. Arm. Glove. What’s missing with Guerrero? He’s the number 1 Right Fielder in the Majors. Sosa has a very good bat and he has been improving his defensive skills. Oh yeah, Sammy has 500 homers.

Starting Pitcher Mark Mulder vs. Roger Clemens: Clemens starting the All Star Game in his hometown after his retirement? Who could have written this script? Mulder’s a fine pitcher, but Clemens has been outright dominating this season.

Closer Mariano Rivera vs. Eric Gagne: Hey, isn’t this the guy that had 84 consecutive saves? To put that into perspective: There were 969 blown saves during that time span. During this streak Rivera had 14 less saves and blew seven. Over the span Gagne had 207 strikeouts, as opposed to 71 hits. Billy Wagner, quite a good closer, had 49 less Ks and had allowed more hits over the same time span. During the streak only once did the winning run get to third. His ERA was 0.82 during the streak. He struck out 14.3 hitters per nine. Oh, he won a Cy Young Award. What do you have Mariano?

AL Bench vs. NL Bench: Victor Martinez is quite nice to have around, as he’s a very useful guy. There are no gloves at first with Ken Harvey and David Ortiz. Ronnie Belliard? Miguel Tejada is a fine shortstop, as are the other two guys (Carlos Guillen and Michael Young); you can’t go wrong with Hank Blalock at third. Matt Lawton? Hideki Matsui? Crawford is nice for speed, and Sheffield can hit. Johnny Estrada is adept to getting hits in the clutch. Jim Thome and Todd Helton can rake. Mark Loretta is a decent choice at second, with his high batting average. Jack Wilson is nice at short, and Lowell is a nice addition at third. Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera, and Bobby Abreu are a starting outfield themselves.

AL Bullpen vs. NL Bullpen: Curt Schilling, Felix Rodriguez, Tom Gordon, Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, and Mariano Rivera are nice, but Esteban Loaiza and Ted Lilly? The gambler Kenny Rogers? Injured Tim Hudson? CC Sabathia might be nice in a lefty matchup in late innings. Do you want Cy Young Awards? Glavine’s got one. Johnson has four, Clemens has five. Heck, Gagne’s got one! All that and Jason Schmidt is argued (http://www.athomeplate.com/jschmidt.shtml) as to being the best starter in MLB. Ben Sheets struck out 18 guys in one game, Carlos Zambrano is said to have the best pure stuff in the Cubs rotation, Carl Pavano is pitching like a man on fire, and Livan is Livan. Armando Benitez (28 of 30 with saves), Danny Graves (31 of 38), Dan Kolb (26 of 27), and Gagne (85 of last 86) all are imposing closers.

Of course, the game has to be played out on the field, not “paper.” Another factor in favor of the NL is that the stadium is Enron Field, wait, Haliburton Plaza, no, Parmalat, wrong beverage, Tropicana, no, that’s the Devil Rays, Minute Maid Park! These players have been here more and know how the field plays.

Oh yea, and lest I forget to mention this last fact - this won’t be the first time that Jack McKeon has outwitted Joe Torre.