Every team gets at least one player in its league’s respective All Star lineup.  Even the cellar-dwelling Pirates. This year’s contribution is reliever Evan Meeks (a former Tampa Bay Ray taken in the 2008 Rule Five Draft). With a league low 0.96 ERA, he really is All-Star caliber.

A second choice might have been Andrew McCutchen, or even Garrett Jones. But that didn’t turn out to be the case this year. Maybe next year or the year after.

Contributions have been heavier in other years. Last year both Zach Duke and Freddy Sanchez went to the All-Star game. Duke was something of a concession, having had an exceptionally good (for him) half-season.

But Sanchez was a repeater, having gone to the 2007 game after winning the National League batting title in 2006. Certainly he is better than anything (Akinori Iwamura, Delwyn Young, Neil Walker) the Pirates have deployed so far this year at second base.

In other previous years they sent Nate McLouth (2008) and Jason Bay (2006) to the All-Star game. Both of them are now shadows of their former selves, which is to say the Bucs haven’t lost that much by trading them.

Actually, the Pirates will have contributed three players to this year’s All-Star game, if you count a couple of former Pirates.

One of them is Matt Capps, a closer who the Pirates released rather than traded. He’s not as good as Meeks. Still, we might have gotten something for him by trading him.

But his new team, the Washington Nationals, is also in the National League. Meaning that Capps will be on “our side” in this year’s game.

The other former Pirate has gotten better since he left Pittsburgh. He’s Jose Bautista, who now plays for the Toronto Blue Jays, meaning that he is now on the OTHER side.

He hit 15 and 13 home runs in 2008 and 2009 respectively in just over 400 plate appearances, which would come out to nearly 20 homers prorated over a full season of 600 plate appearances. Now he has 20 home runs in about half a season.This follows work done on his swing last fall by Toronto’s batting coach.

It’s unlikely that he’ll continue at this pace (to 40) over the rest of 2010. But an additional 10 (his old pace), seems possible, and 15 more (to 35) is not out of the question, assuming he has truly taken his game up a notch.

On the other hand, Bautista, like Duke last year, may also have made it to the All-Star game based on an uncharacteristic first half.

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