As we near midseason, it's time to start thinking about the All-Star Game. The contest itself doesn't excite me that much and I am not a fan of the World Series homefield advantage component.
However, sorting out the participants themselves is intriguing and while the Cubs are a second-division club at the moment, they have several interesting all-star candidates.
In the starting rotation, you could make a compelling case for Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Scott Feldman. Kevin Gregg and James Russell have been terrific in the pen, but probably are longshots.
Nate Schierholtz has been very good in right field but plays in a platoon, which hurts his case. My guess is it will be one of the starting pitchers, with a slight edge to Wood at the moment.
Cubs Nation is still buzzing over Javier Baez and his 4-homer night last week, and why not? It was a performance for the ages.
No, it doesn't mean he's now being fast-tracked to the big leagues this year. In fact, I would say at the earliest Baez would be here by September 2014.
The Cubs refuse to take short cuts, and that includes not pushing their prospects too fast.
The most intriguing analysis of Baez came from Theo Epstein last week. He said that while Baez has made a lot of errors at shortstop, the Cubs firmly believe more than ever that he can play that position at the big-league level.
With the drafting of third baseman Kris Bryant, it sets up an intriguing potential "either/or" scenario a couple of years down the road at shortstop with Baez and Starlin Castro.
Some advice for Stewart:
Gotta say, I am pretty disappointed in Ian Stewart and his Twitter rant last week.
He was frustrated that he'd been toiling in AAA, but here's the reality of the situation -- he couldn't stay healthy in spring training to battle for an opening-day roster spot. And he has been pretty awful at the plate since returning to action, on top of coming off a bad year last year.
Plus, the Cubs are getting great production out of Luis Valbuena and Cody Ransom, so there really isn't a place for Stewart on this team anymore.
I understand he'd probably rather go elsewhere, but ripping the manager and showing a lack of respect for an organization that has bent over backward for him the last two seasons is no way to go about facilitating a happy ending here.
Beanball war turns ugly:
The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers went old school last week with a beanball war that turned particularly ugly when Ian Kennedy went way up and in on Zack Greinke.
Then all heck broke loose and, as is usually the case, it was more pushing and shoving and chest-bumping than anything else.
Being an avid hockey fan, there are times when I'd prefer the main two combatants to just duke it out for 20 seconds and then be done with it. The 50-man scrum often leads to useless injuries and embarrassing suspensions.
Hot Stove Cool Music on tap:
A quick plug for our second annual Hot Stove Cool Music event Friday night at Metro.
Baseball and rock and roll collide for a great night for children's charities. Poi Dog Pondering and the Hot Stove All-Stars provide the entertainment. Go to metrochicago.com for tickets.
Finally, my deepest condolences to the family of Pete Vonachen, the longtime Peoria baseball king who passed away last week.
Pete, who was Harry Caray's best friend and delivered the eulogy at Harry's funeral, was a frequent visitor to the press box at Wrigley Field.
I am a better person for having known Pete, who, like Harry, will always be with us in spirit.
•Len Kasper is the TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. Follow him on Twitter @LenKasper and check out his [URL]blog entries;http://wgntv.com/news/stories/len-and-jds-cubs-baseball-blog/[URL] with Jim Deshaies at wgntv.com. To post comments or questions for Len, click on the comment link with his column at dailyherald.com.[/URL]