Not since the days of Cecil Fielder have the Tigers put a first baseman into the All-Star Game, and Miguel Cabrera fittingly brings that kind of slugging into this year's event. He didn't get the votes to beat out Minnesota's Justin Morneau for the starting lineup, but his hitting this year more than earned the players' respect for a spot on the bench along with closer Jose Valverde.
"I think we got two guys on that, without any question, should be on," manager Jim Leyland said, "and I think we had a couple other guys that were probably up in the air that didn't. That's pretty much all you can ask for. I thought our two representatives are very well-deserving. Nobody can argue it."
It marks the fifth All-Star selection in just seven full seasons for the 27-year-old Cabrera, who made four consecutive National League All-Star rosters with the Florida Marlins but had been left out the past two years in Detroit. There were reasons his past couple years: His midseason shift from third to first base in 2008 hurt him in the balloting, and he was the odd man out in a stacked group of AL first basemen last season.
Cabrera's numbers this year, though, have been impossible to ignore. He ranks second in the Majors with 20 home runs and 68 RBIs, and his 1.047 OPS ranked second among AL hitters behind Morneau. He has been in the conversation for much of the year as an early MVP candidate, whether or not fans deemed him the best at his position.
"I've missed two All-Star Games. To go this year, it means a lot," Cabrera said. "It's my first All-Star Game in the American League, so I'll go out there to have fun and hopefully I'll do well."
Cabrera couldn't beat out Morneau, falling about 347,000 votes shy. Still, Cabrera's late charge pushed him past Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira for second place in the balloting. His 2,586,207 votes were by far the most of any Tigers player.
Cabrera actually beat out Morneau in the player balloting, 488-427.
"I'm looking forward to it," Cabrera said. "I'm not starting, but that's how it is. I was hoping I was going to start, but I didn't have enough votes. ... I would've been more excited if I was in the All-Star [starting] lineup. I've been there before, playing the second half [of the game]. It's the same feeling [now]."
It's a similar feeling for Valverde as he had in 2007, when he went with Arizona. It's a feeling that he's going to have a lot of fun.
"It's an exciting moment," Valverde said. "You see a lot of great guys, Hall of Fame guys."
Valverde's 18 saves for the Tigers entering Sunday ranked fifth in the American League, but his surrounding numbers have made the real impression. Opponents have managed just two earned runs on 11 hits off him in 35 innings, good for an 0.51 ERA. One of those runs came on a homer. He has walked 14 and struck out 33.
Still, Leyland admitted, he wasn't quite sure Valverde would get in.
"I was kind of holding my breath for Valverde," he said, "because you never know."
Not since Todd Jones in 2000 had the Tigers put a closer into the All-Star Game.
It gives the Tigers multiple All-Stars for the fourth time in five seasons under Leyland, but they were hoping for more. Among the All-Star snubs was Brennan Boesch, who was vying to become the first Tigers rookie to get into the Midsummer Classic since Matt Nokes in 1997. His .345 batting average would rank him close to the Major League leaders if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, while his home runs have earned him plenty of highlight time.
In the end, however, Boesch faced the challenge of getting recognition as a rookie who wasn't in the big leagues until late April.
"Yeah, I'm disappointed," Boesch admitted. "I really didn't have any expectations going in one way or the other. Every kid dreams of going. When you have guys in your clubhouse and respected players around the league who are giving you encouragement that maybe there's a chance and you deserve to go, then your heart is going to be in it until you find out you're not going. Clearly I'm disappointed, but clearly it's not my main focus."
Also left off was Justin Verlander, whose quest for a third All-Star selection in four years fell short on the ballot of players. Though his 10th win of the season Saturday put him just off the pace of the AL leaders, his April struggles likely played a role in consideration. They played a role on his own ballot.
"When we were voting for the All-Star team, at that time, I didn't think I deserved to go," he said. "I didn't vote for myself. I didn't feel like I was deserving.
"At the time I was 8-5 with a high three [ERA]. In my opinion, that's not good enough to be on the All-Star team. There are a lot of other guys that had a lot better numbers than I did. Wins aren't everything. Obviously they are good for your ballclub. But when I went up and down the starting pitchers in our league, I saw plenty of guys that had better numbers than me at that time."
Cabrera is a strong candidate for the State Farm Home Run Derby and is admittedly interested in taking part. However, he wants to see how he feels in the coming days before committing. He has been dealing with a kidney infection for the last couple days and said he had to lie down and take medication Sunday morning.
"Maybe," Cabrera said. "Let's see how I'm feeling next week. Yeah, I would do it, but let's see how my body feels."
Fans, having already decided the starters and this week voting for the final player on each team, once again will have the opportunity to participate in the official voting for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player presented by Chevy via the 2010 All-Star Game MVP Vote Sponsored by Sprint on MLB.com during the All-Star Game.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.