In an open letter to Red Sox skipper Terry Francona (“hopefully the sports-talk radio heathens in Boston are giving you a break for being in second place”), the Journal News’ Peter Abraham suggests the Boston manager select the greatest reliever of his generation — who narrowly escaped a blown save yesterday afternoon —-  to start July 15’s Midsummer Classic.  Hey, if everything was up to Tito, he’d do well to move A-Rod back to shortstop, too.

Yes, we know, Mariano Rivera is a closer. But he also has been the best pitcher in the American League for more than a decade now. Here is an opportunity for his greatness to be recognized at his home ballpark in front of a worldwide audience.

Stay with us, Terry. Cliff Lee of the Indians has been terrific this season. But he’s not even the best starter on his own team. Do we really want to see him throw the first pitch of the All-Star Game? Joe Saunders of the Angels has a compelling case. But it would be nice if the starting pitcher was somebody people actually recognized. Justin Duchscherer? John Danks? No and no. Felix Hernandez will get his chance some other time. Even you have to admit that Josh Beckett has stumbled more than you would have liked.

Rivera has a 1.17 ERA and has converted all 23 of his save opportunities this season. Have you seen his stats? He has allowed 22 hits in 38 1/3 innings and struck out 44. He has walked three. Start him, it’s 1-2-3, and you send the offense up to the plate. You’re guaranteed a good start.

But this goes beyond strategy. For all he has done in baseball, Rivera curiously has been left out at awards time. He has not won the MVP Award or Cy Young Award, and he was the World Series MVP only once in the four times the Yankees have won the title during his tenure. He has won a few of those Rolaids Relief Awards, but nobody gets too excited about that. This could be his last chance to get some real recognition. We’re talking about one of the best players in the history of the game, the best relief pitcher ever. Has any professional athlete ever been better at his job?

Al Leiter would personally like to congratulate Mr. Abraham for not touting Scott Kazmir’s candidacy.