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Conspicuous absences among All-Star crowd

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Phil Rogers
July 7, 2009

Second City? How about Second Thought City?


When both of Chicago’s baseball teams advanced to the playoffs last October, it marked the first time they’d done that in the same season since 1906. But so much for a honeymoon.


If not for Major League Baseball’s traditional rule requiring every team to be represented, there may not have been a single Chicago player in the July 14 All-Star Game at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium.


The Cubs and White Sox are among nine teams that had only one player named to the team—left-handers Ted Lilly of the Cubs and Mark Buehrle of the White Sox—and in a group of six teams whose only pick was named by the managers.


Even awful teams like Washington (third baseman Ryan Zimmerman), San Diego (first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and closer Heath Bell) and Cleveland (catcher Victor Martinez) had players deemed worthy. But the Cubs, White Sox, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Oakland didn’t have a player voted in by either fans or their fellow players.


You could see a snub coming for the Pirates, Reds, Orioles and A’s, whose payrolls rank in MLB’s second division. And the White Sox did just trim their payroll in a major way, paring $25 million off a 2008 figure of $121 million. But the Cubs?


They had eight All-Stars go to Yankee Stadium from an $118 million team a year ago. Lilly goes solo this season despite an expenditure of more than $140 million for player salaries.


It could have been worse


At least Alfonso Soriano, who was just dropped to sixth in Lou Piniella’s batting order, didn’t get picked. He was edged by injured New York Met Carlos Beltran for the third spot in the National League’s starting outfield.


Had the undeserving Soriano somehow won a popularity contest with fan voting, Lilly may not have gotten the call from NL manager Charlie Manuel.


Beltran, sidelined since June 22 with a knee injury that will force him to be replaced on the All-Star team, had been putting up All-Star numbers when he was hurt.


Many called, a few shouldn’t have been


While Beltran was deserving, you can’t say the same about Texas’ Josh Hamilton, who’s hitting .240 with six homers in 35 games when not on the disabled list, the latest stint due to a torn muscle in his abdomen. He and Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia (sixth among the American League’s regular second basemen) complicated the process for AL manager Joe Maddon.


Hamilton’s selection, along with the naming of exciting 23-year-old center fielder Adam Jones as Baltimore’s lone rep, squeezed the White Sox’s Jermaine Dye off the team. He’s third among the AL’s regular outfielders with a .925 OPS, but his all-around sound numbers (.291, 20 HRs, 51 RBIs) were overshadowed by Ichiro Suzuki’s .362 average and the speed-power combination of Torii Hunter, Carl Crawford and Curtis Granderson.


Pedroia’s election comes at the expense of Texas’ Ian Kinsler, who ranks behind only Toronto’s Aaron Hill in OPS among AL regular second basemen. Kinsler has been much more deserving than Hamilton, his teammate and close friend, but fans fell in love with Hamilton during his electrifying display in the 2008 Home Run Derby and haven’t lost their passion.


Along with Lilly, Buehrle and Jones, the other manager’s picks from unrepresented teams were Oakland closer Andrew Bailey, the only rookie on the team and an owner of nine saves; Pittsburgh second baseman Freddy Sanchez; and Cincinnati closer Francisco Cordero.


Conspicuously absent

At one point in the voting, the Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez was among the NL’s top three outfielders. He slid down into the pack in the final totals, and players voiced their feelings about his positive test for drugs frequently used to mask steroid use by not voting him into a reserve spot. He has been an All-Star 12 times, including the last 11 seasons.


The Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, another perennial All-Star, is staying home after his image took a hit when he was reported to have tested positive for steroids in 2003. He opened the season on the disabled list following hip surgery and is hitting a productive .244 (14 homers, 43 RBIs) in 51 games. Players voted Texas’ Michael Young and Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria ahead of Rodriguez.


Trevor Hoffman, the all-time leader with 572 career saves, has put up All-Star numbers since moving from San Diego to Milwaukee. He was overlooked despite going 18-for-19 in save situations with a 1.93 ERA. He didn’t allow a run in his first 18 innings after starting the season on the disabled list.


The Yankees committed $243.5 million to sign CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett but neither landed on Maddon’s team. Sabathia is 7-5 with a 3.85 ERA, and won only one of his last three starts.


Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, another big-ticket item given the $152 million deal the Tigers handed him last season, was squeezed out at first base when Maddon added Boston’s Kevin Youkilis as a discretionary pick behind Yankees starter Mark Teixeira and elected reserve Justin Morneau of the Twins. Cabrera’s .323 average leads AL first baseman, but Teixeira and Morneau have better power numbers. There’s little difference statistically between Cabrera and Youkilis, and Maddon decided to go with the guy from his division rival.


Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds is third in the NL in homers (24) and has 61 RBIs. He has stolen 13 bases for good measure but didn’t get a call, perhaps because of his unprecedented strikeout total (111 in 80 games).


No position was deeper than first base in the NL. Give Manuel credit for using two of his picks to get Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard on the team, behind Albert Pujols (the leader in fan voting at 5,397,374) and the player’s second choice, Gonzalez. All four of those guys offer difference-making bats to the league that hasn’t won the All-Star Game since 1996.


A fifth first baseman, San Francisco’s Pablo Sandoval, who also plays a lot of third base, is on the 33rd Man ballot, as is Reynolds.


All-Stars ’R Us

Pedroia, the reigning AL Most Valuable Player, is among a group of six Red Sox, the most of any team. Tampa Bay and the Mets (four apiece) also will be well represented, with Detroit, Minnesota, Milwaukee, St. Louis, the Dodgers and Yankees putting three players each on the team, pending this week’s 33rd Man vote.


Pedroia is joined by 42-year-old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (a first-time All-Star), Josh Beckett, Jason Bay, Jonathan Papelbon and Youkilis. The Rays’ delegation is led by starting third baseman Longoria and includes shortstop Jason Bartlett, utilityman Ben Zobrist (.286, 16 home runs and a great nickname—”Zorilla”) and Crawford. David Wright, Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez join the sidelined Beltran in the Mets’ contingent.


In the wings

Don’t be surprised if Manuel names Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino to replace Beltran if Victorino doesn’t win the 33rd Man voting, which will conclude Thursday. He has only five healthy outfielders on his roster, which should have him looking toward Victorino, Washington’s Adam Dunn (another left-handed bat with thunder) and possibly another Phillie, Jayson Werth.


Phil Rogers writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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