Old Classic Has New Blood

Jason Campos

What do you call a Major League Baseball All Star Game that has no Ken Griffey Jr., no Roberto Alomar, and no Ivan Rodriguez? Good sense by the fans.

One of the biggest gripes I’ve had with fans’ choices over the years for the Midsummer Classic was their disregard for reality. Time and time again when it came time to vote, fans punched ballots or clicked the mouse for players who were having off years or past their prime (see Cal Ripken Jr.).

Perhaps the most refreshing development is the fact that 25 players will be making their first All Star appearance. For the most part, the managers who made the final selections, Bob Brenly of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Joe Torre of the New York Yankees, did a good job, although I do have a few qualms.

Here’s my step-by-step analysis of the All-Star selections, both starters, pitchers, and reserves:

American League starters: Yankee heavy, but I can’t argue with the choices. I am glad that fans went with catcher Jorge Posada over Rodriguez, who had been a starter in the All Star Game for nine straight years but was injured for most of this season. I am surprised that Red Sox third baseman Shea Hillenbrand beat out Yankee Robin Ventura to start the game, but the second baseman deserves to go. Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, who had been out with a broken thumb for six weeks, did get selected as a starter when he should not have. If I had my druthers, Damon would be the choice instead. Grade for the fans’ selections: A-

National League Starters: Curious that two Philadelphia Phillies players, third baseman Scott Rolen and shortstop Jimmy Rollins, whose team is in last place in the National League East, made the roster as starters. Rolen has been having an off year and my vote would have gone to Florida Marlin Mike Lowell, but since Lowell made it as a reserve, no real tragedy and no real gripe. Montreal Expo second baseman José Vidro, who is having a phenomenal year, beat out Alomar, who is not, in the final week to become the starter. Grade for the fans’ selections: A-

American League pitchers: Good balance between new guys and old guys. In fact, I’m a little bit perplexed why Torre did not go with a Yankee starter to go with his closer Mariano Rivera. For Torre to choose two Red Sox starters and not one Yankee shows remarkable restraint and consideration on his part. He has been questioned about his selections for All Star Games in past years, that he indulges his players by selecting them over slightly more worthy candidates. Grade for Torre’s selections of pitchers: A

National League pitchers: Brenly will definitely not be questioned about his selections of Arizona’s Randy Johnson and Curt Shilling, since both pitchers are once again having phenomenal years. Yet choosing a third diamondback pitcher, reliever Byung-Hyun Kim, seems like a bit of stretch. There were a few worthy candidates elsewhere, but the selection is not egregious. I’m not really sure about Atlanta Brave John Smoltz making it either. Grade for Brenly’s selections of pitchers: B

American League reserves: (Since there is a rule that one player has to represent each team, I will take that into account in my criticism). My biggest complaint of Torre is his decision to take five shortstops to Milwaukee. Good players all, but why is this the one position where everyone has to be placated. There was an equally tight race for first basemen, where Kansas City Royal Mike Sweeney and Chicago White Sox Paul Konerko got the nods over Toronto Blue Jay Carlos Delgado and Cleveland Indian Jim Thome. Damon was squeezed out by the tight race in the outfield. That was more a matter of numbers than anything else. Grade for Torre’s selection of reserves: B

National League reserves: Once again I think there is one too many Diamondbacks. Second baseman Junior Spivey was a worthy choice, but the other two selections, outfielder Luis Gonzalez and catcher Damian Miller, seem auspicious. Take one, Brenly, not both. There were a few outfielders that have had significantly better seasons than Gonzalez. What about Larry Walker, huh? Andruw Jones? Brenly made some good selections in other positions, most notably outfielder Adam Dunn of the Cincinnati Reds. However, he did have to choose a Reds’ player. Grade for Brenly’s reserves: C