ST. LOUIS -- The infield for the National League All-Stars will be almost All-Cards.
Edgar Renteria held off Houston's Adam Everett in the final days of All-Star balloting to earn the starting spot at shortstop for the NL for the second straight year. That gives St. Louis three of the four infield starters for the Midsummer Classic, set for Houston's Minute Maid Park on Tuesday, July 13.
Joining Renteria will be first baseman Albert Pujols and third baseman Scott Rolen, both of whom were starters last year as well -- though Pujols made the team as an outfielder. Rolen was the leading vote-getter in the National League with 3,187,710, marking the second straight year that a Cardinal has earned that designation. Last year it was Pujols, who made a huge late push and was also the leading online vote-getter.
It's the fifth time in franchise history that a St. Louis player has garnered the most votes of any NL player. Mark McGwire was tops in 1998, and Ozzie Smith was No. 1 in 1987 and '88. Rolen is the first third baseman in history to lead NL balloting.
"I'm glad I'm not an outfielder," he quipped, referring to the NL's superstar trio of starters Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr. "I think that had a lot to do with it."
Pujols (2,649,013 votes) will be appearing in his third All-Star Game, but last season marked his first start. Rolen will be making his third appearance, and his third consecutive start.
For Renteria (2,028,840 votes), it is the fourth All-Star appearance, and his second as a starter. Last year, he became the first player from Colombia to be voted an All-Star starter. St. Louis is the only National League team with three players elected as starters.
"To be voted in by the fans is a big honor," said Rolen. "To have Edgar and Albert, three of the four infielders voted into the starting lineup, it's a tribute to the fans here in St. Louis who care so much about putting their guys on the field."
Five Cardinals were All-Stars in 2003, but Jim Edmonds and Woody Williams have both had slower starts than they did last season. The last time no Cardinals pitcher made the All-Star Game was 1998, when Mark McGwire was the club's lone representative. Several Cardinals were disappointed that Chris Carpenter, who has emerged as the team's ace, was not named to the squad.
Rolen and Pujols held comfortable leads at their positions for much of the balloting, but Renteria traded the top spot at shortstop with Everett several times. In the end, Renteria won by over 200,000 votes and Everett did not even make the team as a reserve. Pittsburgh's Jack Wilson was named the backup to Renteria.
Second baseman Tony Womack finished a distant second to Jeff Kent, while Mike Matheny (third place among catchers) and Jim Edmonds (sixth among outfielders) also made respectable showings.
"It's perfect for celebration," said Renteria, who had watched the back-and-forth with interest. "Fourth of July and getting voted for the All-Star Game? A perfect day for celebration. We won the game, it's a good combination."
Rolen has been among the most dominant players in baseball all season, holding a commanding lead in the National League RBI race while playing his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense. He's a five-time Gold Glove winner, and at the season's halfway point, he is among the favorites for NL MVP honors.
Pujols has finished as the runner-up to Barry Bonds in MVP balloting in each of the past two seasons. He's once again among the league leaders in several categories, including runs scored, where he's tops in the NL. The defending NL batting champion has topped 30 homers, 110 runs, 120 RBIs and a .310 average in each of his three full seasons. He's walked more than twice as often as he has struck out this year.
Albert Pujols / 1B
Weight: 225 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"There's a lot of guys that are having great years also," said Pujols. "It's an honor. There's a lot of first basemen having a great year and I got voted in, so I'm pretty happy and real excited."
Renteria got off to a slow start this season, but has been torrid lately, bringing his average and OBP up by 30 points each in the past three-plus weeks. He's generally considered the NL's best all-around shortstop, with a pair of Gold Gloves to go along with his offensive accomplishments.
"[It's] more gratifying" to make it in a difficult season, Renteria said. "I thank the fans that voted for me. I appreciate it."
The last time one team had three of the four infield starters voted in by fans was 1982, when the Phillies sent first baseman Pete Rose, second baseman Manny Trillo and third baseman Mike Schmidt to the Midsummer Classic.
"They deserve it," said Pujols. "The season Scott is having, he's the MVP of the National League. Edgar Renteria is starting to swing the bat well and take the pressure off his shoulders."
The final two All-Stars also will be selected by the fans.
Now in its third year, the Ameriquest 2004 All-Star Final Vote gives baseball fans around the world the opportunity to select the final position player on each All-Star team.
Balloting began immediately following Sunday night's Major League All-Start Selection Show and continues until 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The winners will be announced at 9 p.m. ET exclusively on MLB.com and will then be added to the AL and NL All-Star Game rosters.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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