NL All-Star roster buoyed by six Mets
Team has 12 first-time selections, looks to end AL's dominance
A franchise-record six New York Mets -- including starters David Wright (third base), Jose Reyes (shortstop), Carlos Beltran (outfield) and Paul Lo Duca (catcher) and potential starters Tom Glavine and Pedro Martinez -- were among the 31 players named by Major League Baseball on Sunday to the National League team for the 77th All-Star Game.
The Mets contingent highlighted something of a changing of the guard in the NL, as this year's balloting by the fans, players and coaches produced 12 first-time All-Stars and a starting lineup that will likely have nine different players starting at the nine positions from last year's Midsummer Classic in Detroit.
Albert Pujols, whose 3,418,555 votes were the most of any player in either league, also had 2,886,537 online votes to lead the NL and overall online totals. The St. Louis slugger, both the fans' and players' choice at first base, started last year's All-Star Game at designated hitter. Pujols, the 2005 National League MVP and the 2003 Players Choice Major League Player of the Year, celebrated the announcement with his 27th home run on Sunday -- one short of the Major League lead.
"I just thank the fans for their support," Pujols said. "Definitely, if it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be the top leader. I always say, those are the rewards that you get for the hard work that you put in in the offseason and the way that you play the game and respect the game."
Beltran started last year in left field and will likely be in center field this time as the two other outfield starters are Pittsburgh's Jason Bay and Alphonso Soriano of the Nationals.
Philadelphia's Chase Utley, a first-time All-Star and the fan and player choice at the position, will start at second base.
Other first time NL All-Stars besides Utley, Wright and Reyes are Colorado outfielder Matt Holliday, Florida second baseman Dan Uggla, Pittsburgh third baseman Freddy Sanchez, Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard, Atlanta catcher Brian McCann and pitchers Brandon Webb of Arizona, Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo, Milwaukee's Derrick Turnbow and Brad Penny of the Dodgers.
The Mets have had five All-Star representatives twice previously, in 1986 and 1987, but only once has the franchise had four All-Star Game starters in the same game: Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Darryl Strawberry and Gary Carter back in '86. A seventh Met is a possibility, as closer Billy Wagner is a Final Vote candidate.
The Mets, who sent three or fewer players to the All-Star Game each of the last 17 seasons, have the best record in the National League.
"And that's what makes it cool," Glavine said. "I've been there when I'm the only one from my team, and I've been there [as a member of the Braves] when we have three or four guys. I don't know, [the Braves] used to send a slew of guys. And one year we had the whole coaching staff and Bobby [Cox, the manager]. We were the team photo. Anyway, it's a great experience solo, it's even better when you've got a bunch for your team. It's an indication you're having a good season."
Glavine, making his seventh All-Star team, has been chosen for more All-Star Games than anyone on the NL roster. The Mets left-hander is joined by right-hander Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, who made the team for the second time, pitchers Brian Fuentes of Colorado (second), Martinez (fourth), Philadelphia's Tom Gordon (third), San Diego's Trevor Hoffman (fifth), last year's NL starting pitcher Chris Carpenter of St. Louis (second) and the 2003 NL All-Star Game starter, Jason Schmidt of San Francisco (second).
Rounding out the team are repeat selections Lance Berkman of Houston (fourth All-Star selection), Florida's Miguel Cabrera (third), Atlanta shortstop Edgar Renteria (fifth) and outfielder Andruw Jones (fifth), Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Lee (second) and St. Louis third baseman Scott Rolen (fifth).
Fuentes is the only NL pitcher on this year's 12-man staff who also made the 2005 NL All-Star team. Twenty-three of the 31 NL All-Stars are 30 years old or younger, with nine of those under 27 years of age. Not counting 40-year-old Glavine and 38-year-old closers Hoffman and Gordon, the average age of the rest of the NL roster is 28.
Though dominated with youth, the NL roster is extremely talented and deep.
Eight of the top 12 hitters in the league entering play on Sunday are represented: Sanchez, Holliday, Cabrera, Rolen, Wright, Berkman, Pujols and Uggla.
Howard leads the Major Leagues in home runs with 28. He is joined by eight other NL All-Stars among the top 12 in the league in that category, including Pujols, Lee, Soriano, Beltran, Berkman, Bay, Jones and Wright. Ten of the top 12 in the NL in RBIs -- Berkman, Howard, Pujols, Jones, Lee, Wright, Beltran, Bay, Holliday and Cabrera are on the team.
The pitching is also formidable, with NL strikeouts leader Zambrano joined by five others in the top 11 -- Martinez, Schmidt, Webb, Arroyo and Carpenter -- with two others from the league leaders on the Final Vote ballot: San Diego's Chris Young and Chris Capuano of Milwaukee.
Glavine, Arroyo, Penny and Webb are in the top seven in the league in wins.
Arroyo, 29, is third in the Major Leagues in ERA (2.58) and joins Schmidt, Carpenter, Webb, Penny, Zambrano and Glavine as NL All-Stars among the top 10 in the league in that statistical category.
"It's an honor just to be there," said Arroyo, Cincinnati's first starting pitcher to make the All-Star team since John Smiley in 1995. "I don't care about the performance in the game. It's an honor to wear that uniform and be able to step on the field and go through all the stuff and see some old [Boston] teammates on the other side."
Only 23 years old, Cabrera is already a three-time All-Star. This will be Cabrera's third appearance in as many seasons but first as a third baseman.
"I'm very excited," Cabrera said. "This is three times in my first three years, and the players and coaches voted for me. I've got to keep playing hard, and we're playing good right now. We've got to win some games. Everybody wants to be an All-Star. Everybody wants to go to the All-Star Game, because everybody is watching."
"He's an amazing player," Marlins manager Joe Girardi said. "I wouldn't want to face him. ... He's still a kid. He's making All-Star teams while kids his age are still in college."
Cabrera's teammate and former Rule 5 Draft selection Uggla, 26, is another reason the Marlins have surged into second place in the NL East. Uggla is the only rookie on the NL squad thus far.
"I was a little choked up," Uggla said. "It's obviously exciting. Of course I wanted to make it, but I wasn't really worried about it to the point that is all I was thinking about. If I made it, awesome. If not, I'm still going to go on tomorrow. Any time you can get that kind of respect from the guys you are playing against, it means a lot. They're the guys who are playing, and they know what it's all about, and how much effort it is and how much we put into this game. Yeah, [getting picked by the players] definitely means a lot more to me."
McCann, 22, is the youngest of the NL stars. His .354 batting average ranks second, only to Minnesota's Joe Mauer, among all Major League catchers with at least 200 plate appearances. Since coming off the disabled list, the Braves backstop has hit .368 (21-for-57) and continued to impress with his defensive skills.
Considering he's in his first full big-league season, the selection was overwhelming for McCann, who made his Major League debut on June 10 of last year. He becomes the third different Braves catcher -- Javy Lopez and Johnny Estrada are the others -- to earn an All-Star selection in the past four years.
"If you had told me this last year, I would have told you, you were lying," McCann said. "But now, to be lucky enough to be an All-Star, it's something ... it's something kids dream about."
Bay led all NL outfielders in the voting and is the first Pirates outfielder to start a Midsummer Classic since Andy Van Slyke in 1993. Bay is the first Pirates left fielder to start an All-Star Game since Barry Bonds in 1992. It is only the second time since '93 the Pirates have had more than one All-Star. Catcher Jason Kendall and outfielder Brian Giles made the team for the Pirates in 2000.
Bay's teammate Sanchez led all Major League players with 856,685 write-in votes. Sanchez went 3-for-4 with four RBIs on Sunday to move back to the top of the NL batting race with a .363 average. He's also been among the league leaders in batting average with runners in scoring position, doubles and hits.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Sanchez said. "Coming from Spring Training and not knowing how many at-bats I'd even get this year and knowing my role as a utility player, it's just unbelievable. I can't even describe it. I have to thank the fans of Pittsburgh. To have the most write-in votes just goes to show you what kind of sports town and baseball town this really is. Without them, I wouldn't have been able to get in."
Soriano, 30, will be making his first appearance as an NL All-Star. He was the MVP of the 2004 Midsummer Classic as a second baseman with the Texas Rangers.
"I feel very good, because it's my first year playing the outfield," Soriano said. "It makes it feel special because I thought I didn't have the ability to play there. This is the big one, because there was a lot of controversy with this team. I worked hard to be at this point. It's very special for me."
Atlanta, Philadelphia and St. Louis, with three selections apiece, tied for the second-most in the league behind the Mets, who have the best record in the National League.
Cincinnati, a percentage point behind the Cardinals in the NL Central entering Sunday's games, and NL West leader San Diego managed just one All-Star apiece.
NL East Division teams accounted for 15 of the selections. NL Central teams have 10 representatives and NL West six pending the outcome of the Final Vote.
Pujols, Lo Duca, Utley, Wright, Reyes, Bay, Beltran and Soriano were both fan and player selections. McCann, Howard, Uggla, Cabrera, Renteria, Jones, Holliday, Lee, Webb, Arroyo, Turnbow, Glavine, Martinez, Gordon, Carpenter and Hoffman were player selections. Making the team as a result of NL manager Phil Garner's selections were Zambrano, Fuentes, Penny, Schmidt, Berkman, Sanchez and Rolen.
The final spot on the 32-man roster won't be known until the results of the Final Vote are in, and this year's candidates are Bobby Abreu of Philadelphia, Chris Capuano of Milwaukee, Nomar Garciaparra of Los Angeles, Billy Wagner of New York and Chris Young of San Diego.
"There were tough calls," Garner said. "Garciaparra is on the MLB.com [Final Vote] ballot. Wagner -- a tough call. Abreu and Rolen were very close in my mind. I went back and forth with that and decided to go with Rolen and put Abreu on [the Final Vote ballot]. Capuano and Young -- those two really warrant being on the team. That's a tough call.
"There were no wrong choices. Everyone who is on the team certainly deserves to be on the team. Any way I could have gone, it was a deserving pick. We looked at everybody who had numbers commensurate to an All-Star choice. I think we give everybody hard consideration. You can argue with some points, some picks. There's no question about it. Hopefully, I gave everybody just and important consideration."
There are two ways for fans to vote for the 2006 All-Star Final Vote -- online now at MLB.com, or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans can also text the word "VOTE" to 36197 to receive the All-Star Final Vote Candidates sent to your phone. To vote for a specific player, simply reply with your choice. For $.30 per text message vote, fans will have the freedom to vote from wherever they are. Fans can get the mobile ballot now.
The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and final position 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 Chevrolet at the 77th All-Star Game via the Monster 2006 All-Star Game MVP Vote on MLB.com.
The All-Star Game, to be held at Pittsburgh's PNC Park on Tuesday, July 11, at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.
For the fourth consecutive year, the league that wins the All-Star Game will receive home-field advantage during the World Series. The AL has won three straight Midsummer Classics since that provision was added prior to the 2003 World Series, and eight straight overall.
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.