NEW YORK - Albert Pujols will be in a familiar spot when St.
Louis hosts the 80th all-star game. Boston knuckleballer Tim
Wakefield is headed for a brand new situation.
Pujols was the leading vote-getter in balloting for the
Midsummer Classic announced Sunday by Major League Baseball, giving
the Cardinals first baseman the start in his home ballpark.
The NL MVP is well on his way to another amazing year, leading
the majors with 31 homers and 82 RBIs. He collected 5,397,374 votes
to finish with the second-highest total in major league history,
trailing only Ken Griffey Jr.'s six million votes in 1994.
Representing the Blue Jays is Toronto ace Roy Halladay - making
his sixth all-star appearance - and second baseman Aaron Hill, both
of whom will attend the game as player's selections. Adam Lind, the
Blue Jays designated hitter, is among the list of AL candidates for
the last spot in Internet voting.
Wakefield made his first all-star roster in his 17th season, one
of a major league-high six Red Sox headed to Busch Stadium for the
July 14 game. The 42-year-old right-hander is tied for the big
league lead with 10 wins.
Wakefield got a standing ovation when Boston's all-stars were
announced at Fenway Park, and acknowledged the cheering crowd with
Teammate Dustin Pedroia, the reigning AL MVP, passed Texas' Ian
Kinsler in a close vote at second base and left-fielder Jason Bay
of Trail, B.C., also won a spot in the lineup.
While Pedroia rallied to get the start, Red Sox first baseman
Kevin Youkilis was caught by Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira in the
Youkilis made the team, anyway, along with Boston ace Josh
Beckett and closer Jonathan Papelbon.
The injury-riddled Mets lead the NL with four selections.
Centre-fielder Carlos Beltran and third baseman David Wright were
both elected by the fans, but Beltran has been out with a bruised
right knee and likely won't play.
New York ace Johan Santana and closer Francisco Rodriguez were
selected by the players.
Starting for the NL: Pujols at first, Philadelphia second
baseman Chase Utley, Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez, Wright at
third, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and Beltran, Milwaukee's
Ryan Braun and Philadelphia's Raul Ibanez in the outfield.
Molina, who turns 27 on July 13 and is the youngest of three
brothers playing catcher in the majors, becomes the first of his
siblings to make the all-star game.
"It's special for me, for my family, for the people of Puerto
Rico," he said. "It's a small country, and it's special for them,
The AL starting lineup: Teixeira at first, Pedroia at second,
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Tampa Bay third baseman Evan
Longoria, outfielders Bay, Josh Hamilton of Texas and Ichiro Suzuki
of Seattle, and Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer.
Hamilton held onto his starting spot despite being on the
disabled list for much of the first half with an abdominal injury.
"I don't feel I personally deserve to go but at the same time
the fans voted me in so I'm more than happy about that," he said.
"It's a real honour for me to go for a second time around."
Jeter was the leading vote-getter in the AL and will make his
10th appearance and sixth start in the Midsummer Classic.
Jeter and the AL beat the National League 4-3 in 15 innings at
Yankee Stadium last season to improve to 11-0-1 since the NL last
won in 1996 at Philadelphia's old Veterans Stadium, the longest
unbeaten streak in the game's history.
Once again, the league that wins the all-star game will get
home-field advantage in the World Series.
As usual, there were a few snubs to go along with a couple of
missing players used to playing in baseball's showcase game.
Houston first baseman Lance Berkman, Milwaukee right-hander
Yovani Gallardo and Washington slugger Adam Dunn were left off the
NL squad. Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Texas righty Kevin
Millwood and Angels starter Jered Weaver failed to make it in the
Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez and Yankees third baseman Alex
Rodriguez, both 12-time all-stars, weren't expected to make the
rosters, but their absence was compelling nonetheless.
Ramirez was suspended for the first 50 games of the season for
violating MLB's drug policy and A-Rod missed time following hip
surgery after admitting in spring training to using steroids when
he played for the Rangers.
There is still one spot to be determined on each 33-man roster,
which was increased by one from last year.
The AL candidates for the last spot in Internet voting: Kinsler,
Lind, third basemen Chone Figgins of the Angels and Brandon Inge of
Detroit, and Rays first baseman Carlos Pena.
The NL candidates: Arizona third baseman Mark Reynolds,
outfielders Matt Kemp of the Dodgers and Shane Victorino of the
Phillies, Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval and Nationals shortstop
Cristian Guzman. (from Broadcast News Ltd.)