Star Of Stars: Barry Bonds Belongs In All-Star Lineup This Year

Saturday, June 30th 2007, 3:51 pm
By: News On 6

(AP) - Barry belongs.

And not just because the all-star game is in San Francisco.

All sentiment (and loathing) aside, Barry Bonds is having a strong enough season to warrant a spot in the starting lineup for the National League.

Sure, he's not the unstoppable hitter he once was. Sure, the aches and pains in his 42-year-old legs have rendered his defence . . . well . . . indefensible.

Still, he's been one of the most productive outfielders in the league this season, and that's what matters most.

Bonds leads the majors in on-base percentage by a wide margin, thanks in large part to all those walks he draws. Pitchers and managers remain afraid of him. That's a pretty good gauge of his worth.

He ranks among the NL leaders in slugging percentage, too. And he has 15 homers for the last-place Giants, a commendable total especially considering how little he gets to hit.

Yup, Bonds should bat in the middle of the National League order. Maybe right after Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr., another aging star enjoying an excellent year.

Playing in his glistening home ballpark on the San Francisco waterfront, Bonds would own the spotlight July 10. Should make for an intriguing night.

Other choices are much tougher. The American League is loaded with outstanding centre-fielders: Ichiro Suzuki, Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore.

The NL is stacked at shortstop. Jose Reyes, Edgar Renteria or Hanley Ramirez? Don't forget J.J. Hardy and Jimmy Rollins.

"I've been playing around with it, but why waste your time before you know who the fans selected?" NL manager Tony La Russa of the St. Louis Cardinals said.

Due to subpar seasons, a few perennial all-stars might be missing, including Mariano Rivera and Andruw Jones. In their place should be rising young stars such as Prince Fielder and Curtis Granderson.

But space is limited.

There are 32 spots on each roster, and 12 go to pitchers. Every team must be represented, which means finding an all-star on the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals is required.

The league that wins will get home-field advantage in the World Series again.

"I've got a big job to do, and I don't have a lot of time. I'm looking forward to the game and the festivities, but I'm not looking forward to the next couple days. It's going to be hectic," AL manager Jim Leyland of the Detroit Tigers said this week.

"I don't think it is going to be that difficult, but someone is going to get screwed. You can write that down right now. Someone that deserves to be there is going to get left off, but that's not because of Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa, that's because of the system. I've got seven or eight picks, and once I make sure that every team has someone, I might be down to one or two."

Without regard to fan balloting, here are our picks for the 78th All-Star game at AT&T Park. The teams will be revealed Sunday.

Starting with the AL:

First Base - Red Sox slugger David Ortiz gets the start here because there's no designated hitter in the NL park. Boston's regular first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, makes it as a backup. Reigning MVP Justin Morneau of New Westminster, B.C., is in, as long as he's recovered from a bruised lung. And the huge surprise is Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena, sent to minor-league camp late in spring training. Take a look at his numbers since he's been playing every day - they're unbelievable. An injury keeps Texas' Mark Teixeira off the team.

Second Base - With a recent surge, Baltimore's Brian Roberts earns the start at a relatively light position. Behind him is Toronto's lone representative, Aaron Hill, who is quietly having a solid season. Passing on Detroit's Placido Polanco was difficult. He was leading the fan vote, though.

Shortstop - Carlos Guillen of the Tigers beats out Yankees captain Derek Jeter for the starting role. A couple of tough omissions here, including Orlando Cabrera of the Los Angeles Angels.

Third Base - Alex Rodriguez is in the middle of a monster season that could earn him even more money - even if New York misses the playoffs. Boston's Mike Lowell is the backup.

Catcher - Jorge Posada has been strong and steady throughout the Yankees' woeful first half. He edges Cleveland switch-hitter Victor Martinez.

Outfield - Detroit's Magglio Ordonez starts in left, Minnesota's Hunter in centre and Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels in right. The reserves are Suzuki from Seattle, Sizemore from Cleveland, Detroit's Granderson and Boston's Manny Ramirez. Tigers DH Gary Sheffield also gets a spot. It was hard to leave out Alex Rios of the Blue Jays.

Starting Pitchers - Dan Haren is the only representative from Oakland, but he earns the start in his first all-star appearance thanks to a 9-2 record and league-leading 1.91 ERA. Joining him on the staff are first-timer Josh Beckett of Boston, Detroit's Justin Verlander, Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia, Minnesota ace Johan Santana, Los Angeles' Kelvim Escobar and Kansas City's Gil Meche.

Relievers - Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez anchors the bullpen, along with Seattle's J.J. Putz, Boston's Jonathan Papelbon, Chicago's Bobby Jenks and Rangers setup man Akinori Otsuka. Unfortunately, there's just no room for two deserving setup men: rookie left-hander Hideki Okajima of the Red Sox and Los Angeles stalwart Scot Shields.


And in the NL:

First Base - Fielder is the first-half MVP. The son of "Big Daddy" Cecil Fielder, the Milwaukee slugger has a great chance to lead his team to its first playoff berth in 25 years. Reserve roles go to reigning MVP Ryan Howard of the Phillies, St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Washington's Dmitri Young - a nice comeback story. Chicago's Derrek Lee, Colorado's Todd Helton and San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez get squeezed out at a power-packed position.

Second Base - Philadelphia's Chase Utley has separated himself from everyone else at this position and could have a lock on many all-star trips to come. He's the clear choice to start, with Florida's Dan Uggla behind him.

Shortstop - Renteria is quietly having a superb season for Atlanta, and he outpaces a competitive field. Hardy makes it from Milwaukee, and New York's Reyes earns a spot as well. Shaky defence costs Hanley Ramirez, while Rollins just misses.

Third Base - Miguel Cabrera of the Marlins easily wins the start, and New York's David Wright takes second string.

Catcher - Russell Martin is the heart and soul of the Dodgers and a terrific young player. Take your pick on a backup - San Francisco's Bengie Molina?

Outfield - Bonds starts in left, his first all-star appearance since 2004, with Griffey at his old spot in centre and Colorado's Matt Holliday in right. On the bench: Chicago's Alfonso Soriano, Houston's Carlos Lee, Cincinnati's Adam Dunn and Phillies centre-fielder Aaron Rowand. Brad Hawpe of the Rockies is a harsh cut.

Starting Pitchers - A toss-up for starting honours between Los Angeles' Brad Penny and San Diego's Jake Peavy. Make it Penny (10-1, 2.04 ERA) for the second consecutive year. The rest of the staff includes Chris Young of the Padres, Atlanta's John Smoltz, Arizona sinkerballer Brandon Webb, Brewers ace Ben Sheets, Pittsburgh's Ian Snell and the Mets' John Maine. Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels was oh-so-close.

Relievers - Brewers closer Francisco Cordero leads the majors in saves. He teams up in the bullpen with Trevor Hoffman of the Padres, Takashi Saito of the Dodgers, and Mets lefty Billy Wagner. It was difficult to deny Arizona's Jose Valverde.