07/04/2004 7:45 PM ET
Five Indians named to All-Star team
Sabathia, Martinez, Belliard, Lawton and Westbrook
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
|Indians catcher Victor Martinez was picked over Jorge Posada of the Yankees, among others. (Tony Dejak/AP)
CINCINNATI -- Manager Eric Wedge wanted the team to celebrate the moment. So Wedge gathered all of his players and coaches inside the visitor's clubhouse, and he announced who had made the All-Star team.
OK, one Indians player was assured. Every team in baseball, after all, gets one All-Star representative. But Wedge rattled off a second name, then a third and finally a fourth.
Four Indians on the All-Star team, really?
Yes, Wedge told his players and staff that second baseman Ronnie Belliard, left-fielder Matt Lawton, catcher Victor Martinez and pitcher C.C. Sabathia had been named to the 2004 team.
"It was exciting for me to see the reaction of their teammates with each individual," Wedge said. "It says a lot about our team."
What also says a lot about that team is the growing respect its players are getting in baseball circles. The Indians are a team with a 40-42 record, yet they had as many players make the team this season as they did in 2000, a season in which the Tribe was a legitimate AL powerhouse.
In addition to the four Indians who did make the 2004 team, the Tribe has DH/first baseman Travis Hafner in the running for the fifth spot. Hafner, one of the most productive DHs in the league, is one of five players that fans can pick from in the Final Vote.
"To get that kind of respect -- four guys on the All-Star team and possibly a fifth -- is awesome," said Sabathia, who will be making his second All-Star appearance. "I'm excited for everybody."
He admitted that baseball people couldn't ignore the numbers, the team's record notwithstanding. If they've been watching the Tribe at all, they've seen a team that's kept piling up the runs. Somebody had to be responsible for that run production.
Put the names Lawton, Belliard and Martinez next to the word somebody, because they have all been central to the offensive production of the Tribe, a team whose offense might be the surprise of baseball.
Their selection goes a long way toward proving that numbers do matter when All-Stars are selected, because when you're a Victor Martinez and you're in competition with Jorge Posada, Ivan Rodriguez or Javy Lopez, your quality work can get overlooked, no matter how flattering your statistics might be.
"I knew that I had a chance because of the numbers that I got," said Martinez, in his first full season in the Major Leagues. "I say, 'Well, if it comes, good; if not, I take the two days of rest.'"
But he won't be taking any rest. Martinez will be headed to Houston with Sabathia, Belliard and Lawton. On July 13, they will all be in Minute Maid Park representing the Indians and the organization, which will make the trip more enjoyable.
It's a trip that Lawton, despite his glossy numbers, didn't figure he'd be taking.
"It's surprised me, so many guys that we had making it," he said. "I think it's a great thing."
The total of four players represents the most Indians picked for the AL team since 2000 when the Tribe also had four players (Roberto Alomar, Chuck Finley, Travis Fryman and Manny Ramirez) selected.
And none of those picked then shocked anybody. The Tribe then was one of the elite teams in the game. Today, it's a team trying to return to its glory days.
"It's a strong statement to the direction this big league club and the organization are going," Wedge said. "We you talk about four people making the All-Star team -- and potentially five -- it says a lot about where this team is going."
Wedge wanted everybody on the club to share the moment, which is why he made the announcement of the All-Star selections a public event.
Each of those selected appreciated the tribute he received from teammates, even a second-timer like Sabathia.
"I'm very appreciative of it," said Sabathia, who's blossomed into one of the game's top starting pitchers. "I'm a little more excited this year because Law, Belly and Vic are going with me. I'm excited to get to go down there and represent the Indians."
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.