07/04/2004 10:34 PM ET
NL squad packs a punch
Power-laden lineup ready to go deep in Houston
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
|Scott Rolen had the highest vote total of all National League All-Stars this year. (Ed Zurga/AP)
Get ready for more space shots, Houston, because the National League All-Star team is ready to blast off.
According to the NL roster released by Major League Baseball on Sunday, three players with at least 500 home runs -- San Francisco's Barry Bonds (680 career homers), Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. (500) and Chicago's Sammy Sosa (553) -- will be in the starting outfield together for the first time when the 75th All-Star Game is played July 13 at Minute Maid Park.
"It's an honor for me to be there with Mr. Barry Bonds and Griffey," Sosa said. "I'm really going to enjoy it. I don't know if that will ever happen again. It's a situation that's happened, and it's happened to good people."
The NL's power doesn't end there.
Mike Piazza of the New York Mets will be making his 11th All-Star appearance. The man who has hit more homers than any catcher in history (374) was the only position player from the NL East to be voted to a starting spot this year. With this season's vote total of 2,296,667 bringing his career number to 23,381,226, Piazza surpassed Carlton Fisk (22,710,613) as the all-time leading vote-getter among catchers. Mets lefty Tom Glavine also made the squad.
Major League RBI leader Scott Rolen, who racked up more votes than any National Leaguer with 3,187,710, will be one of three St. Louis Cardinals infielders starting for the Senior Circuit. The five-time Gold Glove winning third baseman was elected by the fans as the starter at the hot corner for the third consecutive year. He will be joined by teammates Edgar Renteria at shortstop and first baseman Albert Pujols, last year's leading vote getter, in the starting lineup for the Midsummer Classic.
Rolen is the first third baseman to lead the NL in votes.
"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."
Host Houston will be represented in the starting lineup by slugger Jeff Kent -- the fans' choice at second base with 2,898,381 votes -- and his 285 career home runs. He'll be joined by Astros outfielder Lance Berkman, the only player in either league to receive at least two million votes and not land a starting spot, as well as pitcher Roger Clemens.
"I've been to others and they've been very special," said Kent, a three-time All-Star. "But this might be the most special. Playing in a home uniform, playing among your home crowd ... thinking about it, being introduced as a starter to the home crowd is going to be special."
Clemens has made eight All-Star appearances in his career. His first occurred in 1986, when the Houston native was able to pitch in front of dozens of friends and family at the Astrodome. He threw three perfect innings and was named the MVP of that game.
"This will be little different twist for me," Clemens said. "Obviously I'm happy for my teammates. From what I understand, we had five or six finish in that second slot. We had a nice little run of players that could have easily been chosen for this All-Star game here at home."
The six-time Cy Young Award winner is 10-2 with a 2.63 ERA this season. Florida manager Jack McKeon, who will pick the starting pitcher, said a decision could come Monday.
"I've been thinking about it for a month," McKeon said. "I don't know who's going to pitch on what day or how they are going to do, or what they're going to do."
The starting eight for the NL has hit 2,814 career homers, including six players with 200 or more. That's not counting some of the players on the team who aren't starting, like Philadelphia first baseman Jim Thome (408 career homers) or Chicago's Moises Alou (258).
The NL roster is as talented as it is powerful, accounting for 11 Most Valuable Player Awards and 14 Cy Young Awards.
The Reds and Florida Marlins, with four apiece, led the way with the most players on the NL All-Star roster.
Griffey, a 12-time All-Star and all-time votes leader with 37,524,627, joins shortstop Barry Larkin, first baseman Sean Casey and closer Danny Graves as the Cincinnati contingent. The World Champion Marlins will be represented by third baseman Mike Lowell, outfielder Miguel Cabrera, closer Armando Benitez and pitcher Carl Pavano.
Eight NL teams are currently represented by one All-Star, though the numbers could change when the results of the Final Man voting are tabulated.
Thome, Atlanta catcher Johnny Estrada, Montreal pitcher Livan Hernandez, Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson, Los Angeles closer Eric Gagne, San Diego second baseman Mark Loretta, Arizona pitcher Randy Johnson and Colorado first baseman Todd Helton are the lone All-Stars from their respective teams.
"Jack continues to amaze," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He's been the best shortstop in the National League this season."
Eight of the National Leaguers named Sunday are first time All-Stars, including Cabrera, Pavano, Estrada, Loretta, Wilson, Hernandez, Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano and Milwaukee closer Danny Kolb.
"It's a dream come true," said Hernandez, who leads the NL in innings and complete games. "It's something you want to do during your career. I won the World Series already, so I wanted to go to the All-Star Game."
Alou, a player selection, was the third Cub to make the team. Milwaukee right-hander Ben Sheets was one of the 12 pitchers McKeon will have on the staff.
McKeon said he had compiled a list of 46 players he felt were deserving of making the team, but the limit was 31 plus the Internet vote on MLB.com.
"We sat down with Major League Baseball and coordinated it," McKeon said of his seven picks, which included making sure all teams were represented. "We were pretty close on all of them. We had them on a list, and we decided which one.
"I don't see too much grief because a lot of the grief was taken off me by the players, managers and coaches. They were very helpful. There were some guys I would have picked, but the players picked them anyway. That made it easier for me. There will be some guys disappointed, but their peers picked the other guys. We sat down and analyzed where we could use a guy, and guys who were high in the All-Star balloting that didn't make it."
Alou and Clemens made the All-Star team with their fourth club. Only Gary Sheffield of the Yankees, who made it five teams Sunday, has been an All-Star with more teams.
The fans will choose the 32nd and final All-Star in the NL Final Vote. This year's candidates are Florida outfielder Juan Pierre, Chicago third baseman Aramis Ramirez, Pittsburgh catcher Jason Kendall, Philadelphia outfielder Bobby Abreu and Arizona outfielder Steve Finley.
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 will begin immediately following Sunday night's Major League All-Star Selection Show and continue until 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday. The winners will be announced at 8 p.m. CT exclusively on MLB.com and will then be added to the AL and NL All-Star Game rosters.
The fun doesn't end there, however. Fans, having already decided the starters and 32nd man, will have yet another opportunity to make themselves heard with the return of the Ameriquest All-Star Game MVP Vote. Beginning in the sixth inning of the All-Star Game on July 13, fans can cast their vote for the player they believe deserves to win the Ted Williams Award for being the game's Most Valuable Player. The fan vote counts for 20 percent of the decision on which player wins the award, with the media accounting for the other 80 percent.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. MLB.com reporters contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.