07/05/2004 12:13 PM ET
Peer review: Players cast ballots
Major Leaguers pick deserving pitchers, reserves
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
For the eight position players in each league who won their respective positions in fan voting for the 75th All-Star Game, there are millions of reasons to be honored with a trip to Houston.
For those voted in by their peers, though, hundreds will do.
Fans selected the starting position players for the Midsummer Classic, but the players, along with managers and coaches, voted over the course of the last week to determine most of their leagues' reserves and pitchers. The managers and Major League Baseball then made each team's final selections.
The players got their chance to vote for the first time last year; the respective league managers had traditionally held the responsibility to select the reserves, an arduous task.
Yankees manager Joe Torre, taking the helm for the American League for the sixth time, appreciates the help.
"[The players] took some thought, didn't just brush it aside," he said. "They paid attention to it. The players were really tuned in to who was doing well, which made a difference."
At the top, much of the player voting mirrored the fan voting. Anaheim outfielder Vladimir Guerrero (693 votes), Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez (598), St. Louis third baseman Scott Rolen (579), Texas second baseman Alfonso Soriano (572) and Giants outfielder Barry Bonds (548) were top vote-getters among both groups.
Meanwhile, the players helped give recognition to some of their unsung peers, such as Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson (fifth in fan voting, but tops among players) and Boston DH David Ortiz -- who wasn't even on the fan ballot.
"It's not a popularity contest," said Expos catcher, and Montreal player rep, Brian Schneider. "We picked who we believed should be in the game. I'm confident that we picked the right guys."
Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez, the American League's starting catcher, was certainly honored by the more than 2.5 million votes he received from fans. The sound vote of confidence he received from the players he faces every day, though, holds great value as well. Rodriguez clearly outdistanced the field in player voting, receiving 529 tallies from the player/manager/coach pool.
"They're the people that know me," Rodriguez said of the players. "It's good."
Royals outfielder Matt Stairs says there's a difference between player voting and fan voting.
"I think the players know who deserves and who doesn't," Stairs said.
The Minnesota Twins relearned the lesson of how hard it is to get for them to get anybody's attention, despite winning the last two AL Central titles.
Even after their peers and the two managers were through, the Twins, who were sharing the division lead with the White Sox, had just one representative -- closer Joe Nathan -- to the third-place Indians' four.
"Small market. Same old story. We're used to it," said center fielder Torii Hunter, a 2002 All-Star starter who received the most votes on the club this year. "We still don't get any respect."
Top candidates among the Twins included starting pitchers Brad Radke (4-4, 3.70) and Johan Santana (AL leader in strikeouts with 112) and setup man Juan Rincon (8-3, 1.94 ERA).
"It's all about the numbers," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It obviously doesn't matter -- [two] division championships get thrown out."
On the flip side of that scenario, of course, is the reaction in Cleveland. For a young team trying to develop into a winner, getting four players -- catcher Victor Martinez, second baseman Ronnie Belliard, outfielder Matt Lawton and starter C.C. Sabathia -- on the American League roster, all from player voting, inspires a lot of joy.
"Everybody should be proud of this -- not just the people on the team, but all the teammates and the staff and the organization," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "I'm proud of everybody and, obviously, very proud of the individuals on the All-Star team."
Said teammate and Final Vote candidate Travis Hafner: "I think it just says we've got a lot of talent -- young and up-and-coming players. It's great to see Lawton make it, you know. To see the turnaround he made from last year. Ronnie's been great; Victor's had a great year; and, you know, C.C.'s been a star for a couple of years now."
Naturally, the honor can be every bit a tribute to a veteran player having a tremendous first half as it is to a young player getting noticed.
The Mets' Tom Glavine made the All-Star roster by virtue of the player vote, although just barely. He finished fifth, the last spot voted in.
"Tom Glavine is so deserving," teammate Al Leiter said. "The guy should have 10 wins. Maybe 11 or 12 by now. After what he experienced last year, it wasn't fun for a Hall of Fame guy to go through that. He certainly worked hard this winter, though, and has pitched like the Cy Young Tom Glavine that was a nemesis to us and to every other National League team. We have a player ballot and I voted for him."
Jason Schmidt, meanwhile, didn't get a chance to vote, but he was pleased with the outcome of the voting at his position. He didn't mind that he finished second on the player ballot among National League starting pitchers to Houston's Roger Clemens.
"That's how I would have done it, too," Schmidt said. "Clemens should start -- it's a tribute to what he's done in the game. That speaks for itself."
|Vladimir Guerrero received 693 votes on the All-Star Player Ballot. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Reporters Jason Beck, Kevin Czerwinski, Rich Draper, Mark Feinsand, Justice Hill, Dick Kaegel, Bill Ladson and Mark Sheldon contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.