07/12/2004 5:46 PM ET
No token All-Stars for Tigers
Rodriguez, Guillen posting eye-opening numbers
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Ivan Rodriguez and Carlos Guillen might as well have been greeters at the All-Star Game.
|New arrivals Ivan Rodriguez and Carlos Guillen have put a charge into Detroit's lineup. (Duane Burleson/AP)
As the media contingent walked into the ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel for the American League All-Stars media session, the first players most of them saw were the two Tigers side by side. One reporter even ran in towards them as the door opened.
And there they were, reminding reporters that Detroit isn't a town of token All-Stars to be stuffed in the back of the room.
Or the standings, for that matter.
"We have a good team, man," Rodriguez said. "I believe in my team 100 percent. And I think we're going to do a big surprise this season. We're only 5 1/2 games behind Chicago [for first place in the AL Central]. It's not that far away. We're already [within a game of] what they did last year."
A decade has passed since the Tigers had this many All-Stars in the same year. Yet both Rodriguez and Guillen would've been glaring omissions had they been left off.
Pudge enters the break leading the Majors in batting average, 22 points up on the next-highest average in the American League. He correspondingly finished about a half-million votes more popular than his good friend, Jorge Posada. The only catcher behind him, Cleveland's Victor Martinez, grew up idolizing him.
After two years away from the Midsummer Classic, he knows how much being here means. "This is my 11th time," he said, "and it feels like the first one."
Guillen doesn't have any other All-Star Game experience to which he can compare. He came up as an American Leaguer wondering if he'd ever get a chance at one with the triumvirate of Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada ruling the position. That all changed this year, as much for what he did as what happened to his competitors.
This year, he had other shortstops about which to worry.
"I'm very happy to be with Michael Young, Tejada, all these guys," he said. "They're pretty good defensive players. I'm happy to be part of these guys. I think this year I had a better chance when A-Rod moved to third base and Nomar got hurt. But I've had a pretty good season. I'm very happy with the Detroit Tigers, and I think that's the difference."
If Pudge can keep his lead in average and claim a batting title, he'll make plenty of other catchers happy. Nobody who makes their living behind the plate has boasted the league's highest average at the plate for a season since Ernie Lombardi in 1942. No American League catcher has ever claimed a batting title.
For most of the last few weeks, Rodriguez has tried to deflect that kind of attention from himself on that and put it on the team. He was still doing a little of that Monday, but with an hour to kill, he talked a little bit about what it would mean to him.
"It means a lot. I'm not that far away, but there's still a second half to go. What I have to do is just keep myself strong and positive mentally, and just play the game hard. I know I'm hitting about .370 right now. I just have to keep it there.
"But the more important thing is I want to win games. I want to make the Tigers a playoff team. That's the main thing."
And in case anyone forgot, the Tigers were some of the last players reporters saw on their way out.
"We're only five games from first place, 3-4 games out of .500," Guillen said. "It's going to be a nice second half. It's going to fun to watch this team in the second half."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.