06/21/05 12:00 PM ET
It's Cubs vs. Cardinals in All-Star voting
Lee battles Pujols at first; Ramirez against Rolen at third
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
The two teams, rivals in the National League Central, also are rivals in the All-Star balloting. In the latest vote totals released Tuesday, Lee is second to Pujols among National League first basemen. Lee has 1,117,634 votes to Pujols' 1,283,047.
Balloting has ended at Wrigley Field, so fans need to cast their votes online.
Lee's stellar season with the Cubs has prompted talk of a potential Triple Crown, the first in the National League since Joe Medwick did so in 1937. Hall of Famer Billy Williams thinks Lee could do it.
"He can," said Williams, who came close in 1972 with the Cubs when he led the NL with a .333 average, hit 37 homers and drove in 122 runs. "The RBIs, you've got to depend on somebody else. You've got to have two guys going good at the top of the lineup. You've got to have a couple guys hitting good, and every time they get on base you've got to pick them up."
Williams did talk to Lee when he was on his hot tear in April, batting .419.
"I said, 'That ball has to look as big as a basketball to you,' and that's what happened," Williams said. "When you're in a streak, it seems like the ball just floats up there and stops. He's been in that kind of streak."
But Lee, who started this year a career .266 hitter, also is smarter, and he's made some minor changes to become better. Opponents could pitch him inside and get the big first baseman out. Not this year.
"He's beginning to get a little quicker inside," Williams said. "Pitchers have nowhere to go now. He's been getting a lot of base hits to right field, and when they come inside, he'll hit doubles down the left-field line.
"He's made the adjustment, just like coming from Florida, coming here and all of a sudden he found his way," Williams said. "He's always been a good hitter. He's an outstanding hitter now to put these kind of numbers up."
Williams would know.
"I've been around good hitters and good hitters make adjustments pitch by pitch, and this is what he's doing," Williams said. "Some guys, they throw him a breaking ball and maybe he's not looking for a breaking ball so he doesn't swing at it. They throw him inside and he sees the ball and reads the pitch and down the left field line it goes. He's making adjustments and that's what you have to do as a hitter."
If selected, this would be Lee's first All-Star Game. He's already picked up a few honors this year, winning the National League Player of the Month award in April after hitting .419. He's been named Player of the Week twice.
The All-Star Game will be played on July 12 in Detroit.
Meanwhile, Ramirez trails Rolen in the balloting for third basemen. And if you judge on stats alone, Ramirez should be first. Ramirez has played in twice as many games because Rolen got a slow start after a shoulder injury. Ramirez's batting average was higher, he's got nearly three times as many homers and nearly twice as many RBIs.
Ramirez, who was batting .390 this month, has never been selected to an All-Star Game.
Nomar Garciaparra has held onto third in the NL shortstop race. Los Angeles infielder Cesar Izturis jumped past Garciaparra last week and maintained the lead. Fans who want to write in Cubs shortstop Neifi Perez can do so online: Just scroll to the bottom of the ballot and type Perez's name in for NL shortstop.
Cubs catcher Michael Barrett was third in the latest voting, while Todd Walker was fourth among NL second basemen. Corey Patterson ranked 12th and Jeromy Burnitz was 13th among the top 15 outfielders. Neither Barrett, Walker or Patterson have appeared in an All-Star Game. Burnitz, who ranks among the top 20 in the NL in RBIs, played in the 1997 All-Star Game, representing Milwaukee.
Last year, Carlos Zambrano, Moises Alou and Sammy Sosa represented the Cubs.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.