07/14/08 12:41 PM ET
Hurdle, NL aiming to end ASG drought
Manager announces lineup, Sheets to start on the hill
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Hurdle also couldn't bring himself to make out a Midsummer Classic lineup without him.
"I kind of like Albert hitting fourth," Hurdle said.
Hurdle named Pujols his designated hitter and cleanup man in his starting lineup for Tuesday night's 79th All-Star Game, which he announced at a press conference on Monday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan. Hurdle also named Brewers right-hander Ben Sheets as the NL's starting pitcher.
The top of the lineup fell logically, with Marlins standout shortstop Hanley Ramirez leading off, Phillies second baseman and NL leading vote-getter Chase Utley batting second and Astros switch-hitting standout Lance Berkman in the No. 3 spot.
Of course, but big-time hitters wound up in uncharacteristically low spot, like the Braves' Chipper Jones (fifth), the Rockies' Matt Holliday (sixth) and the Brewers' Ryan Braun (seventh). But Hurdle said he was able to balance speed and power throughout the lineup.
"That statement's been made ever since the All-Star Game has been played, as far as a cleanup hitter on one team hitting seventh or eighth in an All-Star Game," Hurdle said. "So as I made out a variety of lineups, and thought about it, the numbers that these men have put up, I don't care about OPS or OBP. I'm a big fan of g-u-t-s.
"As I was writing that thing down, as the flow of the pen came together, that stuck. It's the best lineup that I've ever put down on paper."
There was some scrambling in the outfield.
No center fielder was chosen to the starting lineup, so Hurdle moved the Cubs' Kosuke Fukodome to center. The Rockies' Matt Holliday, usually a left fielder, replaced injured Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano, but will play in right.
The NL has not won in the last 11 All-Star contests, including the 2002 tie.
"We will attempt to make every effort to put a foot down and stop this slide," Hurdle said. "We're not going to play for a tie. We're definitely going to throw it out there.
In his first All-Star Game, Hurdle must balance the courtesy of making sure those who are invited get their chances to play and trying to win the game. Since 2003, the winning league was granted home-field advantage in the World Series.
Hurdle experienced last year how much difference that makes. The Rockies won 21-of-22 games, counting a dazzling run at the end of the regular season and an undefeated romp through the NL playoffs, to make the World Series.
But the Rockies sat for eight days, then had to travel to Boston, where they lost Game 1, 13-1. They dropped Game 2, 2-1, and wound up being swept. "We're involved in this game and we play this game for the championship ring," Hurdle said. "This game now gives a team a better opportunity of winning the championship, and that's the point I want to make sure our club is aware of and responsible for.
"In a perfect world, yeah -- maximum opportunity and playability would be nice. But at the end of the day, I think we need to treat this game with the respect and the value that has been placed by Major League Baseball, the fact that home-field advantage will go to the winning team. It can't be agenda-driven any other way for us."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.