Tuesday, July 02, 2002
Walker, Ordonez deserve selection
But their fates are left to fans
By Mike Lopresti
Gannett News Service
Friends, neighbors, patrons of the Cubs and other lost baseball causes, we come today to lobby your mouse.
You have probably noticed baseball's new brainstorm. After each manager has lined the All-Star roster with friendly faces from his own clubhouse not every member is a Yankee or Diamondback, it only seems that way the final spots on both teams are being thrown back to the fans for online voting at www.mlb.com.
It is a valiant attempt at democracy, like free elections in East Timor.
But time is of the essence in a curt campaign. The five candidates in each league were made known only Sunday night, and voting closes today. This isn't the New Hampshire primary.
It should be popular. There are people out there who love to vote for anything on their computer, from the next one who should go on Survivor to the verdict on Brad Pitt's fashions.
The all-star balloting has already been something of an odd exercise this year, anyway.
Take the National League. Notice something strange about the eight elected starters? None come from a first-place team.
It is a lineup filled with two Expos, two Phillies, a Met, a Cub, a Rockie and a Giant. Add all that together and you get five clubs that are a combined 58 1/2 games out of first place.
The issue now is player No. 30 on each team. So introducing the five nominees per league, with reactions on the convention floor from the voting blocs:
For the National League, here's San Diego's Ryan Klesko, hitting .301 with 14 home runs and 42 RBI (mild applause from Padres fans, who then return to bouncing a beach ball to one another). . . .
St. Louis' Albert Pujols, .283-16-54 (spirited cheer from Cardinal fans, who could use some good news). . . .
Colorado's Larry Walker, .343-17-58 (blase support from Coors Field customers, who consider anyone hitting under .310 to be waiver material). . . .
Pittsburgh's Brian Giles, .305-19-47 (not much noise from the audience, like most Pirate games). . . .
And Atlanta's Andruw Jones, .272-19-54, (tomahawk chop from an electorate that yearns for the good old days when their team won the pennant, so Bobby Cox could pad the roster with Braves).
And in the American League, introducing Cleveland's Jim Thome, .282-24-57 (brief acclaim from Indians faithful, who are otherwise distracted from watching their once-mighty team dismantled). . . .
Anaheim's Darin Erstad, .313-6-47 (robust clapping from ever-patient Angels fans who have grown old waiting for a World Series). . . .
Boston's Johnny Damon, .307-5-38 (chants from Massachusetts masses who invariably vote for Kennedys and anyone who's not a Yankee). . . .
Oakland's Eric Chavez, .274-20-58 (A's supporters not all that numerous, just like at their games). . . .
Chicago's Magglio Ordonez, .315-13-60 (ditto for the White Sox constituency).
And the next 30th All-Stars of the United States should be . . .
Jones is tempting in the National League because he combines good offensive numbers with a range in center that gets to every fly in his zip code. But he's been slumping. Giles is attractive as the big stick surrounded by a lineup of fly-swatters.
The endorsement, however, goes to Walker. All offensive numbers from Colorado come with footnotes, but do you leave a man hitting .343 off the All-Star team? Not if you can help it.
In the American League, Thome shares the league lead in home runs. Damon has been important in Boston's fight with the Yankees. Chavez and Erstad are underexposed for their talent.
But Ordonez's total package is too good to turn down.
No need to resort to negative campaigning. The main issue is clear. It's the batting numbers, stupid.
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