Leftovers fill All-Star debate plate

July 07, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

For one month each summer, Joe Carter scans the raw numbers that spill out of baseball's All-Star voting machinery. Mostly, he scans the list with disdain.

Carter, an outfielder with the Toronto Blue Jays, does not like the system in which fans select All-Star Game starters.

"I don't want fans picking it because it's not fair to the players," he says. "A lot of people get left out who deserve to be there. It's not fair."

Fair or not, starters for Tuesday's 64th All-Star Game at Camden Yards will be announced today. Reserves and pitchers will be announced tomorrow.

As the fans would have it, Carter is a virtual shoo-in for the American League's third starting outfield spot, 86,000 votes ahead of disabled Texas Rangers outfielder Jose Canseco.

Carter, who started last year's game in San Diego when Canseco was injured, still is non-plussed over a system that has been in place since 1970. Asked if the All-Star Game is for the players or the fans, he is quick with his answer.

"For the fans," Carter said. "If it was for the players, the players would be the ones picking. It's a popularity contest, that's all it is."

It's an issue that surfaces every July when the balloting process yields a controversial pick or two. Are the starters All-Stars, or are they simply fan favorites? Do the most deserving players go to the showcase game, or merely the most popular?

New York Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs, a veteran of the past eight All-Star Games, says the most deserving players go.

"They may not start, but I think the most deserving players go," Boggs said. "Naturally, you can't take everyone. It's a 25-, 27-man roster [actually 28]. If 30 guys are having great years, five guys get left out. They only take 10 pitchers, and I'm sure more than 10 pitchers are having great years. It's a big decision for the manager to choose those players."

The pressure to choose pitchers and reserves falls to managers Cito Gaston of the Blue Jays in the American League and Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves in the National, with assistance from respective league presidents Bobby Brown and Bill White. Picking reserves is one of the more thankless jobs in baseball.

"One of the tough things is that there will be some [deserving] All-Stars left off," Gaston said. "There are more than 28 All-Stars in this league. There will be some disappointed people, and some may be mad at me. I wish I could take 50."

What complicates the procedure is a league rule that each team must be represented by at least one player. That figures to pose a couple of interesting alternatives.

With Roger Clemens injured, Gaston likely will have to choose between first baseman Mo Vaughn and reliever Jeff Russell from the Boston Red Sox. Vaughn's numbers (.307 average, 12 homers, 50 RBI) rank only fourth among AL first basemen, behind John Olerud of Toronto, Cecil Fielder of Detroit and Frank Thomas of Chicago. Russell, meanwhile, might get in with 18 saves and a 2.28 ERA.

Gaston also will have to pick between outfielder Rickey Henderson, on a recent hitting tear, and closer Dennis Eckersley, who has 19 saves but an ERA of 3.93.

Those aren't the only American Leaguers on the fence. Others having All-Star-caliber seasons who might miss Gaston's cut include outfielder Jay Buhner (.302, 16 homers, 55 RBI) of Seattle, catcher Brian Harper (.319, nine homers, 44 RBI) of Minnesota, outfielder Kenny Lofton (.321, 33 stolen bases) of Cleveland and reliever Rick Aguilera (23 saves, 2.19 ERA) of the Twins.

Then there are four pitchers with 9-4 records who are borderline,

among them the Orioles' Mike Mussina (4.28 ERA) and Alex Fernandez (2.79) of the White Sox.

"You want to take the best team possible," Gaston said. "You might have three players on a team who deserve to go and you might not have room."

Pitcher Jimmy Key of the Yankees knows about All-Star politics. A two-time All-Star in Toronto, Key wasn't selected in 1987, when he led the league with a 2.76 ERA and posted a 17-8 record. He has a 10-2 record and 2.33 ERA this year, and could be the AL's starting pitcher. But he takes nothing for granted.

"Until I'm picked, I don't go," he said. "You get on a club that has a lot of players and somebody's going to get hosed. There are always a half-dozen players that should be there that just don't go.

"In 1987, I should have been on the team. [Boston's John] McNamara was the manager and he took Bruce Hurst over me. Hurst's numbers weren't close to mine, but he took Hurst because of what he did for him in '86. The Red Sox beat us out in '86 and Hurst had a great year. I had already been to one [All-Star Game], so it didn't bother me as much."

Tigers shortstop Travis Fryman agrees that the All-Star Game is for the fans, but adds one qualifier.

"It's their game. They can vote for anyone they want to," Fryman said. "I just wish more fans took time to look into it before they filled out all the ballots."


Manager Cito Gaston will have some tough choices to make for American League reserves for the All-Star team. Some players who might not make the cut:

P: Rick Aguilera, Minnesota -- 23 saves, 2.19 ERA

P: Dennis Eckersley, Oakland -- 19 saves

P: Jeff Russell, Boston -- 18 saves, 2.28 ERA

C: Brian Harper, Minnesota -- .314, 9 HRs, 44 RBI

1B: Mo Vaughn, Boston -- .302, 12 HRs, 50 RBI

OF: Jay Buhner, Seattle -- .301, 16 HRs, 55 RBI

OF: Rickey Henderson, Oakland -- .309, 12 HRs, 28 SBs

OF: Kenny Lofton, Cleveland -- .326, 33 SBs

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