AL boss Gaston calls the Jay team

JOHN EISENBERG

July 09, 1993|By JOHN EISENBERG

Well, the teams are set for the All-Star Game next week at Camden Yards, and here's the deal in case you missed it: Every player who ever suited up for the Toronto Blue Jays made the American League team.

You figured that John Olerud and Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar would make it, of course. They're among the best players in the game. So is Paul Molitor, who also made the team. But some of the others who made it were big surprises.

Rico Carty, for instance. The big bopper from the Dominican Republic is 53 years old now and hasn't swung at major-league pitching since Jimmy Carter was in the White House. But he'll be there next Tuesday night, probably as a DH.

Garth Iorg will be there, too. Willie Mays Aikens. Mickey Klutts. Dave Freisleben. Both of the famous Macha boys, Ken and Mike.

This is the year that no Jay, past or present, will have to suffer the indignity of not being an All-Star.

Mike Flanagan made it as an honorary Jay. Surprised the tomfool out of him.

Shoot, even Danny Ainge made the team, and the old second sacker hasn't done anything but shoot jumpers for the past 11 years.

And you thought your precious game ticket meant you would get to see Kirby Puckett and Barry Bonds on the same field. Well, who needs that when Mr. Blue Jay himself, sly ol' Ernie Whitt, is coming out of retirement to take his All-Star hacks right here in our ballpark?

OK, you're saying, this is all a joke, right? A complete exaggeration, right? Well, yes, it is . . . sort of.

The truth is that seven Jays made the 28-man team, which, as any Rotisserie Leaguer worth his abacus can tell you, is one-fourth of the squad. Yes, a full 25 percent from one of the 14 AL teams.

That's a lot of players from one team. And if someone told you the man responsible for selecting most of the All-Stars happened to be Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, well, you would say that was quite a coincidence, right?

OK, maybe you wouldn't. Maybe you would say what a lot of fans in Baltimore and baseball people around the country are saying: This deal smells like a tub of cheap crab meat that got left out in the sun all day.

Mickey Tettleton, who leads the league lead in homers and is second in RBI, didn't make the team. Neither did the players ranked third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th in batting average. Their only hope is to get traded to Toronto in the next three days.

Gregg Olson didn't make it, either, and he has more saves and a lower ERA than two of the three closers who did make it, one of whom, Duane Ward, happens to pitch for the Blue Jays. Coincidentally, of course.

But before you haul off and start screaming, as Olson was close to doing when he got the news yesterday -- "I assumed my numbers were good enough to go," he said huffily -- please understand one of the two fundamental laws of All-Star selection: It isn't meant to be fair.

The first half of the process, the fan balloting, is strictly a popularity contest. A half-dozen mistakes are guaranteed. The manager filling out the rest of the roster -- strictly on merit, not popularity -- has to try to correct those mistakes, but must pick at least one player from every team, some of which have no legitimate candidates.

"It's an impossible job," Johnny Oates said. "Deserving players get left off every year."

There are always close calls and tough decisions, and that brings us to the second fundamental law of All-Star selection: It's the manager's team, and he can do whatever the heck he wants.

Put yourself in Gaston's shoes. You're facing a bunch of tough decisions with a handful of your players right on the bubble, and you get paid as manager of the Blue Jays to keep your players happy, which, in theory, helps you win. Now, you're going to go pick some guy from Seattle to whom you owe exactly nothing? To the moon, Norton! No way.

It's not that all seven of the Jays who made it weren't deserving. They're all terrific. It's just that players from other teams were equally deserving, and Jays candidates won every close call, and our hometown All-Star Game is sort of getting stained by a homer job.

Of course, for anyone offended, there is a simple solution to shoot for: Just win the World Series, as the Jays did a year ago, and your manager gets to pick the team next season. Then he can name his brother-in-law, or everyone on his team except the bullpen catcher, or Dave Freisleben, and no one can touch him. What a deal.

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