All-stars, no stars - just let fans vote


July 02, 1995|By BUSTER OLNEY

Naturally, when the All-Star ballots are all counted, there will be some undeserving winners. Sandy Alomar Jr., for instance, has been hurt most of the year, and he's been the front-runner to be the starting catcher in the American League.

Wade Boggs is having something less than an all-star season and he'll probably be an All-Star.

But so what? The fans are the driving force behind this game, behind baseball. The only reason why Oakland first baseman Mark McGwire can earn more than $5 million a year is because of the fans, and if they prefer to watch Frank Thomas play, well, then that's just the way it has to be. No whining allowed, this year especially, in the wake of the strike.

Here is one fan's all-star ballot:

American League

* First base: Mo Vaughn, Boston. McGwire's got better numbers overall, but Vaughn has been the one consistent run producer for a Red Sox lineup that has been battered by injuries. But McGwire and Thomas should be invited to participate in the home run derby.

* Second base: Carlos Baerga, Cleveland. Roberto Alomar is the better player, no question, a sure Hall of Famer if he stays healthy. But he seems somewhat uninterested at times, and this is Cleveland's year. Baerga is Cleveland's No. 3 hitter and an underrated second baseman.

* Third base: Gary Gaetti, Kansas City. You could pick him for his production alone, but he should go because he's persevered. Cleveland's Jim Thome will probably have a better year and is the better player, but Gaetti deserves some credit.

* Shortstop: Cal Ripken, Orioles. California's Gary DiSarcina is having a better year, and may even be a better player at this point. But Ripken would be a close second, and this is his year. He deserves all the votes, and he should be there.

* Outfield: Kenny Lofton, Cleveland. Best center fielder, best leadoff hitter, one of the best players in the American League. He's not having as good a season as he did last year, but he's still an impact player.

Albert Belle, Cleveland. He's kind of a funny hitter, because although he doesn't really have a quick bat, he hits the ball extraordinarily hard. A feared hitter.

Tim Salmon, California. His numbers speak for themselves.

Possible reserves include the Angels' Tony Phillips and Jim Edmonds, Seattle's Jay Buhner, and Cleveland's Manny Ramirez.

* Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez, Texas. Some of his teammates don't like him and he's not a great catcher, but he's the best combination of hitting and defense in the league.

* Designated hitter: Edgar Martinez, Seattle. But if the Angels' Chili Davis was healthy, Martinez might sit.

* Others (personal favorites): Boston's Tim Naehring, Milwaukee's Kevin Seitzer, and Minnesota's Kirby Puckett.

* Pitchers: Kevin Appier of the Royals, Seattle's Randy Johnson, Boston's Tim Wakefield and Erik Hanson, Detroit's David Wells, Cleveland's Jose Mesa and Dennis Martinez, California's Lee Smith, and Oakland right-hander Steve Ontiveros.

?3 Can Buck Showalter count as the Yankees' entry?

National League

* First base: Mark Grace, Cubs. Looked like Grace was fading, but he's had a great year. Jeff Bagwell has had a poor year, but because he couldn't finish what he started last year, it would still be great if he was invited.

* Second base: Carlos Garcia, Pirates. Very underrated player. Houston's Craig Biggio is the backup.

* Third base: Ken Caminiti, San Diego. Best throwing arm of any infielder in baseball, and he plays extraordinarily hard. Since Matt Williams can't be there, we'd opt also for the surprising Vinny Castilla of the Colorado Rockies.

* Shortstop: Barry Larkin, Cincinnati. Classy player, the best. And you'd have to choose between a couple of former busts -- Shawon Dunston or Jose Offerman -- as the backup.

* Outfield: Reggie Sanders, Cincinnati. Just check the stats.

Sammy Sosa, Cubs. One of the great all-around players in the game right now. Can hit, run, throw, everything.

Tony Gwynn, San Diego. He's back in his rightful place at the top of the NL batting race. The backups are plentiful, with Ron Gant of Cincinnati, Houston's Derek Bell, and the Dodgers' Raul Mondesi (the only reason why he isn't picked as a starter is because when Mike Piazza was hurt, when the Dodgers really needed him, he struggled).

* Catcher: Piazza. Let him catch nine innings, but don't bother asking him to participate in the homer contest.

* Designated hitter: How about Colorado's Dante Bichette? Or the Giants' Barry Bonds, who wouldn't have to worry about bothering with fly balls.

* Others (personal favorites): Cubs center fielder Brian McRae, and Atlanta first baseman Fred McGriff.

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