In the midst of the All-Star debates, Orioles fans will have at least one extra reason to cheer.

Along with stars, count on sparks

Baseball Week


IN A FEW hours, Major League Baseball will make a big deal of its All-Star selection show. Moments later, the complaining will start.

The debate is the best part of the All-Star Game - even now when the outcome technically means something. Yet the game itself could be fun for Orioles fans this year.

In each of the past four seasons, the Orioles have had just one All-Star. That will change since Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada are locks. The team should get two more spots, but with mandatory selections for each squad, it's a crapshoot.

Playing Tony La Russa and Terry Francona for a moment, here's who should fill out the 32 slots on each league's roster - beginning with an educated guess on who the fans have already voted in. Likely starters are listed first.

American League:

Catchers: Jason Varitek, Boston; Ivan Rodriguez, Detroit. Varitek deserves to start. Rodriguez fits best as the lone Tiger.

First base: Mark Teixeira, Texas; Paul Konerko, Chicago. Teixeira, a Mount St. Joseph alumnus, seized the spot from New York's Tino Martinez. Konerko is the biggest offensive force on baseball's best team.

Second base: Brian Roberts, Orioles; Alfonso Soriano, Texas. The argument starts and ends with these two guys.

Shortstop: Miguel Tejada, Orioles; Derek Jeter, New York; Michael Young, Texas. Is this the new Big Three? Jeter's the old man of the group at 31.

Third base: Alex Rodriguez, New York; Melvin Mora, Orioles. No matter how much the Yankees struggle, A-Rod is still amazing. Mora deserves his second All-Star bid.

Outfield: Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles; Manny Ramirez, Boston; Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle; Johnny Damon, Boston; Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay; Emil Brown, Kansas City. Suzuki and Damon are fighting for the starting spot. It really shouldn't matter. Both will make the team. Crawford and Brown are OK picks from bad teams.

Designated hitter: David Ortiz, Boston; Rafael Palmeiro, Orioles. There is plenty of room for sentimentality at the All-Star Game. And no one deserves it more than Palmeiro. It would be a great move by Francona, who was a Chicago Cubs teammate of Palmeiro's in his rookie year, 1986.

Starting pitchers: Mark Buehrle, Chicago; Roy Halladay, Toronto; Jon Garland, Chicago; Matt Clement, Boston; Bartolo Colon, Los Angeles; Cliff Lee, Cleveland; Johan Santana, Minnesota. Buehrle deserves the start. Cleveland gets crunched in the numbers game, so its lone rep is Lee. And as a show of solidarity with our media brethren, camera-shoving Kenny Rogers gets no love here despite his fine first half.

Relievers: Dustin Hermanson, Chicago; B.J. Ryan, Orioles; Eddie Guardado, Seattle; Huston Street, Oakland. Rookie Street is the lone man from Team Moneyball.

Fans' wild card: The fans will get to vote one more player in. Those left out include Gary Sheffield, Kevin Mench, Scott Podsednik and Hank Blalock. But we'll give the wild card spot to the Angels' steady Garret Anderson.

National League:

Catchers: Mike Piazza, New York; Mike Matheny, San Francisco. Piazza is still a fan favorite. With no other stars, defensive specialist Matheny gets the lifetime achievement award.

First base: Albert Pujols, St. Louis; Nick Johnson, Washington. Pujols and Derrek Lee are in a real battle for the starting spot. No matter; the loser starts at DH.

Second base: Jeff Kent, Los Angeles; Chase Utley, Philadelphia. Kent is still getting it done with the bat. Utley is finally left alone to put up full-time numbers.

Shortstop: Cesar Izturis, Los Angeles; Felipe Lopez, Cincinnati. Izturis could lose the voting to St. Louis' David Eckstein. Regardless, Lopez is the most deserving.

Third base: Scott Rolen, St. Louis; Aramis Ramirez, Chicago; Troy Glaus, Arizona. Plenty of good, young third basemen in the NL, but these three are the class.

Outfield: Bobby Abreu, Philadelphia; Jim Edmonds, St. Louis; Carlos Beltran, New York; Miguel Cabrera, Florida; Andruw Jones, Atlanta; Jason Bay, Pittsburgh; Carlos Lee, Milwaukee. Who would have thought Beltran would be the dud here?

Designated hitter: Derrek Lee, Chicago; Carlos Delgado, Florida. Putting these two together was designed to irritate Orioles fans.

Starting pitchers: Dontrelle Willis, Florida; Pedro Martinez, New York; John Smoltz, Atlanta; Jake Peavy, San Diego; Chris Carpenter, St. Louis; Roy Oswalt, Houston; Roger Clemens, Houston; Livan Hernandez, Washington. No question, Willis deserves the start.

Relievers: Chad Cordero, Washington; Brian Fuentes, Colorado; Jason Isringhausen, St. Louis. A Rockie needs to be on the team, so Brad Lidge gets bumped.

Fans' wild card: Cliff Floyd is the obvious omission here, but a case can be made for Washington's Jose Guillen and Houston's Morgan Ensberg.


Say what?

"In this business, though it pains me to say, the mascot can be as important as the No. 1 pick at shortstop."

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