All-Star votebook: No shortage

All-Star votebook: No shortage

Remember way back in the late 1990s and early 2000s?

The great shortstops of the day could be summarized in the "Big Five" of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Nomar Garciaparra and Omar Vizquel.

All-Star Game managers had to get really creative to get all that talent on the field at the same time while fans reveled in the spectacle of the best athletes on the baseball field strutting their stuff on the grandest of midsummer stages.

Well, times have changed a bit since then. Some of the names are the same, but some of the positions are different. A-Rod, for example, is now a third baseman. Nomar is on the disabled list. Vizquel is in the National League.

Jeter, of course, is still there as the shortstop and captain of the New York Yankees, and his .327 batting average, four home runs and 18 RBIs will undoubtedly inspire countless fans to vote him into the 76th Midsummer Classic at Comerica Park in Detroit on Tuesday, July 12.

But while Jeter always gets a popular vote, there are plenty of shortstops who deserve your consideration based on merit.

Did you know, for example, that the players leading the American League and NL in batting as of Monday morning were both shortstops?

Clint Barmes, the rookie sensation for the Colorado Rockies, has been the Major League batting leader for practically the whole season, and he's shown no signs of slowing down despite his team's struggles.

Barmes entered Monday batting .386 with seven homers, 24 RBIs and 32 runs scored.

And Carlos Guillen of the Detroit Tigers is building on his breakout year of 2004 with an eye-popping early campaign for his improved club.

Guillen is leading the AL with a .383 batting average and has added two homers, 11 RBIs and 22 runs.

The best all-around season by a shortstop so far is really no surprise, however. Tejada, who drove in 150 runs last year to lead all of the Major Leagues, is on pace to accomplish that lofty feat once again.

Entering Monday, the exuberant Baltimore shortstop led all of ball with 38 RBIs to go along with his .333 batting average and 10 homers.

Other American Leaguers to consider right now are Juan Uribe of the Chicago White Sox (.275, four homers, 18 RBIs) and Michael Young of the Texas Rangers (.256, five homers, 23 RBIs).

And then there are the usual AL contenders who are off to slow starts but could come on in a hurry if their past performances are any indication: Edgar Renteria of the Boston Red Sox, Orlando Cabrera of the Angels and Angel Berroa of the Kansas City Royals.

Last year's AL Rookie of the Year, Oakland A's shortstop Bobby Crosby, has been out since Opening Day because of a rib cage injury, but he'll be back soon.

In the NL, after Barmes, there are quite a few possibilities.

David Eckstein, the former Angel who's enjoying his first year in the NL with the high-flying St. Louis Cardinals, is getting the job done from the leadoff spot by hitting .309 with 11 RBIs and 17 runs scored.

Dodgers shortstop Cesar Izturis is known for his ridiculously good glove, but he keeps improving on the offensive end, too. Entering Monday, Izturis was batting .318 and had scored 26 runs while driving in 14.

Other surprises in the NL include the Cubs' Neifi Perez, who's filling in admirably for Garciaparra, and Felipe Lopez of the Cincinnati Reds, who's making the most of an opportunity and getting more at-bats every day.

And while San Diego's second-year stud Khalil Greene has been slowed by injury and the early-season inconsistencies of Rafael Furcal of Atlanta, Jimmy Rollins of Philadelphia, Cristian Guzman of Washington, Jack Wilson of Pittsburgh and Jose Reyes of the New York Mets have been noted, it's nice to know that Vizquel is still Vizquel.

The San Francisco shortstop is still making things happen at the age of 38, with a .284 batting average, 14 RBIs, 17 runs, nine stolen bases and his usual Gold Glove defense.

As usual, there are plenty of All-Star options at shortstop, even if some of them aren't the usual suspects.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.