Votebook: Soriano facing competition

Votebook: Soriano facing competition

Last year, Alfonso Soriano created quite an All-Star stir, especially for his underappreciated position.

The Texas Rangers second baseman not only led all of Major League Baseball in All-Star votes, but when the game came to Houston's Minute Maid Park and the lights came on, it was Soriano's first-inning three-run home run off Roger Clemens that helped stake the American League to a six-run lead it wouldn't give up.

Soriano wound up winning his first All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award, and that should help him get enough votes for this year's 76th version of the Midsummer Classic, which will take place Tuesday, July 12, in Comerica Park in Detroit.

But he'll have plenty of competition from AL second basemen this time around.

The Orioles' Brian Roberts, for example, is not just the best second baseman in baseball right now. He could very well be the best player in baseball right now.

Roberts, who had hit 12 home runs in more than 1,500 career at-bats before this season, already had 11 homers in 180 at-bats entering Wednesday.

Oh, and let's not forget the fact that he was leading the Major Leagues with a .378 batting average, had scored 36 runs in 44 games, and had also stolen 13 bases, driven in 33 runs and hit 11 doubles.

Chicago White Sox rookie Tadahito Iguchi might not be a traditional rookie, since he's 30 years old and starred in Japan before this year, but he's been a fixture at second base for the surprising White Sox.

Through Tuesday's games, Iguchi was batting .307 with four homers and 22 RBIs.

Another AL option is Cleveland Indians second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who played in last year's All-Star Game and is following up that breakout season with a solid 2005 campaign.

Entering Wednesday, Belliard was hitting .272 with six homers and 17 RBIs.

And you can't forget talented second sackers Orlando Hudson of the Toronto Blue Jays (.272, two homers, 18 RBIs through Tuesday), Tony Womack of the New York Yankees (.276, 14 stolen bases) -- though he's playing left field -- and veteran and three-time All-Star Bret Boone of Seattle (.259, four homers, 22 RBIs).

The National League is a bit tougher to handicap at the top this season.

Mark Loretta of the San Diego Padres was on his way to an apparent second straight All-Star appearance before a thumb injury knocked him out for what might be the next three months.

Last year's NL starter at second base, Jeff Kent, should always be viewed as an All-Star contender and looks like the front-runner this season. Kent, who has played in four Midsummer Classics in his distinguished 13-year career, isn't quite where he usually ends up as far as batting average, with a .267 clip going into Wednesday.

But the run production is where it always is. Kent has eight homers, 34 RBIs, and is his usual intimidating self in the middle of a potent Dodgers lineup.

Mark Grudzielanek of the St. Louis Cardinals seems to be second to Kent so far this year when one considers straight-up numbers.

Grudzielanek, playing in his first season in St. Louis after a decade plying his trade for the Montreal Expos, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs, has taken to his new home.

Entering Wednesday, Grudzielanek was batting .318 with three homers and 18 RBIs.

After those two, others to look at are Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros (.299, eight homers, 23 RBIs), Craig Counsell of the Arizona Diamondbacks (.313 average), Aaron Miles of the Colorado Rockies (.301), Ray Durham of the San Francisco Giants (.289), Marcus Giles of the Atlanta Braves, and 2003 All-Stars Jose Vidro (Washington Nationals) and Luis Castillo (Florida Marlins).

As always, you decide who's second to none among second basemen.

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