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Giles deserving, but lacking support

Giles deserving, but lacking support

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SAN DIEGO -- Brian Giles has many admirers inside the Major League Baseball community, Dusty Baker prominent among them.

"I love the way that dude plays the game," Baker, the Cubs' manager, said. "He really gets after it. He plays the game right, and he plays hard, all the time. I think he's one of the best."

Baker might be amazed to learn that Giles is nowhere to be found among the top 15 vote-getters in the outfield in the fans' balloting for the National League All-Star team. It might also surprise Baker, a former NL All-Star outfielder, that the Padres' right fielder has made only two appearances in the Midsummer Classic, in 2000 and 2001 as a Pirates, despite a string of five seasons matched by few players.

"Maybe you have to be in the other dugout to appreciate how many ways he can beat you," Baker said. "He's got the whole package, and he knows how to use it. The man's a total pro."

After a rough start, Giles caught fire in early May and has been smoking ever since. Through Saturday, he was batting .288 while leading his team in on-base percentage (.418) and slugging percentage (.518). He's among the league leaders in runs scored (40) and walks (44).

Fundamentally sound, Giles rarely makes a mistake in the field, physical or mental. He runs the bases intelligently and swiftly, and he's a tough out in the clutch.

If there's something the man they call Gilley doesn't do with professionalism and productivity on the baseball diamond, his teammates haven't seen it.

"He's a guy who hits 30 home runs, hits .300, driving in 100 runs and scoring 100 runs," second baseman Mark Loretta, the Padres' 2004 All-Star, said. "He's a complete player, a team guy. He's been an All-Star a couple of times, and he's having another great year."

Starting in 1999, his first season in Pittsburgh after spending two seasons and parts of two others in Cleveland, Giles busted out with the first of five spectacular seasons, batting .315 with 39 homers and 115 RBIs. He was not invited to the All-Star Game, however.

It was more of the same in 2000: .315, 35 homers, 123 RBIs. And this time, he was asked to play for the NL in Atlanta, going 0-for-2. In '01, he came back with .309, 37 homers and 95 RBIs, scoring a career-high 116 runs. He was hitless in his only All-Star at-bat in Seattle.

In 2002, he batted .298 with 38 homers, 103 RBIs -- and didn't make the All-Star team. He was batting .299 in his final season with the Bucs when he was dealt to his hometown Padres in 2003.

His numbers haven't been quite as impressive in PETCO Park with its vast dimensions. He batted .284 last year with 23 homers, 94 RBIs and 97 runs scored. But he's the pivotal figure in the offense of the NL West-leading Padres, seemingly always on base or driving in a big run.

"He's one of the best players in the game," his manager, Bruce Bochy, said. "He's capable of carrying a team on his shoulders for a period of time."

Giles is low-key off the field, leaving the histrionics and inflammatory quotes to others.

"I really don't give that any thought," Giles said of the All-Star voting. "At Pittsburgh, we had only one representative usually. It depended on who got invited -- and what they needed. A couple of years my numbers were good enough to make the team, but they took someone else."

Loretta sees exposure as an issue for Giles and the rest of the Padres. San Diego is not a major media market, and the Padres haven't been to the postseason since 1998.

"What's nice about the system now," Loretta said, "is that our peers, the other players, have a say in who makes the team as reserves. It means a lot to be appreciated by your peers. If we don't have guys elected, we'll definitely have some reserves."

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

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