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Piazza, Beltran headed to Detroit

Piazza, Beltran headed to Detroit

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NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza is one of the few members of the 2005 National League All-Star team who seemingly has amassed credentials worthy of an all-but-automatic election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Yet, despite his resume, the Mets catcher was "honored, humbled and, to be honest, a little confused" by the results of the All-Star balloting released Sunday by Major League Baseball.

Most of all he was pleased.

Piazza had thought his 11th All-Star election last year probably would be his last. He is quite happy to be wrong, pleased to be going to Detroit for the 76th All-Star Game and delighted to be one of three players -- he, Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez -- representing the Mets.

"In some ways, it says we're being recognized for what we're doing here this year," Piazza said in a reflective moment Sunday afternoon. "It says we have good players here and that what we're doing is appreciated."

The Mets have more than one All-Star -- Piazza and Beltran -- elected by the fans for the first time since 1986, and with Martinez elected in a poll of players, coaches and managers, they have three All-Stars for the first time since 2000, when Piazza was elected and Al Leiter and Edgardo Alfonzo were selected.

"I guess it says we're doing something right," general manager Omar Minaya said.

It is, of course, Minaya who is credited with bringing in Martinez and Beltran as free agents in December and January. Their presence dramatically raised the Mets' profile in the expansive New York market, and their performances -- particularly that of Martinez -- have helped the Mets in this renaissance season.

The Mets completed the first half of their season Sunday with a 3-0 loss to the Marlins and a 40-41 record. Their record at the midpoint of last season was one game better, and they were significantly closer to first place -- three games -- than they are now -- 10.

But the perception, with Martinez and Beltran and, to a lesser degree Piazza, now is that the Mets are on an upswing. Three All-Star players in their midst is an indication, according to Minaya, albeit one of expense. All-Star bonus provisions in their contracts earn Piazza and Martinez $50,000 each. Beltran's bonus is $100,000.

"Is it worth it?" Minaya was asked.

"I'm happy for the players," was his response -- twice.

The Mets seemingly had been in position for a fourth potential All-Star -- either elected by fans or by the players. But Cliff Floyd, unquestionably the Mets' most valuable player at his juncture, finished 13th, six places higher than teammate Mike Cameron, in the fans' balloting. Floyd was among neither the top four outfielders in the vote of uniform personnel nor among the five players competing for the final place on the National League roster to be determined by an internet vote sponsored by Ameriquest.

Floyd had been seventh or eighth in each of the first four weekly voting results.

"I'm not surprised I didn't make the team," he said. "But I'm 13th. That's low."

All-Star Game 2005

The All-Star Game, played July 12 at Comerica Park beginning at 8 p.m. ET, is to be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.

And for the third year, the outcome determines which league champion has home-field advantage for the World Series.

For now though, a place on the team is all about prestige, appreciation, money and, to Martinez, convenience. While he said he was happy to be elected, happy to represent the Mets and happy to be on the same roster as Roger Clemens, Martinez also left open the chance that he would not be part of the team.

He is to pitch Tuesday in Washington and Sunday in Pittsburgh. He wouldn't be on schedule to pitch two days later in Detroit. He said he planned "to get together with my coaches to see if it's convenient."

Martinez, 33, is an All-Star for the seventh time -- third time in the National League -- and the first time since 2002. He has appeared in three games, and was the winner in Fenway Park in 1999 when, as a member of the Red Sox, he struck out five batters in two innings. Now he is a member of an 11-man pitching staff that includes Clemens and veterans John Smoltz of the Braves, Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals and Livan Hernandez of the Nationals, closers Chad Cordero of the Nationals, Jason Isringhausen of the Cardinals and Brad Lidge of the Astros and the Marlins' Dontrelle Willis, who leads the league with 13 wins.

Martinez leads the National League in strikeouts (123 in 115 innings) and opponents' batting average (.177).

Beltran, who led the voting for National League outfielders for the first four weeks, finished almost 800,000 votes behind Jim Edmonds of the Cardinals and almost 500,000 votes behind runner-up Bobby Abreu of the Phillies. No matter, Beltran is the first Mets All-Star outfielder since Lance Johnson in 1996, the first one elected since Darryl Strawberry was elected for the fifth time in 1989 and the third Mets outfielder overall. Dave Kigman was elected in 1976.

"This is my second year," Beltran said. "I hope it's not my last. It's an honor no matter how you are on the team. I'm proud to go to the game as a Met."

Beltran was voted to the American League team last season. But after he was traded from the Royals to the Astros on June 24, he was named to the National League team, though he didn't start.

Piazza has represented the Mets every year but two beginning in 1998. His 12th appearance is a record for catchers. And there could have been 14. A concussion, the result of a beaning by Clemens, prevented Piazza from participating in the 2000 All-Star Game. He wasn't voted to the team in 2003 because he suffered a severe leg injury May 16 that year, and was disabled until mid-August.

He has played in every other All-Star Game, beginning in 1993. Piazza was the All-Star game MVP in 1996 when the game was played in Philadelphia, near his birthplace of Norristown, Pa.

"I've always enjoyed going -- I mean that," he said. "It's a honor. And for me, this year, it's special because, like I said, I thought last year might be the last one for me."

Piazza, first and foremost, is a realist, and he knows he hasn't produced at the levels that have made him widely regarded as the game's greatest hitting catcher. Then again, no National League catcher is having an offensive season comparable to his.

Doug Mientkiewicz, the Mets' disabled first baseman, finished third, well behind No. 1 Derrek Lee of the Cubs and runnerup Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, each of whom received more than 3.4 million votes, the highest totals in the National League. David Wright finished fifth among third basemen, well behind leader Scott Rolen of the Cardinals. Kaz Matsui, the Mets' disabled and part-time second baseman, was seventh behind leader Jeff Kent of the Dodgers, and Jose Reyes, the Mets' shortstop, was seventh. David Eckstein of the Cardinals was the leader.

Marty Noble 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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