Perennial All-Stars pass the torch

Perennial All-Stars pass the torch

Remember 1989? It was the year of the Soviets left Afghanistan and the incident at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

That was the year an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale postponed the final two games of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's.

What was then known as SkyDome opened in Toronto in 1989, which was also the year the movie "Field of Dreams" was released and a sitcom known as the "Seinfeld Chronicles" made its debut on NBC.

Until this year, 1989 could also be remembered for something else: It was the last time at least one of a group of 10 perennial All-Stars didn't make the All-Star team. In every year since that 1989 Midsummer Classic in Anaheim, you could count on seeing one or more from a group of baseball greats including Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Todd Helton and/or Tom Glavine at the All-Star Game.

This year, injuries, off years and the emergence of new talent has helped shuffle the rosters and usher in what could be a changing of the guard at the All-Star Game.

Bonds, Sosa, Griffey, Palmeiro, Thomas, Johnson, Maddux, Schilling, Helton and Glavine entered 2005 with a combined 79 All-Star selections in a string that actually began in 1988 (Palmeiro and Maddux) and after a one-year hiatus had been unbroken in the 16 years since the Anaheim game.

Until now.

This year the 10 are conspicuous by their absence.

"There are a lot of younger guys doing a lot of good things," Griffey said. "It's very important that baseball keeps moving. I'm glad to see it."

For one reason or another, all four active members of the 500-homer club: Bonds (injured), Sosa, Griffey and Palmeiro (didn't get the necessary votes) won't be in Detroit. Ditto for four of the active members of the 400-plus homer club: Jeff Bagwell (injured), Thomas (recently returned from injury), Jim Thome (injured) and Juan Gonzalez (injured). Others, including Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, are All-Stars.

Of the top seven active leaders in career wins, only Roger Clemens, an 11-time All-Star who made his first appearance in 1986, is on the team. The others -- Maddux, Glavine, Johnson, David Wells, Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown -- won't be going this year.

All-Star Game 2005

Another familiar name with multiple All-Star appearances on his resume who won't be coming to Detroit include Florida first baseman Carlos Delgado, who is having a fine year, but finished sixth in the fan balloting and did not crack the top two in the player balloting.

"It's completely out of my hands," Delgado said. "There are some guys playing first base who are having phenomenal years."

Marlins manager Jack McKeon believes the former Toronto Blue Jay needed to get voted in by the fans to make it back to the All-Star Game this year.

"The players don't know him in the National League as much as they do a Todd Helton, [Albert] Pujols or [Derrek] Lee," McKeon said. "Guys [like that] have been playing so long in one league. If he puts up 20 more home runs the second half of the season, they will take notice of him next year."

So much turnover obviously means new lineups.

This year the AL has six first-time starters, including David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada. The NL's first-time starters are Derrek Lee, Bobby Abreu, Jim Edmonds, Carlos Beltran and David Eckstein.

Teixeira, Roberts, Lee and Eckstein are also among the 19 first-time All-Stars, as are Carlos Lee, B.J. Ryan, Aramis Ramirez, Felipe Lopez, Brian Fuentes, Jon Garland, Brad Lidge, Cesar Izturis, Johan Santana, Justin Duchscherer, Jason Bay, Jake Peavy, Chris Carpenter, Danys Baez and Chad Cordero. That number could grow to 21 depending on the outcome of the Final Vote for the last roster spot in each league.

"It's cool to give somebody else a chance, but it will be kind of weird not seeing [the usual guys] all there," said Cordero, the Nationals' closer. "It's going to be a lot of fun for the new guys. We can now say we are All-Stars. That's cool in itself right there."

Time will tell if this is indeed a watershed year for the All-Star Game, but with so many players making the roster for the first time and so many fixtures missing out, it could mean the 76th All-Star Game will be more than just a classic event.

This one could be the passing of the torch, from one group of All-Stars to another.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.