"The lineup is probably the toughest thing to make out," Girardi said. "We spend time talking about it. There were changes -- there were additions, subtractions -- and it's the hardest thing."
Now it's set. Let the game begin.
The 81st Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and Le Reseau des Sports, and around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Game coverage.
Manuel & Co. will be aiming to snap the NL's 13-year All-Star Game drought, a stretch that honorary NL president Bill Giles referred to Monday as "that stupid little streak."
But this is serious business. The winning league gets home-field advantage in the World Series.
"I think the first priority of the National League is to win the game," Manuel said. "But at the same time, what makes the game is the talent that both sides have. We have the greatest players in the game, and it gives the audience a chance to see us."
Said Girardi: "I know it only matters for the World Series, but in our home games during the playoffs, we were 7-1, so we understand that that home-field advantage is very important to our American League club this year."
Girardi's toughest calls were in the lineup, where he balanced 2010 numbers with career contributions and came up with the Mariners' Ichiro in the leadoff hole, followed by Yankees veteran shortstop Derek Jeter hitting second. That meant Crawford, the speedy two-hole hitter for the Rays, fell all the way to ninth.
At least Girardi's choice to start was clear. Price, 24, leads the AL at the unofficial halfway mark with a 2.42 ERA and is tied for the league lead of 12 wins with Yankees lefty CC Sabathia. Girardi might have been tempted to tab his own guy in Sabathia, but he was barred from doing so by a rule that says pitchers who start the Sunday before the All-Star break are ineligible for the game.
"It's definitely an honor," Price said. "When you have Joe Mauer in the seven-hole and [Crawford] in the nine-hole, you know you have a pretty good team."
Manuel had a tougher call between Jimenez, the early-season sensation who pitched a no-hitter for the Rockies and leads the Majors with 15 wins, and Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson, the steady workhorse who entered the break with an NL-best 1.70 ERA. The Cardinals' Adam Wainwright also may have gotten the nod in a different season, with 13 wins and a 2.11 ERA at the break.
"I think that one of the biggest things that went into my decision was the fact that this guy right here is 15-1 -- his record speaks for itself," Manuel said. "He threw a no-hitter and he's completed three ballgames. He's what I call a horse, and so is Josh Johnson. It was a tough pick, but [Jimenez] is the guy I chose."
Manuel faced some lineup conundrums of his own. His starting outfield includes a left fielder in Ryan Braun of the Brewers and two right fielders, Andre Ethier of the Dodgers and Braun's teammate, Hart. Manuel tabbed Ethier for center field. Either has played 436 Major League games in his career but has never appeared in center.
Considering the depth of pitching on the NL roster, those outfielders might be idle in the early innings. At least that's Manuel's plan.
"Hopefully," Jimenez said, "we put everything together and we break the losing streak."