Cabrera returns to Midsummer Classic

Cabrera returns to Midsummer Classic

MIAMI -- Mention All-Star Game and Miguel Cabrera in the same sentence to players in the Marlins clubhouse and the consensus is the two will be linked together for a long time.

One of the league's most talented offensive performers, Cabrera has now achieved another Marlins' milestone. On Sunday, the 24-year-old sensation from Venezuela was voted into the All-Star Game for the fourth straight season by his peers.

"As long as he's healthy and plays the game and he's able to step in the batter's box, he's going to make the All-Star Game," left fielder Josh Willingham said. "He's just going to put up those kind of numbers."

Cabrera's latest selection makes Cabrera the first Marlin to achieve All-Star status four times.

"I don't think about much of that," Cabrera said of setting a team mark. "I'm just going to go over there and have fun."

The 2003 season marked the introduction of the Player Ballot to the All-Star selection process. Each league's players, managers and coaches elect eight position players and eight pitchers from their league. Catchers and infielders who finish in the top two at their position on the Player Ballot, and outfielders among the top six, are assured of making the All-Star Team. In instances where the winners of the Player Ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of votes on the Player Ballot makes the All-Star Team. Eight pitchers -- five starters and three relievers -- become All-Stars through the Player Ballot. The manager of each World Series team from the prior season -- in this year's case, Detroit's Jim Leyland and St. Louis' Tony La Russa --then fills the remaining slots on their respective teams, ensuring that one player from all 30 clubs is named to the All-Star Game.

The All-Star Game will be played at AT&T Park in San Francisco on July 10.

The 78th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised 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, while will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.

"It's important for anybody," Cabrera said. "You get to see the best players in the game."

In his still relatively young big-league career, Cabrera is becoming a fixture in the Midsummer Classic.

"I think it's not a reach to say that he might be the best hitter in the game," veteran infielder Aaron Boone said. "I mean, he's great. I've played with some pretty darn good hitters, and some pretty great players. He's right there. For me, what sets him apart is he really has an ability to see the game like few do. I think he recognizes little things maybe that a pitcher is doing. That's just a gift. He's as gifted a hitter as you'll find."

Cabrera had been in the company of Mike Lowell and Luis Castillo as the only Florida players picked to three All-Star Games before Sunday.

"If he takes care of himself, and he continues what he's doing, he can be in the All-Star Game every year for what he's been doing," reliever Armando Benitez said. "God gave him the talent. He's good."

For the first time since the 2000 season, the Marlins will be represented by one player at the All-Star Game. That year Ryan Dempster got the nod. However, Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez was recently selected as one of the National League coaches by La Russa.

"He earned it," Gonzalez said of Cabrera. "He's put a lot of numbers up, and I think he'll continue to do that for a long time."

There always is a chance a player can be added to the roster later due to injury. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez is posting All-Star caliber numbers, but he didn't get voted in by either his peers or the fans.

At the rate Cabrera is progressing, he continues to find himself being compared to superstar Albert Pujols.

Cabrera's numbers speak for themselves. After going 2-for-5 in Sunday's 6-5 win over the Braves in 10 innings, Cabrera is now hitting .329 with 17 home runs and 57 RBIs.

Once again, he is among the league leaders in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. He's on pace to hit more than 30 home runs and drive in over 100 runs.

This also is the second straight year that Cabrera has been voted into the game as a third baseman by the vote of the players, coaches and managers. In 2004-05, he was picked by his peers as an outfielder.

In the fan vote, which decides the starting position players, Cabrera had trailed only David Wright of the Mets for the past few weeks. While Wright was the fans choice to start, Cabrera was the pick of those involved in the game.

"It's just a shame that Miggie has put up better numbers than anybody and he hasn't been [an All-Star Game] starter yet," said second baseman Dan Uggla, an All-Star in 2006. "But he's going to be an All-Star for as long as he wants to play. He's just that type of player.

"Anything you hear us saying in the clubhouse here is what everybody in the league says about him. We always joke about people who are born to do stuff. He was born to hit. He's just one of those special hitters who don't come along very often, and everybody looks at him like that."

Admired for his disciplined approach, Cabrera's statistics are staggering. Actually, they would probably be more impressive if he played home games in a more hitter-friendly park than spacious Dolphin Stadium.

Rarely does he compromise his hitting style to accommodate a stadium that has a center-field wall that stretches out its maximum of 434 feet. A number of Marlins in the past tended to give and try to pull everything because the power alleys and center field are unrewarding.

Yet Cabrera stays disciplined and continues to use the entire field. He has the power to go deep to any portion of the ball park.

A native of Maracay, Venezuela, Cabrera is on pace to break a number of significant team hitting records. His .339 batting average and 50 doubles in 2006 already are club marks.

The only season Cabrera was not picked as an All-Star was his rookie campaign of 2003. In that season, however, he was promoted from Double-A Carolina on June 20. Then a 20-year-old, Cabrera ended up batting cleanup in the World Series, and his stature in the game has kept rising.

Cabrera also is a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, claiming the honor in 2005 as an outfielder and 2006 as a third baseman.

A year ago, the slugger competed in the Home Run Derby, and he finished third to Philadelphia's Ryan Howard in Pittsburgh.

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