For the first time since 1984, the Tigers will have three position players starting in the All-Star Game. While catcher Ivan Rodriguez, second baseman Placido Polanco and outfielder Magglio Ordonez will be part of the American League's starting lineup for the Midsummer Classic, shortstop Carlos Guillen and pitcher Justin Verlander were selected on the player ballot.
"I'm tickled that we're going to be well-represented," Leyland said Sunday. "I'm tickled that nobody can blame me for loading the team up with Tigers."
The five Detroit All-Stars mark the club's highest total since it had six in 1985, when Sparky Anderson managed the American Leaguers coming off a World Series title, and tied Boston for the most on the team pending the upcoming Final Vote. The selection process has changed a lot in 22 years, leaving most of the choices out of the manager's hands.
That makes the respect given the Tigers all the more impressive.
"That plane [to San Francisco] is gonna be full," Rodriguez joked.
Those making the trip range from the 24-year-old Verlander, making it in just his second season, to Polanco's first selection in his 10th season in the Majors. Ordonez earned his sixth selection, but was elated at his first start. Rodriguez remains proud with each selection, even with 12 starts.
That total will set a Major League record for catchers, breaking Pudge out of a tie with Mike Piazza. His 14th All-Star appearance will move him into a tie among active players at any position. He reigned over an impressive group of American League backstops to become the fans' choice over such talented competitors as Jorge Posada, Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek. Rodriguez's 2,343,425 votes topped second-place Posada by about 700,000.
"It's fun," he said. "That's what you work hard day in and day out for."
Rodriguez has been selected an All-Star in all four of his seasons as a Tiger, three of those years as the starter. While he had a strong case to return based on history, both Ordonez and Polanco emerged at their positions as voting continued to gain some well-earned respect.
Polanco's start ends his years of being one of the more underpublicized players in the game. After earning national attention with his MVP performance in last October's American League Championship Series, he outdrew Yankees counterpart Robinson Cano by nearly a million votes with 2,317,713 ballots.
"When you play for nine years, and it's the first time you're in the All-Star Game, it's unbelievable," said Polanco, who ranked his All-Star start up with his ALCS honor for the biggest achievements of his career. "Wherever you look, you're going to be looking at some Hall of Famers -- [Derek] Jeter and A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez] and Pudge and Manny [Ramirez]. I'm going to get to see Manny being Manny."
Ordonez has established himself as a leading candidate for AL MVP this season with a league-leading .370 batting average to go with 68 RBIs, but it took a late surge in balloting to establish a place for him in the lineup. He passed up longtime starters such as Minnesota's Torii Hunter and Boston's Ramirez to earn his first All-Star start. It'll be his sixth All-Star appearance and second in a row since joining the Tigers in 2005.
Ordonez earned 2,715,389 votes, second among AL outfielders behind Vladimir Guerrero (3,151,387) and ahead of Ichiro Suzuki (2,341,409). It's more than he thought was possible.
"It means a lot," Ordonez said. "The starting lineup, it's huge. It's big company, because being in the game, all the good players that are around, it's nice."
Guillen will return to the All-Star Game for the first time since 2004 on the strength of some of the best offensive totals for anyone at his position. His 59 RBIs and .954 OPS lead all big-league shortstops, while his .390 on-base percentage ranks third.
"When you play good, you get attention from the people," Guillen said. "We seem to be doing better every year. We're going to try to enjoy it and have fun, but after that we have to focus on the season."
The 24-year-old Verlander becomes the first of the Tigers' young pitchers to make it onto the All-Star team, taking his place with help from a notable first-half feat. Verlander became the first Tiger since Jack Morris in 1984 to throw a no-hitter, but it was just part of a dominant June for the second-year right-hander. He tossed 17 scoreless innings during the month and won four consecutive starts before the Twins roughed him up Friday. Even with that, his 3.18 ERA on the season ranks him solidly in the AL's top 10.
On Sunday, he saw his name on the All-Star roster among the greats in the game and had another feat to think about.
"It's definitely pretty surreal being on that list in my second year," he said. "But then again, you have to take a step back and say, 'Hey, this is only my second year.' Don't put the cart before the horse. There's still a long way to go.
"I just don't want to be a two-year pitcher. I want to be around for a while. It's exciting and I'm glad to have my name on the list, but there's still a lot of work to be done."
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 MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game.
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.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less