SAN FRANCISCO -- World Team II? On Sunday, the authentic World Team scored a decisive decision over Team USA in the Futures Game. Tuesday night's Now Game could be a repeat, if the American League adds another notch to its All-Star Game domination over the National League. In yet another unmistakable sign of baseball's growth as a global sport, the AL's starting lineup includes only one United States-born player, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, plus third baseman teammate Alex Rodriguez, who grew up in the Dominican Republic but was born in New York City.
They will be surrounded by David Ortiz (born in the Dominican), Placido Polanco (Dominican), Ivan Rodriguez (Puerto Rico), Magglio Ordonez (Venezuela), Ichiro Suzuki (Japan) and Vladimir Guerrero (Dominican). In addition, of course, California-born Dan Haren is the AL's starting pitcher. It's just an oddity, but Jim Leyland's 12-man pitching staff is predominantly American. The only foreign-born pitchers are Hideki Okajima (Japan), Francisco Rodriguez (Venezuela) and Johan Santana (Venezuela). In contrast, 14 of the AL's 20 position All-Stars are foreign-born. Beyond reproach: Leyland listed his own at the bottom of the AL's starting lineup, with Ordonez, the league's leading hitter (.367), in the sixth hole and followed by Pudge Rodriguez and Polanco. "I got 'em down there so no one can say I'm playing favorites," Leyland said. "I wanted to put them 1-2-3, but I didn't think I could get away with it." Blood lines: The modern rivalry between the leagues is popularly discounted because, in this era of liberal movement by players, so many of them cross league lines that no hard feelings remain. Thus, the NL senses far less collective humility over its 10-year All-Star winless streak than, say, the AL felt while dropping 11 straight 1972-82. Well, the hard feelings might return this time. The two All-Star squads have a unique identity for a change. Only two AL All-Stars have spent time in the NL, which includes only four on its 32-man roster who have played in the AL. Bonds beat: Barry Bonds' ears must have been burning all day. He was a main topic of conversation among American Leaguers, understandable given his stature and all the stars visiting his home. Chicago White Sox reliever Bobby Jenks, looking out for his league, suggested Bonds shouldn't bother giving the hometown fans a thrill by homering in Tuesday night's featured attraction.
"I think he'd be wasting it," Jenks said. "He needs those for the season, so he should save it."A couple of Yankees gave Bonds symbolic tips of their caps. "His talents, his team and the fans appreciate what he's done here," said Jeter. "It's appropriate that he's on the team, especially when the game's in San Francisco and he's knocking on the door of the home run record." A-Rod again gushed over Bonds, just as he had during New York's recent Interleague foray into town: "I love Barry. I'm one of his biggest fans. When you think about his work on the field in the last 20 years, he's second to none." Torii Hunter, Minnesota peerless center fielder, would love a chance to repeat his thievery in the 2002 game, when he soared above Miller Park's left-center fence to rob Bonds of a homer. "He'll have to hit it somewhere else if he wants to make sure," said Hunter, who still calls that All-Star Game catch one of his favorite memories. World stage belongs to the young: Haren and NL starter Jake Peavy, both 26, have to be among the youngest All-Star mound opponents ever. They do form the youngest tandem since 1986, when a 23-year-old Roger Clemens faced off against 22-year-old Dwight Gooden. For Leyland to pick the youngest pitcher on his staff shouldn't be a surprise. After all, he confidently gave the ball last spring to 23-year-old Justin Verlander and was rewarded with an AL flag. "I believe in talent," Leyland said. "I want talent -- that's what I'm interested in, not experience. I'm always willing to give a young pitcher a chance. If you've got talent, you have a chance to be successful." C.C.: Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's suggestion if the AL wants to improve its chances of winning Tuesday night? Get Carl Crawford in the game as soon as possible. "They're trying to win the game ... and Carl's the kind of guy who can come off the bench and do a whole bunch of things for you," said his manager. Etcetera: Since starting the 2005 season losing seven of his first eight decisions, Haren has gone 37-21. ... Leyland managed Bonds with the Pirates from 1986-92 and looked forward to "spending some time with Barry. But he'll probably blow me off." ... The Tigers ended pre-break play with a three-game series against Boston, and considered giving the All-Star Red Sox a lift here on their private plane. But with 11 All-Stars between them, they simply didn't have enough seats. ... In case you're wondering -- and we know you have -- Sabathia's C.C. stand for Carsten Charles (the second).
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.