"The process is actually excruciating," said Francona, the Red Sox skipper who will lead his AL squad against the National League at Yankee Stadium on July 15. "Thank goodness you do it with people you care about and respect. I think the players deserve for us to agonize over it. It's a big deal, because of the way it's set up. The fans vote for the starters. The players vote for the backups. And there are eight pitchers that are also voted [in by the players] -- five starters and three relievers.
"So that gets us to 26. We need to have every team represented and get to 12 pitchers. It was our responsibility to go from there, and that's what we tried to do. There were some very difficult decisions. We tried to be very organized. I think the thing that did help a little was the familiarity with people."
In the AL, the players selected these reserves: designated hitter Milton Bradley of the Rangers -- who undoubtedly will start in lieu of the fan pick, Boston's injured David Ortiz -- catcher Jason Varitek and outfielder J.D. Drew of the Red Sox, first baseman Justin Morneau of the Twins, second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Michael Young of the Rangers, third baseman Joe Crede and outfielder Carlos Quentin of the White Sox and outfielder Grady Sizemore of the Indians.
Francona added infielder Carlos Guillen of the Tigers, catcher Dioner Navarro of the Rays and pitchers George Sherrill of the Orioles, Justin Duchscherer of the A's, Joe Nathan of the Twins and Joakim Soria of the Royals.
The AL pitching staff is as follows and was also largely elected by the players: Duchscherer is joined by fellow starters Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, Cliff Lee of the Indians, Scott Kazmir of the Rays and Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana of the Angels. Sherrill, Soria and Nathan are joined by fellow relievers Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox and Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels.
Rockies skipper Clint Hurdle -- managing in his first All-Star Game -- said his job was no less daunting than Francona's.
"We talked to no opposing managers other than the two coaches who are on my staff," Hurdle said, referring to managers Lou Piniella of the Cubs and Bud Black of the Padres. "Other managers I talked to about game experience, but as far as personnel, there was no lobbying. Managers have too much professional respect for each other.
"At the end of the day, the last thing you need is outside interference from other managers lobbying for other players. You're well aware of the skill sets of the other players."
In addition to the NL starters selected by the fans, the players elected these reserves: catcher Russell Martin of the Dodgers, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, second baseman Dan Uggla of the Marlins, third baseman Aramis Ramirez of the Cubs, shortstop Miguel Tejada of the Astros and outfielders Matt Holliday of the Rockies, Nate McLouth of the Pirates and Ryan Ludwick of the Cardinals.
Hurdle selected shortstop Cristian Guzman of the Nationals, catcher Brian McCann of the Braves, first baseman Albert Pujols of the Cardinals plus pitchers Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, Dan Haren of the D-backs and Billy Wagner of the Mets.
The NL pitching staff is as follows and was largely selected by the players: Zambrano and Haren are joined by fellow starters Ryan Dempster of the Cubs, Brandon Webb of the D-backs, Edinson Volquez of the Reds, Tim Lincecum of the Giants and Ben Sheets of the Brewers. Wagner is joined by relievers Kerry Wood of the Cubs, Brad Lidge of the Phillies and Brian Wilson of the Giants.
The 2003 season marked the introduction of the players ballot to the All-Star selection process. The players select eight position players and eight pitchers from their respective leagues -- as well as the designated hitter when the game is held in an AL park. After that process is complete, the managers add another seven players, and the 32nd roster spot is picked by the fans via the Final Vote on MLB.com.
Catchers and infielders among the top two at their positions and outfielders among the top six on the player ballot are assured of making the teams. In instances where the winners of the player ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of player votes make the team. As far as the pitchers are concerned, five starters and three relievers become All-Stars through the player ballot, which was conducted during the last week of fan voting.
Thus, the player ballot trumps anything in the fan vote other than the player who finishes first at each position.
In the NL, a number of second-place finishers on the fan ballot didn't make the team: first baseman Prince Fielder, shortstop J.J. Hardy and catcher Jason Kendall of the Brewers, and second baseman Mark DeRosa of the Cubs. Veteran right-fielder Ken Griffey Jr. of the Red finished fourth among all outfielders and also didn't make the team.
The one noteworthy exception in the NL voting was that Chipper Jones of the Braves and Aramis Ramirez finished one-two on both the fan and players ballots. Thus, each made the team.
In contrast, over in the AL, Morneau, Kinsler and Young all finished second among the fans, but edged the popular vote-getters on the players ballot at their positions and would've made the team under any circumstance. Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners, who was third among the outfielders in the fan vote, wasn't even among the top five on the players ballot. He also made the team.
Drew, Sizemore and Quentin were three through five among outfielders on the players ballot and made the team. Drew was also fourth among the fans, who placed Bradley sixth among outfielders. But Bradley was voted on to the team as a DH by the players. Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels finished fifth on the fan ballot and didn't make the team.
Another major absence is third baseman Mike Lowell of the Red Sox, who finished second in the fan vote behind Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees, but he didn't place in the players vote. Crede finished behind A-Rod.
Francona said leaving Lowell off the team was one his toughest decisions.
"The hard thing is that the reason I'm getting to sit here is because of how we played," he said. "And that's because of some really good players. A guy like Mikey Lowell is going to fall right smack in the middle of that. There's going be some disagreements when you're making this team. That was a hard one. I felt pretty strongly about what he's done in his career and what he's done this year.
"Again, the rules aren't what they used to be. I also understand that. But this is a big disappointment for me and a tough conversation with him that I didn't enjoy very much. I don't think he did either. That's a disappointment."
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, 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 that will also be available on XM Satellite Radio, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.
Once again, this year, the winner of the game will determine which league has home-field advantage in the World Series. The "This Time it Counts!" rule was implemented in 2003. The AL, which who has won 10 games in a row (not including the 2002 tie at Milwaukee), has enjoyed that advantage every postseason since then.
Rosters for both teams will not be finalized until Thursday, when fans at MLB.com pick one more player for each squad. Now in its seventh year, the Monster.com 2008 All-Star Final Vote began immediately following Sunday's Major League All-Star Selection Show presented by Chevy, continues until 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, and is unlimited. The winners will be announced on MLB.com shortly thereafter.
Here are the Final Vote candidates for both squads:
In the NL: third baseman David Wright of the Mets and outfielders Pat Burrell of the Phillies, Corey Hart of the Brewers, Carlos Lee of the Astros and Aaron Rowand of the Giants.
In the AL: first baseman Jason Giambi of the Yankees, third baseman Evan Longoria of the Rays, second baseman Brian Roberts of the Orioles and outfielders Jose Guillen of the Royals and Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.
There are two ways for fans to vote for the 2008 All-Star Game Final Vote -- online now at MLB.com, or on-the-go from their cell phones. Fans also can text the word "VOTE" to 36197 to have the All-Star Final Vote candidates sent to their phones. To vote for a specific player, simply reply with your choice. In Canada, fans should text the word "VOTE" to 88555. Standard text messaging rates apply -- please check with your mobile carrier for details.