Players' role larger in picking NL All-Stars

Players' role larger in picking NL All-Stars

With the National League All-Star Game starters in the books, the players and managers followed suit by choosing many fan favorites according to the rules for bench slots.

Seven of the eight spots selected by fans matched what players and coaches thought of as the best in their league, and that figured to make it an easy time for Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to finalize the roster with his managerial selections.

In the end, however, Manuel still couldn't help but make the challenging call to pick four first basemen for a game that won't have a designated hitter, with the 80th All-Star Game being played July 14 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

After the players elected San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez as the backup to top vote-getter Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, Manuel selected Ryan Howard from his own Phillies and Prince Fielder of the Brewers, giving the team a logjam at first.

"I chose Ryan Howard because I feel he deserves to go," Manuel said. "And also I feel like he's our player. My player. I feel like our players are the reason why I'm managing in the All-Star Game in the first place. We won the World Series. My players put me there."

With Howard joining the fun again, the NL squad will actually have two first basemen who call St. Louis home.

"There's not many opportunities where you get to play in an All-Star Game in your hometown," said Howard, who grew up outside St. Louis.

Fielder knows playing time could be scarce, but he'll take the honor nonetheless.

"It doesn't matter, as long as you get to go and enjoy everything," Fielder said. "That's all that matters to me."

The eight NL starters voted by the fans were: Pujols, second baseman Chase Utley of the Phillies, third baseman David Wright of the Mets, shortstop Hanley Ramirez of the Marlins and outfielders Carlos Beltran of the Mets, Raul Ibanez of the Phillies and Ryan Braun of the Brewers.

Since Beltran is now injured, the Rockies' Brad Hawpe will make his first All-Star start in the outfield by virtue of being the top pick on the players' ballot.

In addition to the NL starters selected by the fans, the players elected these reserves: catcher Brian McCann of the Braves; Gonzalez; second baseman Orlando Hudson of the Dodgers; third baseman Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals; shortstop Miguel Tejada of the Astros, and outfielders Hawpe, Justin Upton of the D-backs and Hunter Pence of the Astros.

McCann, who represented the one difference between the fan ballot and the players' ballot in the NL by outdistancing Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (499-314), said the fact that he spent the first five weeks of this season battling blurred vision in his left eye added to the significance of this year's selection.

"This is probably the happiest I've been [to make an All-Star team] because I didn't know what was going on with my eye earlier in the season and I found a solution and was able to bounce back," said McCann, who matches Hank Aaron in Braves lore with three All-Star appearances in his first four seasons.

Manuel also added second baseman Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates, starters Dan Haren of the D-backs, Ted Lilly of the Cubs and Jason Marquis of the Rockies, plus relievers Francisco Cordero of the Reds and Ryan Franklin of the Cardinals.

The NL pitching staff is as follows and was largely selected by the players: Marquis, Lilly and Haren are joined by fellow starters Johan Santana of the Mets, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain of the Giants, Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers and Josh Johnson of the Marlins. Cordero and Franklin are joined in the 'pen by relievers Heath Bell of the Padres, Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers and Francisco Rodriguez of the Mets.

The Mets have the most players on the squad with four, while the Dodgers, Cardinals and defending World Series champion Phillies all have three each.

As always, every team in the league has to be represented by one player and this year a 33rd player has been added to each squad -- a 13th pitcher.

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, adding the designated hitter when the game is held in an AL park. After that process is complete, the managers add another eight and the 33nd roster spot is picked by the fans via the Final Vote on MLB.com.

Catchers and infielders among the top two at their position and outfielders among the top six on the player ballot are assured of making the team. In instances where the winners of the player ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of player votes makes 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. The manager picks the other five pitchers.

Thus, the player ballot trumps anything in the fan vote other than the player who finishes first at each position.

The 80th 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 on July 12.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.