The Oliver Stones of the baseball world believe everything in baseball is designed, ultimately, to help the Commissioner's favorite team, the Milwaukee Brewers. The wild card? The conspiracy theorists will tell you it was a gimmick meant to aid the Brewers' chances of making the postseason. The '98 expansion? A ploy to shift Milwaukee to the National League. And contraction -- why other teams instead of the Brewers?
But Bud Selig has some evidence that he does not pull every string, now that Brewers first baseman Lyle Overbay has been left off the National League All-Star team. Overbay has had a breakout season in his first year as the replacement for Richie Sexson: His .343 average ranks eighth in the majors, he has 35 doubles, 61 RBI, nine doubles.
Overbay was a victim of the depth at his position, clearly -- Albert Pujols is starting, with Sean Casey, Todd Helton and Jim Thome added as reserves. And Milwaukee, a surprising team that is nonetheless sitting in the middle of the NL Central pack, already has two All-Stars in Ben Sheets and Danny Kolb. Overbay isn't even among the five NL players being considered by the fans in a vote for the final player on the roster.
The vast majority of the choices of the fans, players and managers made sense, and no matter who goes, somebody will get left behind. And Overbay is not alone in being squeezed out. The All-Star Non-All-Star team:
Pitchers: Chris Carpenter, St. Louis starter. He is 8-3 with a 3.67 ERA and is the primary reason for the resurgence of the Cardinals' pitching staff; without him, St. Louis would not be in first place. But he probably suffers from the fact that the Cards have three position players on the team.
Others: Juan Rincon, Minnesota middle reliever, with an 8-3 record, 1.94 ERA, and a 11.02 strikeouts per nine innings; Keith Foulke, Boston closer, 13 saves and a 1.28 ERA; Eddie Guardado, Seattle reliever, 1.19 ERA; Braden Looper, Mets closer, 1.97 ERA; Paul Wilson, Cincinnati starter, 8-2, 3.63 ERA, a great comeback story; Pedro Martinez, Boston -- his slow start ruined his chances for being on this team; Kaz Ishii, Los Angeles; Mark Buehrle, White Sox; Jose Mesa, reliever, Pirates.
And one more -- Victor Zambrano, Tampa Bay. He is not among the league's best pitchers, but few pitchers mean more to their respective staffs than Zambrano has to the surprising Devil Rays. He is 9-4 with a 4.30 ERA and has thrown 106.2 innings.
Catcher: Jason Kendall, Pittsburgh (.311, 44 runs, 30 RBI). Mike Piazza was voted in as the starter, Johnny Estrada is very deserving as the backup; Kendall is among five players being considered for the Final Man in the NL.
First base: Travis Hafner, Cleveland (.304, 9 HR, 49 RBI); the Indians already have four players. Paul Konerko, White Sox, is among the players, along with Hafner, who are being considered in the Final Man voting in the AL.
Shortstop: Cesar Izturis, Dodgers; some day, perhaps, he will get Omar Vizquel treatment and be recognized as an All-Star for his defense. It could be argued he should go to Houston rather than Cincinnati's Barry Larkin.
Third base: Adrian Beltre, Dodgers (.327, 21 homers, 55 RBI); could be the best player not scheduled to go to the game. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs, who leads the team with 60 runs scored, and has 15 homers, 56 RBI, and a .326 average. Melvin Mora, Baltimore, who is hitting .347 with 12 homers and 60 runs; a victim of the Orioles' disappointing season.
Outfielders: Bobby Abreu, Phillies, whose numbers are staggering -- .304, 17 homers, 56 RBI and 66 runs scored. Jose Guillen, Anaheim, (.298, 13 HR, 58 RBI); he has helped carry the Angels' offense in the absence of other injured Angels. Steve Finley, Arizona, among the NL players in the Final Man vote. Jermaine Dye, Oakland (.295, 51 RBI). Adam Dunn, Cincinnati (24 homers, .414 on-base percentage). J.D. Drew, Atlanta, .293, 19 homers.
Now, if Overbay is added over Beltre, baseball's Oliver Stones will be baying about Bud once more.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. His book, "The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty," will be released later this summer and can be pre-ordered through HarperCollins.com.