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Monday, July 7
Updated: July 11, 6:59 PM ET
 
Too many variables spoil All-Star selection process

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

I didn't plan to write about the new All-Star selection process, I really didn't. And then Pittsburgh closer Mike Williams made the team and I had no choice. I mean, c'mon. Mike Williams -- THE MAN IS 0-3 WITH A 6.29 ERA FOR GOD'S SAKE!!!

Mike Williams
Mike Williams' spot on the NL team is more than puzzling.

His wasn't the only name that jumped out and shouted in capital letters when baseball announced the All-Star rosters. In addition to Williams, Tampa Bay's Lance Carter got the nod over teammate Rocco Baldelli, Carl Everett is the backup DH even though he isn't a DH and somehow, neither 21-year-old rookie Dontrelle Willis nor 40-year-old legend Roger Clemens are on the team.

Oh, we've had undeserving All-Stars in the past. Joe Girardi, after all, played in the 2000 All-Star Game only because he happened to be by the phone after Mike Piazza got hurt. But this year's regrettable selections/non-selections seem to be more a function of the process than usual.

This was the first year players had a vote -- and not just a vote, but a big vote, picking half the roster -- but they weren't at fault for the regrettable selections/non-selections. Nor were the fans. Nor were the managers. Rather, the blame lies in a selection process that has far too many rules and agendas. You simply cannot have the fans vote and the players vote and require at least one representative from every team without running into roster difficulties.

Was it a mistake letting the players vote? No. It was an interesting idea and I'm glad baseball at least tried to improve what has long been a controversial process. And I hope baseball is just as willing to recognize the new problems and try to solve them.

It won't need a lot of tinkering. It won't even require a maximum ERA of 6.00 for All-Stars. It just takes the following:

1, Keep the polls open later. If the players are going to vote for the reserves, doesn't it make sense to let them know who the starters are first? Announce the fan vote the weekend before the game then let the players vote for the reserves on the Internet over the next two days.

Also, to give the managers more flexibility, reduce the player vote to just five pitchers and let them vote for as many starters or relievers as they see fit, not a specific number of each. Likewise, let them vote for eight reserves without requiring them to vote for one at each position (we don't need a backup DH). If they feel it's more important to have three shortstops instead of six outfielders, let them. Anything that allows for more flexibility is good.

And don't worry that there isn't enough time. The players can vote by Monday and the results can be tabulated almost immediately. Give the managers a day to add the remaining player and you can announce the reserves on Tuesday or Wednesday, which is when the reserves were announced up until a couple years ago.

2, Abolish the one-player-per-team minimum. This requirement has been one of the biggest problems in naming teams in recent years. It forces managers to neglect true All-Stars in order to pick undeserving players from undeserving teams. Equally bad, it forces managers to pick the wrong players from the undeserving teams -- Carter over Baldelli? -- because they also must address all their position needs.

I've written it before and I'll write it again until someone pays attention -- this is the All-Star team, not the U.S. Senate.

Benitez
Benitez

Do we really need to see Williams and his 6.29 ERA just to satisfy Pittsburgh's marketing department? Do we really need Armando Benitez representing the Mets bloated payroll? Do we really want to need to see any player wearing a Detroit jersey?

The answer is a resounding no. Sure, make sure the host team has a player on the team, but don't give anyone else a free pass. I know some fans feel the All-Star Game is the one chance for their team to shine in an otherwise miserable summer. That's too bad. I'm sorry if their team stinks. But maybe by embarrassing it in July, that team will work a little harder the other 11 months to get better.

Honor our elders. My colleague, Jayson Stark, makes a case for reserving spots for deserving rookies who usually are ignored by the voters. That's fine, though a more pressing concern is reserving room for Hall of Famers riding into the sunset.

The absence of Clemens is the biggest All-Star oversight since Nolan Ryan was left off the 1993 team in his final season. Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers in history. He won his 300th win. He is retiring after the season. And he is pitching almost as well now as in his prime. (I know some people lobbied for a Jamie Moyer-Willis starting matchup. That would have been good, but a Clemens-Willis matchup would have been even better.)

Here's the deal. Living legends always get into the All-Star Game their final season, whether anyone votes them there or not. Their presence doesn't take away a roster spot from anyone else; it's an exemption, just like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer get at the Masters.

I mean, if guys like Clemens aren't playing in the All-Star Game, then what's the point of holding it?

Boxscore line of the week
Randy Johnson delivered a welcome line for Arizona fans -- 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 B, 5 K -- with four perfect innings in his first rehab start since undergoing knee surgery two months ago. But the line of the week goes to the Dodgers' Kazuhisa Ishii for his somewhat bewildering line Friday. Ishii gave up five hits and walked six batters but allowed no runs in six innings. His line:

6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 6 BB, 9 K

Lies, damn lies and statistics
How deserving of an All-Star selection was Jamie Moyer at age 40? Not only had he won more career games than any active pitcher who had never been an All-Star, he also brings a .400 average into the game (he's 2-for-5 this year in interleague games). ... Moyer is just the third player to make an All-Star team for the first time at age 40 or older. The others were Satchel Paige (46) in 1952 and Connie Marrero (40) in 1951. Paige, of course, was barred from the majors until he was in his 40s. Marrero, a Cuban, likewise made his major-league debut when he was 39 and had a losing record for his career. His sole qualification for making the 1951 All-Star team appears to have been being the best pitcher (he was 11-9 with a 3.90 ERA) on a bad Senators team. ... In addition to averaging $25 million a season in salary, Alex Rodriguez also received $100,000 for making the All-Star team. That brings the price for having A-Rod in your uniform higher than the reward offered for Saddam Hussein. ... Rookie sensation Dontrelle Willis has allowed as many runs since May 10 (14) as his teammates allowed in the first inning two weekends ago against Boston. ... Rafael Palmeiro hit his 20th home run over the weekend, the 13th consecutive season he has reached that mark. The last time he didn't hit 20 in a season, Bo Jackson did.

From left field
Can your favorite team rally in the second half to reach the playoffs? Can your favorite team hold off its competitors and win a title? Well, if history is any indication, the only teams that are out of it are the Rangers, Tigers, Devil Rays, Padres and Mets. The 25 other teams can point to at least one club that overcame a deficit as large as they faced when games ended last Friday night. The famous 1914 Miracle Braves were in last place, 15 games behind the leaders on July 4 that season and rallied to win the National League pennant.

An additional 32 other teams overcame July 4 deficits greater than four games, including five who overcame deficits of 10 games or more. So don't give up, Brewers fans.

Here are the 10 largest July 4 deficits overcome by an eventual league or division champ:

Year	Team		Pos. 	GB
1914 	Braves 		8th	15
1973 	Mets 		6th	12.5
1935 	Cubs 		4th	10.5
1979 	Reds		2nd	10.5
1964 	Cardinals 	6th	10
1942 	Cardinals 	2nd	9.5
1978 	Yankees 	T2nd	9
1989 	Toronto		6th	9
1991 	Atlanta		3rd	8.5
1988 	Red Sox		T3rd	8

Infield chatter
"Which one is the pitcher?''

-- Katharine Hepburn while visiting the pressbox with Spencer Tracy in their first movie together, "Women of the Year.'' Rest in peace, Kate.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.





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