Cards land six-pack in All-Star Game
Eckstein, Edmonds, Rolen earn starting nods
ST. LOUIS -- Is it too late to change the National League's All-Star jerseys to a nice red-and-white look? Maybe add a bat with two birds?
Six Cardinals -- the highest total from any team in either league -- will be donning their road grays on July 12 in Detroit for the Midsummer Classic, including at least three and possibly as many as five starters. Shortstop David Eckstein, center fielder Jim Edmonds and third baseman Scott Rolen were all voted in as starters, with Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and Jason Isringhausen also named to the squad.
It's the most All-Stars the Cardinals have had since 1959, when Ken Boyer, Joe Cunningham, Vinegar Bend Mizell, Stan Musial, Hal Smith and Bill White were all named to the first of two games that year. The club record is eight All-Stars, set in 1943.
The defending National League champions hit the midway point of their season on Sunday at 51-30, with the best record in the league and a double-digit lead in the NL Central. So it's probably not that surprising that six Redbirds will be playing in Detroit.
"It definitely helps out being on a winning team," said Eckstein. "No matter what your numbers are, if you're on a winning team you look a lot better."
There's a good chance that manager Tony La Russa, who is helming the senior circuit's team, will name Pujols as his designated hitter. And Carpenter is at least in the running to be the starting pitcher, though Dontrelle Willis of the Marlins is considered the favorite at this point. Roger Clemens, whose 1.41 ERA pretty much leads the universe, also may figure into the decision.
"Obviously, with what [Willis] has done all year, he deserves it just as much as anybody else," Carpenter said. "He's been pitching well all year, so I wouldn't be surprised at all if he gets the opportunity."
La Russa refused to comment on either his DH or his starting pitcher, citing orders from the National League.
It is the first All-Star selection for Eckstein and Carpenter, and La Russa took great delight in being able to inform the two that they will be going to the game. It's particularly momentous for Carpenter, who missed the entire 2003 season with a shoulder injury.
"It's an honor any time your peers [recognize you] -- the guys you compete against every time you go out and pitch. If it comes from those guys, those are the guys that play against you, those are the guys that know. And it's an honor when they recommend or select or think that I'm worthy of going up there and pitching."
Eckstein beat out the Dodgers' Cesar Izturis in what was a close vote all the way to the finish. His final margin turned out to be more than 570,000 votes, but it wasn't clear that Eckstein would end up on top until the rosters were revealed.
"It was something I really wasn't following, but the media was making me aware of it," Eckstein said. "You're losing to Nomar [Garciaparra], and then Cesar Izturis jumps ahead of you, and you just didn't know where the ballots were going to fall.
"Put it this way: None of my family has booked a plane ticket yet. Tonight I'll call them."
Pujols will be making his fourth All-Star appearance, his second at first base. He has also been named as a third baseman and an outfielder. Rolen has represented the National League in each of the past four seasons, while Edmonds is a four-time All-Star. Edmonds' only previous start came in 2000.
"It's nice," Edmonds said. "It's a nice feeling for people around the country to vote you in. I'm kind of speechless. I don't know what to say. I've had some pretty nice years and had to go home and watch it on TV. To get voted in with that many votes is pretty overwhelming. It's nice. It feels good inside. But I've still got to concentrate and play another week of baseball before I can get into it."
The All-Star Game, to be held at Detroit's Comerica Park on Tuesday, July 12 at 8 p.m. ET, will be televised nationally by FOX Sports and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive, national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage and MLB Radio will provide exclusive play-by-play coverage of the game on the Internet.
|Scott Rolen / 3B|
Weight: 240 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Edmonds finished first among all outfielders, while Rolen beat out the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez handily. Pujols was edged out over the final days by Chicago's Derrek Lee. Rolen was likely the only controversial selection from the St. Louis roster, after he missed a healthy chunk of the season due to a shoulder injury.
"A lot of people talk about, 'Are you going to take the days off?' In my opinion, that would be disrespecting the people that gave me some respect," Rolen said. "So I'm definitely going to go. It's an honor to be selected and to be able to start the game."
Pujols actually garnered the second-most votes of any player in NL balloting. His name was checked off on more than 3.4 million ballots -- it's just that Lee picked up more than 3.5 million. Still, he may find his way into the lineup as the DH. For Pujols' part, though, he was just as excited for Carpenter and Eckstein as for himself -- if not more so.
"It's real special," he said. "Always, your first one is the best. Four years ago, my first one, I saw Cal Ripken hit that last home run, and Tony Gwynn. That's something I will never forget and I'm going to pass on to my kids. It's always special to share a locker room with a lot of future Hall of Famers."
Isringhausen will be attending for the first time since 2000, and he's undergone quite a transformation since then. At that time, the right-hander was a power pitcher who relied heavily on a four-seam fastball. Now he throws a lot more cut fastballs and has a little less velocity.
"As you get older, things deteriorate a little bit," Isringhausen said. "You have to learn how to pitch a little bit. You don't just rare back and throw the ball anymore. I think I've become a better pitcher throughout the years. I think everybody realizes that strikeouts don't mean as much anymore as they used to when I was younger."
Three Cardinals were starters in 2004 in Houston, with Pujols and Rolen being joined by Edgar Renteria. Rolen was the NL's leading vote-getter in 2004, and Pujols led the league in '03.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.