Vlad leads trio of Angels All-Stars
Outfielder selected by fans; Lackey, K-Rod named by players
BALTIMORE -- All-Star Game fixture Vladimir Guerrero will be joined by Angels teammates John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez on the American League squad for the July 10 showcase event at AT&T Park in San Francisco.A fourth member of the Angels' American League West-leading outfit -- Kelvim Escobar -- is among five Final Vote candidates. The 78th 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 5 p.m. PT. 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.
Guerrero, first among AL outfielders in votes, was third in the fan balloting among all players in both leagues, trailing only Yankees teammates Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.Guerrero, who attracted 3,151,387 votes, was the third-highest AL vote-getter last season. Lackey and Rodriguez were named by fellow AL players. Lackey is making his first All-Star Game appearance, while Rodriguez is an All-Star for the second time. Guerrero is now an eight-time All-Star. "It's an honor. It's nice to be recognized for having a pretty good first half," Lackey said, having moved to 11-5 with a victory over Baltimore on Sunday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. "It's just unfortunate we didn't have more guys on the team. Playing 20 games above .500 [51-31], we probably should have more than three guys. "I'll vote for Kelvim. I already did the first time around [in the players' balloting]." Guerrero celebrated his 2006 All-Star Game selection, his fifth time as a starter, with a mammoth solo homer off Brad Penny in the second inning in Pittsburgh. It was the fourth time an Angels player has homered in an All-Star Game. Guerrero is making his fourth All-Star Game appearance in four seasons with the Angels. Quiet and uncommonly modest for all of his achievements, Guerrero still recalls advice he received from veteran players after making his first trip to the Midsummer Classic in 1999 in Boston, his second full season with the Montreal Expos. "They told me to take everything in, to talk to as many players as I can and enjoy the whole experience," Guerrero said through translator Jose Mota. "It's such an honor to be there with all those great players." Guerrero, who drove in a run on Sunday with a double and threw out Melvin Mora at home for the final out in a 4-3 win, is batting .328 with 73 RBIs and 14 homers. Guerrero has five hits in 15 All-Star Game at-bats, his .333 average complemented by a .533 slugging percentage. Widely respected throughout the game for his old-school approach, Guerrero is regarded by teammates with an admiration bordering on awe.
"He's one of the guys I'd pay to see," Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman said. "He's a great player, and he always goes all out. He plays the game that way because he loves the game, everything about it."I was here for a while during his [AL] MVP year in 2004, and he's having the same kind of season this year." Gary Matthews Jr., who shared the AL All-Star Game clubhouse with Guerrero last year as a member of the Texas Rangers, has acquired a deeper appreciation for his teammate now that he sees Guerrero on a daily basis. "One thing that separates great players from everybody else is their ability to perform at a high level, even when they're not feeling good," Matthews said. "Vlad does that consistently. He respects the game and plays it the right way. He's a great teammate." Lackey, with a great shot at exceeding his career-high 14 wins, won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series against San Francisco as a rookie and has been a model of consistency, never missing a start because of injury. "He was so close last year to making the team, and felt like he had a chance," teammate Jered Weaver said. "I don't know if he was disappointed, but knowing he was so close and not making it, I think that kind of pushed him this season to keep it going."Rodriguez remained atop the AL in saves, notching No. 24 in 26 chances on Sunday. He's 1-2 in 35 games with a 2.27 ERA, having struck out 49 hitters in 35 2/3 innings. "It's an accomplishment," K-Rod said of his second All-Star Game selection. "I'm looking forward to having another great experience. It shows that all the work paid off. [The players] recognize what I've done on the field. Now I have to do whatever I can to help win the game." Rodriguez received more votes (204) than any other AL reliever in the players' voting. Lackey was fourth among starters with 179 votes. "He's the best closer in baseball," Weaver said of K-Rod. "You pretty much know when you've got a lead in the ninth, it's pretty much a lock it's a victory for us." The 2003 season marked the introduction of the Player Ballot to the All-Star selection process. Each league's players, managers and coaches elect eight position players and eight pitchers from their league. Catchers and infielders who finish in the top two at their position on the Player Ballot, and outfielders among the top six, are assured of making the All-Star Team. In instances where the winners of the Player Ballot are also fan-elected starters, the player with the next highest amount of votes on the Player Ballot makes the All-Star Team. Eight pitchers -- five starters and three relievers -- become All-Stars through the Player Ballot. The manager of each World Series team from the prior season -- in this year's case, Detroit's Jim Leyland and St. Louis' Tony La Russa -- then fills the remaining slots on their respective teams, ensuring that one player from all 30 clubs is named to the All-Star Game.
Rodriguez pitched two-thirds of an inning in the 2004 All-Star Game in Houston, retiring both men he faced.Orlando Cabrera, among the AL's leading hitters at .337 with the best fielding percentage among shortstops, finished third in the fans' balloting, but was not selected by Leyland of Detroit or the players. "That's a shame," said Angels setup man Scot Shields, another strong All-Star candidate leading the AL in holds. "There is absolutely no way he should not be on that team." Angels manager Mike Scioscia thinks the flaw in the system is the requirement that each team be represented by at least one player. Michael Young, the 2006 All-Star Game hero, was Texas' choice by Leyland -- even though Cabrera's numbers across the board are superior, offensively and defensively. "This isn't a knock on Michael Young -- he's an All-Star player, an unbelievable talent," Scioscia said. "But Orlando's having a better year, no question about it. [Carlos] Guillen's having a terrific season, too." Cabrera did not have a comment. Scioscia also mentioned Matthews and Shields as Angels deserving of All-Star consideration, adding, "I hope Kelvim gets elected. He really deserves it."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.