Sunday, July 01, 2007

3 To Go To All-Star Game

Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and shortstop Derek Jeter steamrolled their paths toward the All-Star Game in San Francisco, tallying enough votes to finish first and second, respectively, among all Major League leaders.

The voting was less certain for Jorge Posada, who made it into the Midsummer Classic as an American League reserve.

Because the votes that spurred the catcher on to the Bay Area were cast by his fellow big leaguers, they're just as meaningful -- if not more -- as the accolades accumulated by A-Rod and Jeter.

Posada has arguably been the Yankees' most irreplaceable player in the first half, as the 35-year-old backstop has improved his physical conditioning to enjoy one of his finer offensive seasons.

Drawing regular work behind the plate, Posada ranks fifth in the AL with a .333 batting average and could be the first Yankees catcher to finish in the top 10 in AL hitting since Thurman Munson in 1978.

Posada has proved durable as well, which the Yankees have needed -- a steady, guiding influence behind the plate, particularly in the first weeks of the season, when the Bombers trotted out seven different rookie pitchers to make starts.

Then again, Posada's reliability has never been in question; Posada has never landed on the disabled list in his career and has started at least 120 games behind the plate in each of the last seven seasons.

Ever the team player, Posada couldn't fully enjoy his selection over Cleveland's Victor Martinez. Posada was understandably sour after the Yankees' 11-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics on All-Star Selection Sunday.

As the Major League votes leader with 3,890,515 votes cast for the All-Star Game, Rodriguez echoed similar thoughts, downplaying his 11th selection -- but first time leading balloting -- in favor of the club's fortunes.

A-Rod set a new personal high for RBIs in a single month during his incredible April, when he slugged a Major League-leading 14 home runs and drove in 34 runs. Rodriguez came right back and equaled the mark with another 34 RBIs in June, leading the Majors.

The National League should beware. Rodriguez was tied with former Seattle Mariners teammate Ken Griffey Jr. for the Interleague lead with eight home runs this season and led the Majors with 23 RBIs, his numbers buoyed by a red-hot trip to San Francisco in late June.

For all of Rodriguez's theatrics and fireworks, Jeter has been a quietly consistent complement in the Yankees' lineup. Jeter ran off three separate hitting streaks of 17 games or more in the first half of the season, making him the first player since 1950 to do so.

Jeter logged 3,199,571 votes to win starting honors in San Francisco, the third time he will start in the All-Star Game.

Though he has been nicked and bruised all season, most recently fighting a bout with knee tendinitis, Jeter hasn't seen his reliability affected, batting a team-leading .335 with five home runs and 38 RBIs.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte, right-hander Chien-Ming Wang and second baseman Robinson Cano were among those not selected to head to San Francisco. The voting ends a three-year All-Star streak for Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.


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