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Inside Baseball | Bill Shaikin / SUNDAY REPORT

Bonds likely to be an All-Star

July 01, 2007|Bill Shaikin

The party is next week. Who dares to invite the guest of honor?

The All-Star game ought to be a grand celebration for Barry Bonds, a prologue to the coronation of the hometown slugger as baseball's home run king. The choreography is in place in San Francisco, with pregame festivities scheduled to feature a tribute to Hall of Fame member Willie Mays, the godfather to Bonds: One franchise, two legends, 1,410 home runs.

Yet, with the national ambivalence toward Bonds teetering toward hostility, we were treated to quite the peculiar scenario last week: The Giants begging fans to vote Bonds into the All-Star game.

The Dodgers launched a campaign for second-year catcher Russell Martin, straight out of Politics 101: Build name recognition. Develop awareness. Activate your core supporters.

But what fan does not know Bonds? What fan is not aware of his accomplishments? What fan needs a push to vote for Bonds, should he or she wish to do so?

The New York Yankees do not lobby fans to vote for Derek Jeter. The Angels do not campaign for Vladimir Guerrero. Such activities would be unnecessary for players of that stature, and unseemly too.

The MVP count: Bonds 7, Guerrero 1, Jeter 0.

Bonds has gotten the votes on his own. Fans have elected him 11 times, and he got the most votes of any National League player in 1993, 1995 and 2001.

The Giants insist they weren't out of line. The Chicago Cubs campaigned for Alfonso Soriano, after all, and Bonds needed to beat out Soriano for the third and final outfield spot in the National League lineup.

When the Dodgers lobbied for Martin, the New York Mets responded with a push for Paul Lo Duca, their catcher.

And, according to Giants Executive Vice President Larry Baer, the team also promoted its catcher, Bengie Molina -- at least until last week, when the rallying cry changed from "Vote Giants" to "Vote Bonds."

"It came to the point where we knew, mathematically, he was the only Giant that had a chance," Baer said.

The All-Star rosters will be revealed today, so we'll find out who invited Bonds. The fans might have elected him as a starter. His fellow players might have selected him as a reserve.

If neither the fans nor the players have picked him, major league officials would have to (A) award him one of the final few roster spots or (B) snub him, pettily, and risk a backlash over an exhibition game.

In that event, count on (A).

The fans and players would have spoken anyway, louder and clearer than Commissioner Bud Selig ever could. If Selig wants to pick a fight with Bonds -- and he just might, after a San Francisco grand jury finishes investigating Bonds -- the commissioner would be well-advised not to do it in San Francisco.

The Giants are in last place in the NL West, enduring a predictably awful season. They won't have the playoffs in San Francisco, but at least they'll have the All-Star game.

In that light, the goal of their campaign appears modest, even a touch wistful.

"We'd like to have a Giant take the field in the top of the first inning of the All-Star game," Baer said.

*

Blame Canada? If Martin is elected today, the Dodgers will thank Canada.

As online voting takes the balloting out of the ballpark and across the world, the Dodgers realized Martin could win if they could mobilize Canadian precincts on his behalf. Martin hails from Canada, where there is no NL team.

So the Dodgers designed a bilingual logo for a bilingual country -- "Vote For Russell! Voix Pour Le Russell!" -- and bombarded Canadian media with news releases. It didn't hurt, of course, that the Dodgers played in Toronto during the election, with Martin holding court for dozens of Canadian reporters.

"We made a concerted effort to reach out to people in Canada, knowing they'd vote for their native son," Dodgers publicist Josh Rawitch said.

We'll start with Martin as we look at how the All-Star teams might unfold, keeping mind each team must be represented:

NATIONAL LEAGUE

* Catcher: Martin, Molina.

* First base: Prince Fielder (Milwaukee), Albert Pujols (St. Louis), Dmitri Young (Washington).

* Second base: Chase Utley (Philadelphia), Orlando Hudson (Arizona), Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati).

* Shortstop: Jose Reyes (New York), Hanley Ramirez (Florida), Jimmy Rollins (Philadelphia).

* Third base: David Wright (New York), Miguel Cabrera (Florida).

* Outfield: Soriano, Bonds, Carlos Beltran (New York), Ken Griffey Jr. (Cincinnati), Carlos Lee (Houston), Matt Holliday (Colorado), Eric Byrnes (Arizona).

* Pitchers: Brad Penny (Dodgers), Jake Peavy (San Diego), Chris Young (San Diego), Cole Hamels (Philadelphia), John Smoltz (Atlanta), Ian Snell (Pittsburgh), Brandon Webb (Arizona), Francisco Cordero (Milwaukee), Takashi Saito (Dodgers), Jose Valverde (Arizona), Billy Wagner (New York), Trevor Hoffman (San Diego).

AMERICAN LEAGUE

* Catcher: Ivan Rodriguez (Detroit), Victor Martinez (Cleveland).

* First base: David Ortiz (Boston), Justin Morneau (Minnesota), Mark Teixeira (Texas).

* Second base: Placido Polanco (Detroit), Brian Roberts (Baltimore).

* Shortstop: Jeter, Carlos Guillen (Detroit), Orlando Cabrera (Angels), Jhonny Peralta (Cleveland).

* Third base: Alex Rodriguez (New York), Mike Lowell (Boston).

* Outfield: Guerrero, Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle), Magglio Ordonez (Detroit), Torii Hunter (Minnesota), Alex Rios (Toronto), Grady Sizemore (Cleveland), Gary Sheffield (Detroit).

* Pitchers: Dan Haren (Oakland), John Lackey (Angels), C.C. Sabathia (Cleveland), Justin Verlander (Detroit), Gil Meche (Kansas City), Josh Beckett (Boston), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston), Johan Santana (Minnesota), Francisco Rodriguez (Angels), J.J. Putz (Seattle), Al Reyes (Tampa Bay), Bobby Jenks (Chicago).

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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