Originally created 07/03/05

All-Star picks are intriguing



Imagine this scenario: Pedro Martinez marches in to replace Roger Clemens. Happened once before, you know, back in Boston.

That transition was symbolic. This time, it could be as simple as a call to the bullpen.

Linked by their remarkable success, they later were at the heart of a bitter rivalry - Martinez and Clemens spent years squaring off in classic confrontations at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium. Now they can become All-Star teammates for only the second time.

In 1998, each was a member of the American League club that won 13-8 at Coors Field in Colorado. Clemens allowed two runs in one inning. Martinez never got in the game.

Of course, the Rocket was pitching for Toronto by then, having bolted from Boston before the 1997 season. A year after he departed, the Red Sox acquired a new ace in Martinez. And in '99, the Blue Jays traded Clemens to New York.

With both still dominating hitters, their selection to the NL squad tonight seems only a formality.

Two future Hall of Famers, one pitching staff - precisely the fun of this summer showcase.

Clemens, now with Houston, and Martinez, energizing the New York Mets, could both find themselves facing Red Sox hitters - instead of each other - in Detroit on July 12. They would bring some much-needed star power to an All-Star game that will be missing many of the biggest names in baseball.

Barry Bonds, Curt Schilling and Eric Gagne are injured. Randy Johnson, Jim Thome and Sammy Sosa have struggled.

Taking their places should be several surprising newcomers, such as Chad Cordero, Brian Roberts and Felipe Lopez.

But there isn't room for everybody.

Each roster has only 32 spots, and 12 must be filled by pitchers. Plus, every team has to be represented.

That makes for tough choices.

As always, there are close calls at several positions: Derrek Lee or Albert Pujols at first base in the NL; Roy Halladay or Mark Buehrle on the mound for the AL.

"We've already been ranking players," said Boston's Terry Francona, who will manage the AL team. "Do I feel a loyalty to our guys? Hell, yeah. I'm supposed to. I don't remember Joe Torre ever apologizing in that period there and I'm not sure I ever thought he should have."

Without regard to fan balloting, our picks for the 76th All-Star game at Comerica Park include Atlanta's Andruw Jones as one of the outfielders (center field) and the Braves' John Smoltz as one of the starting pitchers.

At first base for the National League, Lee, who is chasing the Triple Crown, is the first-half MVP. He edges the Cardinals' Pujols, who can start at designated hitter.