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Hey Joe! Name Rocker All-Star



Published: Wed, July 4, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Indians fans used to seeing the American League All-Star lineup loaded with Tribe uniforms may go through a bit of withdrawal next Tuesday while watching this year's Mid-Summer Classic.

Unless Yankees Manager Joe Torre decides to get warm and fuzzy about Indians veterans, Cleveland might see its lowest All-Star representation since the team became contenders with the 1995 World Series team.

Cleveland right fielder Juan Gonzalez, the league's third best batter going into Tuesday's game, has been voted to the starting lineup by the fans.

Torre will announce the All-Star reserves today.

Cleveland second baseman Roberto Alomar, who finished second in the balloting to Seattle's Bret Boone, is a shoo-in to be on the AL roster.

Alomar leads the league in batting and his strong offensive performance has helped keep the Tribe contending despite poor offensive years by the top of the batting order: center fielder Kenny Lofton and shortstop Omar Vizquel.

Slim pickings: Once you get past Gonzalez and Alomar, there are slim All-Star pickings even though the Tribe is contending with the Yankees, Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox for the AL's second-best record at the All-Star break.

Designated hitter/outfielder Ellis Burks is a possibility.

Third baseman Travis Fryman missed most of the first two months with an arm problem. Catcher Einar Diaz is a few years away (and many batting average points) from blossoming into All-Star consideration.

Don't even bring up the left field three-headed monster of Russell Branyan, Wil Cordero and Marty Cordova.

The only others for Torre to consider are pitchers, and the way most of the Indians starters have been throwing of late, do you really want to see one of them facing the likes of San Francisco's Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent or Colorado's Todd Helton or New York's Mike Piazza or Chicago's Sammy Sosa?

Best shot: Twenty-year-old C.C. Sabathia (7-3, 4.39 earned-run average) has the best shot of catching Torre's eye, but rookies are easy to overlook, especially when Torre will name his team's Roger Clemens to start and Andy Pettitte. The theory is that Sabathia will have many more opportunities to be honored.

Dave Burba (8-5) is the only other starter possibility, but only if Torre is feeling sentimental about a veteran who has been solid but not spectacular throughout his career.

In the bullpen, former Tribe closer Bob Wickman has 15 saves and three wins. He also could qualify under the factors of sentimental and unheralded.

There's one other player Torre could consider.

Let's remember that Torre works in New York City, the most tolerant place on the planet, where everyone gets along and nobody holds grudges against anyone no matter what they say or do.

Rocker: They even sing "We Are the World" while holding hands between innings at Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium.

Hey Joe, show some courage, turn the other cheek and name the Yankees' least-favorite opponent, John Rocker, to the All-Star team.

You laugh, but name one other regular pitcher who hasn't surrendered a run to an American League opponent this year.

Can you imagine Rocker representing the AL and coming into the game in the ninth inning with a chance for a save? Can you imagine the ratings as the nation tunes in to see if Seattle boos louder than Yankees fans?

Rocker at the All-Star Game would be fun, and thus good for baseball. Therefore, it won't happen.

As Pirates fans have done for years, Indians fans can find consolation by cheering for former Cleveland players at the All-Star Game. Boston's Manny Ramirez will start for the AL. And the Pirates' Brian Giles will be Pittsburgh's representative.

XTom Williams covers Major League Baseball for The Vindicator. Write him at williams@vindy.com.




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