Tough choices must be made in compiling each team's 32-player roster.
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 '97 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 Sunday night 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, here are our picks for the 76th All-Star game at Comerica Park:
AL First Base -- Emerging slugger Mark Teixeira of the Texas Rangers is the clear-cut starter. Chicago's Paul Konerko earns a reserve role.
Second Base -- An outstanding leadoff hitter, Roberts has sparked the Orioles all year during his breakout season. Texas' Alfonso Soriano also makes the team.
Shortstop -- Miguel Tejada makes it an all-Baltimore middle infield. Yankees captain Derek Jeter and Texas' Michael Young are the backups.
Third Base -- Alex Rodriguez is putting up big numbers for the inconsistent Yankees. Unheralded newcomer Jorge Cantu wins a reserve spot as Tampa Bay's only representative, denying Baltimore's Melvin Mora.
Catcher -- Red Sox captain Jason Varitek is the easy choice to start. Ivan Rodriguez is the lone selection from the hometown Tigers, costing New York's Jorge Posada a trip.
Outfield -- Reigning MVP Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels starts in center, Boston's Manny Ramirez in left and New York slugger Gary Sheffield in right. The backups are Minnesota's Torii Hunter, Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki, Boston's Johnny Damon and Kansas City's Emil Brown.
Designated Hitter -- Boston's David Ortiz gets the start, with Cleveland's Travis Hafner behind him.
Starting Pitchers -- With five complete games for Toronto, Halladay earns starting honors. The staff also includes Buehrle and Jon Garland from the White Sox, Bartolo Colon of the Angels, Boston's Matt Clement, Minnesota's Johan Santana and Texas' Kenny Rogers -- despite his recent camera tirade.
Relievers -- Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has been untouchable since the first week of the season. He's joined by Seattle's Eddie Guardado, Baltimore's B.J. Ryan, Chicago's Dustin Hermanson and Oakland's Huston Street.
NL First Base -- Making a run at the Triple Crown with the Chicago Cubs, Lee is the first-half MVP. He edges the Cardinals' Pujols, who can start at designated hitter. Florida's Carlos Delgado and Washington's Nick Johnson also make it at a jam-packed position.
Second Base -- Jeff Kent of the Dodgers is the only choice.
Shortstop -- Lopez is the surprise runaway winner for Cincinnati. He is the lone selection because of an injury to Rockies rookie Clint Barmes.
Third Base -- Houston's Morgan Ensberg barely gets the starting nod over Chicago's Aramis Ramirez. Troy Glaus also makes it for Arizona.
Catcher -- Slim pickings here, so Florida's Paul Lo Duca gets the start. Mike Piazza has dropped off dramatically with the Mets, and he can't throw at all. But without much competition, he still deserves a 12th All-Star appearance. It could be his last.
Outfield -- The starters are Philadelphia's Bobby Abreu in right, Atlanta's Andruw Jones in center and Florida's Miguel Cabrera in left. Backup spots go to Milwaukee's Carlos Lee, San Francisco's Moises Alou, Pittsburgh's Jason Bay, St. Louis' Jim Edmonds, New York's Cliff Floyd and Philadelphia's Pat Burrell. Brian Giles, Adam Dunn and Reggie Sanders are extremely difficult omissions.
Starting Pitchers -- A 1.50 ERA earns Clemens his second consecutive start. The rest of the staff features Martinez, Florida's Dontrelle Willis, Washington's Livan Hernandez, San Diego's Jake Peavy, Atlanta's John Smoltz, St. Louis' Chris Carpenter, Houston's Roy Oswalt and Colorado's Jeff Francis. It's tough to leave out Matt Morris, and a finger injury costs Adam Eaton.
Relievers -- Cordero has been the best closer in the big leagues this season for Washington. He's joined in the bullpen by St. Louis' Jason Isringhausen and Phillies lefty Billy Wagner.