Jays' All-Stars border on the unknown
Halladay, Wells and Co. not too familiar to many in the States
PITTSBURGH -- When All-Star closer B.J. Ryan opted to sign a highly lucrative contract that committed him to taking his electric left arm north of the border, some friends from his native Louisiana were asking for handfuls of spare change.
Others simply wanted to know who would be his teammates now that he was a Toronto Blue Jay.
"I told them, 'One is a Cy Young winner and the other one will win an MVP before it's said and done,' " said Ryan, who signed a five-year, $47 million contract in November.
The Cy Young Award winner is Roy Halladay, who garnered the coveted award in 2003. The future MVP is Vernon Wells, who arguably is the most underrated talent in all of baseball.
"I don't know if [Wells] is the most, but he is definitely one of the most," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Halladay is, too. The key is: Their peers know who they are."
While a large percentage of baseball fans may not realize the strength of the Blue Jays' roster, players around the Majors are well aware of the great talent Toronto possesses.
The Blue Jays will be well represented during Tuesday night's All-Star Game at PNC Park. Joining Ryan, Halladay and Wells will be Troy Glaus, as well as Alex Rios, who is unable to play because of a staph infection that developed in his left leg in late June. Gibbons will serve as one of the American League's coaches.
Each of the five Blue Jays was selected via a ballot of AL players, coaches and managers. This is the organization's largest representation since 1993 and the only other AL club with more selections is the defending World Series champion White Sox.
"All you really want is that the players you play against recognize that you're competitive," said Halladay, who will be used as a reliever in what will be his fourth All-Star Game since 2002.
While the Cy Young Award brought Halladay some expanded attention, there are still many who haven't realized the vast athletic talents possessed by Wells, whose .971 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) ranks third among all AL outfielders.
Although he finished fifth in the outfield in fan balloting, Wells, who has won Gold Gloves the previous two years, will still make his first All-Star Game start on Tuesday night. He'll be subbing for Boston's Manny Ramirez, who opted not to play because of an ailing right knee.
Wells "puts up tremendous numbers," Glaus said. "If he's not the best, he's one of the best defensive outfielders in the league. There isn't anything in the game that he can't do."
If Wells were playing in a bigger media market, he'd likely have already established himself as a household name. But the reserved 27-year-old outfielder from Arlington, Texas, doesn't mind playing in the obscurity provided by Canada.
"I come out and do whatever I can to help my team win," said Wells, who entered the All-Star break hitting .311 with 21 homers and 66 RBIs. "I think after that, I just have a good time. I think it's better that way, because you can sneak up on people."
Had Halladay not pitched on Sunday, he would have likely joined Wells in Tuesday's starting lineup. The 6-foot-6 right-hander leads the Majors with 12 wins and ranks second with 129 1/3 innings pitched. He's lost just two of his 18 starts and has surrendered just one earned run in his past 14 2/3 innings.
Dating to his 2005 season, which was shortened because of a broken left tibia, Halladay has won 24 of 30 decisions. But it wouldn't bother him if he could continue this success and at the same time continue to go widely unrecognized.
"I've always been one of those people who enjoys being able to go places and not be noticed or seen," Halladay said. "I'm not somebody who watches sports or reads the paper. So I'm perfectly happy with the way things are."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.