Seven Red Sox to invade Yankees' turf
Four everyday starters will do the same in Midsummer Classic
NEW YORK -- From the dugout to the field, the 2008 Major League All-Star Game will have a decidedly Red Sox feel to it, even if the venue is Yankee Stadium.
Four of Boston's nine everyday players were voted in as starters for the 79th All-Star Game, which will be played on July 15, giving one of the most historic sporting venues in the world a showcase event in its final season.
In all, the Red Sox had seven players selected to the team. No other American League team came close to matching that. The Rangers have four All-Stars. No other AL squad has more than three. The Cubs also have seven All-Stars, tops in the National League.
The last team to have seven All-Stars was the 2006 White Sox. This is the fifth time in team history the Red Sox have had seven or more representatives.
The two who comprise the right side of Boston's infield -- first baseman Kevin Youkilis and second baseman Dustin Pedroia -- were both voted in as starters. In fact, Youkilis and Pedroia will be All-Stars for the first time.
But the other two Sox starters are hardly making their maiden All-Star trips. For left fielder Manny Ramirez, who spent his high school years in Washington Heights, raking baseballs within blocks of Yankee Stadium, this is his 12th All-Star selection. Earlier this season, Ramirez belted career home run No. 500.
"Because of our success and, I think, the popularity of the team, that has shown in the number of Red Sox that are on this team," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who will guide the AL squad. "I don't want to sit here and apologize for that. We have won, and we have good players. Next week, to be able to represent the American League with that number of Red Sox, will be very exciting. I'm very proud of that."
This is the fifth consecutive selection for designated hitter David Ortiz, who won't be able to play because of a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. But Big Papi has already let it be known that he will be in New York for the festivities, representing both his team and his sport.
The player who has stepped up the most for the Red Sox in the wake of Ortiz's injury is right fielder J.D. Drew, and the left-handed hitter with the sweet swing was informed on Sunday that he is an All-Star for the first time. Drew was voted in on the Player Ballot, as were ace closer Jonathan Papelbon and veteran catcher Jason Varitek.
"I'm going to be pretty fired up when the day rolls around and I get to experience all that stuff," said Drew. "It will be a lot of fun for me."
The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage that will also be available on XM Satellite Radio, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage.
Francona is the AL manager for the second time in four years. In fact, he is the only skipper in Major League history to win his first eight World Series games.
"To have so many guys on our team represent the All-Star Game is definitely a positive for our team and our ballclub," said Papelbon. "Hopefully, we can all go there and have a successful appearance at the All-Star Game and represent our club well."
This is the first time Youkilis was even on the ballot. In 2006 and 2007, there was no DH, so Ortiz was listed among first basemen.
Youkilis was a star for the Red Sox last October in helping the team win its second World Series in four seasons. A Gold Glove fielder and a solid hitter, he is hitting .308 with 13 homers and 53 RBIs. After not making an error at first base in 2007, he has made just one this season.
"It's a great thing just to be able to get voted in to the All-Star Game, and by the fans, because when the fans vote you in, it's always a big thing," Youkilis said. "I just want to say thank you to everyone that voted for me. It's never something that I set out to do. It's going to be a great time, and a lot of fun."
Like Youkilis, Pedroia is a product of the Boston farm system. He was the AL's Rookie of the Year in 2007 and has played at an even higher level this year, hitting .313 with 60 runs, 114 hits, 25 doubles, nine homers, 39 RBIs and nine stolen bases.
Ramirez is hitting .279 with 16 homers and 53 RBIs. This, even on the heels of a prolonged slump.
"Why do I need to worry? I have 16 home runs and 53 RBIs," Ramirez said. "I'm there. What do you want me to do?"
Papelbon has been an All-Star in all three seasons he's been the Boston closer. The flame-throwing righty has 25 saves and a 2.19 ERA, and is holding opponents to a .193 average.
"I feel very honored to, obviously, be selected," Papelbon said. "Hopefully, there will be many healthy years to come and many other All-Star Games to make. I really think that this one will be very special just because of the whole aura of Yankee Stadium and the final Yankee Stadium All-Star Game and everything that goes along with it."
Somewhat surprising was the selection of Varitek, if only because the team's captain is mired in what he recently referred to as "the worst rut of my career." He is hitting .219 with seven homers and 27 RBIs.
However, Francona and other players on the team always refer to how much Varitek contributes to wins even when he's not hitting. And the fact that his peers voted in him despite his offensive numbers probably demonstrates that better than anything.
"I think he was proud," Francona said. "I know we all know where his batting average is. I think that is a show from the players around the league how they feel about 'Tek and what he has done in the game. I think he should be proud. Players kind of showed how they feel about his game."
Varitek was pleased and surprised to be making his third All-Star appearance.
"I'm honored," Varitek said. "You've got to appreciate it while you can. Cut out the last three weeks, and I'd be OK. It's flattering either way. It's an honor that your peers feel that way."
The most bittersweet part of the day for Francona was not being able to find a spot on the team for third baseman Mike Lowell. Despite being on the disabled list for three weeks, Lowell is hitting .302 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs.
Interestingly, the third baseman let it be known to MLB that he had no desire to be one of the five players on the Final Vote ballot, through which fans can select the last All-Star on MLB.com. There is another third baseman on that ballot -- Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria.
"I actually told an MLB rep that if I wasn't voted by the players or the manager, I didn't want to be on the Internet vote, because I think that's a popularity contest anyway," said Lowell. "That's the way it turned out."
Lowell did admit that he was disappointed to come up short in his bid to make the All-Star team for the fifth time.
"It being the last [All-Star Game in New York], actually [my] first big league hit was here, and my first big league game was [at Yankee Stadium], so in that sense, you're definitely disappointed," he said. "I'll relax for four days and focus on having a good second half."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.