In these days of devalued home run totals and inflated earned run averages there is nothing outwardly exceptional about an American League third baseman hitting .310 with 11 homers and 34 RBI. But when that third baseman is Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles, the numbers mean something more.
They mean that Ripken, who was named to his 17th AL all-star team today when final fan balloting was announced, can run to his position when the starting lineups are announced at Fenway Park on July 13 and not feel the least bit sheepish about being there.
"You want to feel the most deserving," said Ripken, 38, who has hit .333 since May 13, the day he returned from his first career stint on the disabled list.
"When you feel good about yourself, you can stand up a little taller when you get to the game," he said. "I've been voted in a couple of years where statistically I might not have been the most deserving player. This year I feel good about how I'm playing, and I'm looking forward to going."
This will be Ripken's 17th consecutive all-star game, and his 15th time being elected to the starting lineup, tying the record set by Rod Carew.
"It's always great news. I always look forward to going," he said. "And being in Boston, it's going to be special."
Ripken was the only player on the field for either team in tonight's Orioles-Yankees series finale who was voted to the starting lineup. New York's Derek Jeter, who led in voting for shortstops for much of the season, was nudged out in fan balloting by Red Sox counterpart Nomar Garciaparra by 20,446 votes.
"We have so many good shortstops in this league," Jeter said today. "If I was to vote, I'd probably vote for Nomar."
Other players named to the starting lineup were outfielders Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle, the league's leading vote-getter, and Manny Ramirez and Kenny Lofton of Cleveland; second baseman Roberto Alomar and first baseman Jim Thome of Cleveland; catcher Ivan Rodriguez of Texas; and designated hitter Jose Canseco of Tampa Bay.
The reserves will be chosen by Yankees Manager Joe Torre and announced on Wednesday. Torre today implied he would select Jeter, who is second in the league in hitting (.372) and in hits (115).
Jeter and Garciaparra "are both having wonderful years," Torre said. "Unfortunately, we [the Yankees] don't help our voters as much as some others. I think other places do more politicking and lobbying as far as passing out ballots and collecting ballots."
Torre has indicated he likely will pick Orioles left fielder B.J. Surhoff as a reserve. Surhoff, who has never made an all-star team, leads the league in hits (118). Today, Surhoff got another endorsement, from Orioles Manager Ray Miller.
"He's been outstanding all year," Miller said. "I can't imagine anyone being a better all-around left fielder."
Miller also touted several other of his players. Before Mike Mussina won tonight to make his record 10-4, Miller said the Orioles ace "should have 11 or 12 wins by now," referring to the blown saves that have cost Mussina three wins.
Catcher Charles Johnson appears to have an outside chance of making his second all-star team, first as an American Leaguer, behind perennial starter Rodriguez, especially with Cleveland's Sandy Alomar injured. Johnson has thrown out 35.1 percent of base stealers this season, third in the league.
Designated hitter Harold Baines probably has little chance of being selected, but is on pace for the best season of his 20-year career. He has averaged an RBI every 3.6 at-bats, which would be second in the league behind RBI leader Ramirez (3.2) if Baines had enough at-bats to qualify.
American League All-Star Starters
I. Rodriguez, Tex.
R. Alomar, Clev.
Griffey Jr., Sea.
Time: 8 p.m.
Date: July 13
Where: Fenway Park, Boston
TV: WTTG-5, WBFF-45
AL Manager: Joe Torre
The NL starting lineup will be released today.