In many ways they are opposites: one a pitcher with close to 2,000 innings behind him between two countries, the other a reliever just barely 23. But in a season that has become baseball's best story line, no two players have been more important to the Washington Nationals than Livan Hernandez and Chad Cordero.
Yesterday, they became the first two Nationals to be named to the National League all-star team.
While Hernandez and Cordero were considered shoo-ins, the fact that only two players were selected from the team with the NL's second-best record raised questions, most notably: Where were outfielder Jose Guillen (.310, 17 homers, 46 RBI) and first baseman Nick Johnson (.320)?
"Guillen and Johnson should be all-stars," Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden said. "We've won 50 games, we're in first place and they're a big reason we're there. We should get three or four."
Johnson was put on the disabled list yesterday, which probably precluded him from being named if there had been room at a loaded position, and it appears a numbers game hurt Guillen.
Fan voting left NL Manager Tony La Russa with an outfield that included the Mets' Carlos Beltran, an expensive offseason free agent signing with a very ordinary .262 average and nine home runs. A players' poll picked Atlanta's Andruw Jones, Florida's Miguel Cabrera and Milwaukee's Carlos Lee, all of whom had statistics that surpassed Guillen's.
That left La Russa three more outfield spots to fill and he used them to choose players from teams that did not have other representatives on the team: Pittsburgh's Jason Bay, San Francisco's Moises Alou and Arizona's Luis Gonzalez.
The Orioles, in first place in the American League East for much of the year, will send four players to the July 12 game in Detroit, including second baseman Brian Roberts and shortstop Miguel Tejada, who were voted as starters by the fans. Melvin Mora, hitting .300 with 14 home runs was picked as a reserve and closer B.J. Ryan with 18 saves in 20 opportunities were also named to the team in the players' vote.
"We were all joking around about making [the team] in the clubhouse," Mora said yesterday, "and I told those other guys to enjoy it, because this is the best thing that can happen to anybody who plays baseball."
Hernandez made the team last year as an Expo but did not pitch. This year, his 12-2 record and 3.32 ERA puts him in the running to actually start the game. Aiding his case is the fact his normal spot in the rotation falls on the day before the All-Star Game.
"I want to pitch," he said. "I got a chance to pitch last year but I no pitch. I want to pitch this year. Let's see what happens. I made it and I want to enjoy it. If I pitch I will be happy to pitch, if I no pitch it's something that happens sometimes."
Cordero, whose string of 26 consecutive saves ended yesterday, was characteristically subdued in his reaction calling the selection "a great honor."
This left his Manager, Frank Robinson, to instead heap the praise.
"We've had a security blanket back there in the ninth hole and when we give him the ball and we have a lead that means we win," Robinson said. "That's what he's meant to this ballclub. Everybody feels very comfortable. And he assures us, when he goes out there, that we have a win. It just didn't happen today but, hey, he's had a tremendous run."
Perhaps the strangest selection to the AL squad was Texas pitcher Kenny Rogers, who made the team on the merit of his 9-4 record and 2.45 ERA, but has been suspended for 20 games by Commissioner Bud Selig for attacking a television cameraman. Rogers is appealing the suspension and pitched yesterday in Seattle. His appeal is not scheduled to be heard in the next week, which means if he chooses to go he will probably be allowed to be on the team.
Another surprise was the lack of Padres on the National League team, despite the fact that San Diego has the third-best record in the league. But top starter Adam Eaton is hurt, as is catcher Ramon Hernandez, leaving only Jake Peavy and his 7-2 record and 2.89 ERA as the lone Padre on the team.
Staff writers Barry Svrluga contributed to this report from Chicago, and Eli Saslow from Baltimore.
"He assures us," Manager Frank Robinson said.