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July 7, 2005
All-Star Cast
By Paul Noonan

              Few teams have ever won a World Series without one or two All-Stars on their roster.  Last year the Sox’ two starters (Ortiz and Ramirez) were kingpins in the All-Star game (which helped earn the AL/Red Sox a very crucial home field advantage in the World Series. For the entire season, they became one of the best middle-of-the-order duos in the league.  If this year’s All-Star cast is another foreshadowing for the Sox, things are looking even better.  The Sox boast four mid-summer classic starters this year (Damon, Ortiz, Ramirez and Varitek). Hopefully they will be key in the Sox’ quest for a repeat in the World Series.

              By leading the Sox to their first championship in 86 years, Francona has earned the honor of being the bench boss for the American League in Detroit.  Even better, Francona will have four of his best players to help him try to earn home field advantage for his American League club.  Since the All-Star game was introduced eleven years after the Sox last championship of the 20th century, Francona will be the first Sox manager to inherit the bench job because he led the Sox to the title. 

              With over four million votes, David Ortiz led all vote getters for the ASG.  Being a DH apparently didn’t hurt Ortiz, but he sure had the numbers to defend himself anyway.  Placing among the top ten in most offensive categories including HRs, RBIs, SLG % and batting average, Ortiz has the offensive numbers worthy of an All-Star.  In his rare stints at first, Ortiz has also done well, but that didn’t earn him his starting spot.  Manny Ramirez had a slow start which almost cost him his All-Star spot in LF, one that he has earned six times now. His mid season surge helped power him back into his accustomed spot.  Now leading the AL (and MLB) with 73 RBIs, Ramirez likely would have earned a spot, but fans were quick enough to vote him into a starting role.  With his torrid start, Johnny Damon earned his first starting job in the ASG.  Damon has been there before, but never as a starter.  Coupled with his solid fielding, a .341 AVG, .383 OBP and .475 SLG % powered Damon to the outfield start.  Some of his other offensive totals may not be as high, but being a leadoff hitter, Damon doesn’t get a chance to knock in as many runs.  He’s not a home run hitter so focusing on his four HRs is pointless.  Finally, captain Jason Varitek further solidified his position as one of the best, if not the best, catchers in the AL and MLB.  With some strong numbers including a .307 batting average and a .544 SLG %, Tek has the offensive numbers to back the vote.  However, Varitek is one of the rare starters who is voted not based just on numbers, but on his leadership skills.   Varitek has become one of the most respected figures in baseball.  Many credit Varitek with the success of Clement this season, and as always the success of all the starters for the Sox. 

              Although the Sox have four representatives, a few members got the cold shoulder.  The aforementioned Matt Clement could not get the nod despite the best start of his career, and one of the best starts in baseball.  At 9-2 and with a 3.82 ERA Clement seemed to have the numbers, but roster restrictions are likely the reason he won’t be going to Detroit this Monday.  The same goes for Mike Timlin who has been the only reliable pitcher in the Sox’s ‘pen.  With a 3-1 record and a 1.58 ERA, Timlin has been a key factor in the Sox not losing more games in the late innings.  Nevertheless, the Sox will be well represented in the Motor City.  The break will give Sox fans a time to enjoy watching their favorite stars shine on a major national stage.  And with (knock on wood) the AL East lead and defending champ status, the second half of the season looks just as bright for the Sox.

     Nota Bene:  All stats are as of Sunday.  AVG = Batting average.  ERA = earned run average.  SLG % = Slugging percentage.  OBP = On- base percentage.

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Terry Francona and Manny Ramirez.
Sox manager Terry Francona and all-star Manny Ramirez.