Playing host

Tim Brown
Yahoo! Sports

Seeing as this All-Star game is going to be a San Francisco thing anyway, they might as well have put Barry Bonds in the middle of it, in the city and amid the fans that adore him without reservation.

Besides, most of the game will be played at night. No shadows.

Bonds overtook Alfonso Soriano in the final days of balloting, a quarter million-vote rally that put him into the National League outfield with Ken Griffey Jr. and Carlos Beltran.

So, presumably in the hours before he chases down Hank Aaron, before he forces an in-or-out answer from Bud Selig, Bonds will stand on the ball field where they count his home runs with panels in right-center field, his walks with rubber chickens down the right-field line, his detractors with rigid forefingers from the big glove to McCovey Cove.

"I'm at a loss for words right now," Bonds told reporters in San Francisco. "It just means more 'cause I'm at home. This is my town. This is my house. You can't say enough about being at home. It's great. This is the one I'll remember all time. This is the one I'll remember forever."

Bonds has been selected to 13 others and this will be his 12th start.

He is batting .304, back from .265 a little more than a month ago, with 16 home runs and 40 RBIs. He leads baseball in on-base percentage, OPS and raised eyebrows. Matt Holliday and Carlos Lee were more deserving of the start, and the sport probably could have done without the headache, but this is Bonds' summer and, like he said, this is Bonds' town.

He'll make his first All-Star appearance in three years, so this could be viewed as a comeback of sorts, a couple weeks before his 43rd birthday. Bonds has hit 69 home runs since the 2004 All-Star game, which was played in Houston, where his fellow starting outfielders were Lance Berkman and Sammy Sosa.

The National League has gotten younger and fresher since, resisting its status as the inferior league with four infielders and a catcher who are first- or second-year All Stars; Prince Fielder at first, Chase Utley at second, Jose Reyes at shortstop, David Wright at third base and Russell Martin at catcher. The pitching staff has six who are All-Star freshmen or sophomores.

Griffey, at 37 and once presumed to be the one chasing Aaron, still drew more NL votes than anyone.

Then, there's the snub-off, which once brought us the "Punch A.J." campaign, which Michael Barrett took quite literally.

The NL snubs: Jimmy Rollins, Edgar Renteria, Chris Young, John Maine, Ryan Howard.

The conspicuously absent, and deservedly so: Barry Zito, Andruw Jones.

The throw-in: Freddy Sanchez.

The vote-in candidates: Tom Gorzelanny, Roy Oswalt, Brandon Webb, Young, Carlos Zambrano.

The deserved: Young.

Meanwhile, of the 11 American League pitchers already in, only Johan Santana and C.C. Sabathia have participated in more than one All-Star game. Josh Beckett, Dan Haren, John Lackey, Gil Meche, J.J. Putz and Justin Verlander are first-timers. The starting lineup is thick with veteran All-Stars, however. Tigers' second baseman Placido Polanco is the only newbie, and David Ortiz looks it, with three previous All-Star selections. The rest is thick with Alex Rodriguez (11th), Ivan Rodriguez (14), Derek Jeter and Vladimir Guerrero (8 each), Ichiro Suzuki (7) and Magglio Ordonez (6).

Sammy Sosa, who recently hit home runs Nos. 600, 601 and 602, was left out, despite 14 home runs and 63 RBIs.

Other AL snubs: Gary Sheffield, Orlando Cabrera, Jose Lopez, Curtis Granderson.

The conspicuous ones: Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Bobby Abreu.

The throw-in: Michael Young.

The vote-in candidates: Jeremy Bonderman, Kelvim Escobar, Roy Halladay, Pat Neshek, Hideki Okajima.

The deserved: Neshek.

If rotations play out as scheduled, it appears NL manager Tony La Russa, in particular, and AL manager Jim Leyland will have their pick of starting pitchers.

In the National League, Jake Peavy, Brad Penny, Ben Sheets, Cole Hamels and, if he is voted in, Young, could start.

Josh Beckett, Sabathia, Leyland's own Verlander and Santana line up in the American League.

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