Something old, something new as National League aims to end All-Star drought

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Plenty will be new at the All-Star Game Tuesday night and a little will be old. But the big question: Will the outcome be any different?

A look at what’s new, what’s old and the NL’s perspective on ending its 13-game winless streak.

Starting with youth

AL starting pitcher David Price is part of an influx of young pitching talent.
AL starting pitcher David Price is part of an influx of young pitching talent.

With a record 33 first-timers on hand, the selection of two of them to start on the mound was only fitting. Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, 26, and Rays lefty David Price, 24, become the youngest starting tandem years since Roger Clemens, then 24, and Dwight Gooden, 21, took the mound in 1986. Gooden, however, by then was a three-time All-Star.

Plenty of inexperience will follow, too. Of 26 active pitchers on the clubs, only Roy Halladay has appeared in more than one All-Star Game. Sixteen never have worked in an All-Star Game.

"Young pitching is where baseball is at today," NL manager Charlie Manuel said.

Added AL manager Joe Girardi: "It seemed like 15 years ago, it was a time of young shortstops, and other times, it seems there’s an influx of great, young talent in outfielders. But right now the influx of young pitching in baseball is incredible, and not just guys with stuff; guys that know how to pitch."

Familiar faces

You should not, however, need a program to recognize the starting position players. Ichiro Suzuki will lead off for the AL, Derek Jeter will follow, Josh Hamilton will hit cleanup and Joe Mauer will catch. In the five-hole will be Vlad Guerrero, who should receive one of the night’s loudest receptions as he returns to his old home.

For the NL, Albert Pujols will hit third, just ahead of David Wright and Ryan Braun. All will be starting for at least the third time.

The newer All-Stars really can be just in awe of the big-names as can fans. As NL players were leaving a media session Monday, Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton was asked, "Would you like to meet Albert?" Broxton, a two-time All-Star, clearly was pleased for the opportunity, following Pujols and his entourage out of the room and into a meeting hall.

NL looking for a win

The National Leaguers say the right things about trying to win for the first time since 1996. As Manuel insisted, "Our priority is to win." He even added a second lefty to his bullpen for matchup purposes and named a utility player, Omar Infante, to his roster to ensure enough versatility in his lineup.

Besides the embarrassment of an 0-12-1 skid, the game does count for something because the winning league earns home-field advantage for the World Series.

"In our home games during the playoffs last year, we were 7-1, so we understand that that home-field advantage is very important to one American League club this year," Joe Girardi said.

But really, a little perspective. While important, winning is not the top priority to the players.

"We all going to try hard to have fun, one, and win the ball game," said NL right-hander Chris Carpenter, making it clear that was the right order "If you’re going to come here and try to compete and act like you do in a real game, it’s not going to be any fun."

And if the losing ever becomes such an albatross that the competition takes precedent?

"If it does, it’s going in the wrong direction," Carpenter said. "This is supposed to be fun. All the other All-Star Games are a lot of fun, too. That’s what it’s all about."

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Plenty will be new at the All-Star Game Tuesday night and a little will be old. But the big question: Will the outcome be any different?

A look at what’s new, what’s old and the NL’s perspective on ending its 13-game winless streak.

Starting with youth

AL starting pitcher David Price is part of an influx of young pitching talent.
AL starting pitcher David Price is part of an influx of young pitching talent.

With a record 33 first-timers on hand, the selection of two of them to start on the mound was only fitting. Rockies right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, 26, and Rays lefty David Price, 24, become the youngest starting tandem years since Roger Clemens, then 24, and Dwight Gooden, 21, took the mound in 1986. Gooden, however, by then was a three-time All-Star.

Plenty of inexperience will follow, too. Of 26 active pitchers on the clubs, only Roy Halladay has appeared in more than one All-Star Game. Sixteen never have worked in an All-Star Game.

"Young pitching is where baseball is at today," NL manager Charlie Manuel said.

Added AL manager Joe Girardi: "It seemed like 15 years ago, it was a time of young shortstops, and other times, it seems there’s an influx of great, young talent in outfielders. But right now the influx of young pitching in baseball is incredible, and not just guys with stuff; guys that know how to pitch."

Familiar faces

You should not, however, need a program to recognize the starting position players. Ichiro Suzuki will lead off for the AL, Derek Jeter will follow, Josh Hamilton will hit cleanup and Joe Mauer will catch. In the five-hole will be Vlad Guerrero, who should receive one of the night’s loudest receptions as he returns to his old home.

For the NL, Albert Pujols will hit third, just ahead of David Wright and Ryan Braun. All will be starting for at least the third time.

The newer All-Stars really can be just in awe of the big-names as can fans. As NL players were leaving a media session Monday, Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton was asked, "Would you like to meet Albert?" Broxton, a two-time All-Star, clearly was pleased for the opportunity, following Pujols and his entourage out of the room and into a meeting hall.

NL looking for a win

The National Leaguers say the right things about trying to win for the first time since 1996. As Manuel insisted, "Our priority is to win." He even added a second lefty to his bullpen for matchup purposes and named a utility player, Omar Infante, to his roster to ensure enough versatility in his lineup.

Besides the embarrassment of an 0-12-1 skid, the game does count for something because the winning league earns home-field advantage for the World Series.

"In our home games during the playoffs last year, we were 7-1, so we understand that that home-field advantage is very important to one American League club this year," Joe Girardi said.

But really, a little perspective. While important, winning is not the top priority to the players.

"We all going to try hard to have fun, one, and win the ball game," said NL right-hander Chris Carpenter, making it clear that was the right order "If you’re going to come here and try to compete and act like you do in a real game, it’s not going to be any fun."

And if the losing ever becomes such an albatross that the competition takes precedent?

"If it does, it’s going in the wrong direction," Carpenter said. "This is supposed to be fun. All the other All-Star Games are a lot of fun, too. That’s what it’s all about."

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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