Two familiar faces could be missing
Manny, A-Rod likely to see string of All-Star appearances end
The sights and sounds of St. Louis will be familiar for fans in the great Midwestern baseball town when the 80th All-Star Game is played at Busch Stadium there July 14.
But it's looking likely that two Midsummer mainstays won't be suiting up in the shadow of the Gateway Arch.
With barely more than a day remaining before exclusive online balloting closes for the All-Star Game, and four days until the full rosters are revealed, there's a strong possibility that Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez won't make the National League team and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez won't be part of the American League team.
In the latest voting update, Ramirez, currently serving out the final days of his 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy, was in seventh place among NL outfielders with 1,343,011 votes. Leader Raul Ibanez of the Phillies had 2,970,139 and the holder of third place, the Mets' Carlos Beltran, had 2,085,028.
In AL voting at the hot corner, A-Rod was in second place with 1,354,319 votes, which put him well behind the leader, Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays (2,998,363).
Both players have a chance at playing in the All-Star Game, but since it appears that it would take a near miracle at the voting booths, it will probably have to come from the selection by peers in upcoming player voting.
For now, baseball fans should gird themselves for two rare and historically significant absences, considering that Manny and A-Rod rank first and second in the Majors in current consecutive appearances in the Midsummer Classic.
Ramirez, for example, last missed the All-Star Game in 1998, meaning 2009 would be his Major League-leading 12th straight appearance.
It's likely that Manny would be among the league leaders in votes if he hadn't been suspended May 7. The mercurial outfielder was batting .348 with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 27 games before he was suspended. He is scheduled to return to the Dodgers on Friday.
"Personally, I think it will take a week or so to get his feet on the ground," Dodgers manager Torre said this week, ruminating on Ramirez's recent Minor League rehab period in preparation for his return to the Majors.
"And part of that will be the circus. I know he's blocked out that stuff in the past, but he's never had anything like this. This will be different -- a different scenario."
As for A-Rod, if he misses this All-Star Game it will break a streak of nine straight Midsummer Classics that started in 2000.
Rodriguez, who in the offseason admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs while a member of the Texas Rangers from 2001-03, missed more than a month this season because of hip surgery and had struggled until this week.
On Tuesday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Rodriguez will be given at least one day off and possibly more during the team's 13-game schedule leading to the All-Star Break.
"When we look at it, it looks like [regularly scheduled days off] helped him," Girardi said. "Could that be exactly it? It's hard to say. We all knew whether Alex got rest or not, he was going to come out of it. He's too good a player not to come out of it."
If Ramirez and Rodriguez both miss the 80th All-Star Game, the active leader in consecutive appearances will probably be Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who has played in the past eight All-Star Games, making the AL club every year since he came over from Japan and joined the Majors in his Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year season in 2001.
Through the voting totals released Tuesday, Ichiro had garnered 1,802,826 votes, putting him comfortably in second place among AL outfielders behind leader Jason Bay of the Boston Red Sox (2,609,913) and third-place holder Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers (1,635,781).
Behind Ichiro, the leaders in consecutive All-Star appearances going into 2009 are Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano (seven), St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols (six), and Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and Rangers third baseman Michael Young (tied with five).
The all-time leaders are Hank Aaron (21), Stan Musial (20), and Willie Mays and Cal Ripken Jr. (19).
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.