All-Star teams are named two weeks from today, and there's a fair amount of conversation in the Rays' clubhouse and offices about their candidates, with the leading choices C Dioner Navarro, ace Scott Kazmir and — though less likely, despite manager Joe Maddon's push — middle reliever J.P. Howell. (And with B.J. Upton, Troy Percival and Carl Crawford probably after that.)
But there's no debate that for the first time since 1999 (and second time ever), they deserve multiple selections.
"We definitely should have more than one," said Crawford, a two-time star. "You can't have a team that's playing like we're playing and only have one All-Star. That wouldn't make any sense. … That's the excuse they've always had is that we weren't winning, and now they can't say that any more."
"The way we're playing," Upton said, "there's got to be more than one All-Star on this team."
"Definitely," Kazmir said. "With what we've done, and the record we have, having one guy representing would not be right."
Sounds good, but …
The nine starters are voted by fans in stadiums and online, which means no Rays have a chance. Then nine players and eight pitchers are elected in balloting by players, coaches and managers. Five more are chosen by the All-Star manager "in conjunction with" MLB (and the 32nd chosen in later online voting).
The peer voting offers some hope — that's how Crawford got in during 2004 — because it supplements the fans' choices; if the players' choice is voted in by the fans as well, the players' second-place finisher goes. But neither Navarro nor Howell is likely to have enough name recognition to be voted in. Kazmir does but missed the first five weeks.
That leaves the five selected spots, which have to be used first to make sure all teams are represented (as has often been the case with the Rays). And then there's this problem: The manager doing the final picking is Boston's Terry Francona, who isn't exactly the biggest Rays fan these days given the June 5 brawl.
"Francona, huh?" Crawford said. "So who knows …"