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All-Stars still are up for debate

The list of players missing from this season's All-Star Game might be just as impressive as the rosters themselves.

Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are injured. So are Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Piazza, Jeff Kent and Trevor Hoffman.

Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine have struggled all season. Sammy Sosa probably will get voted in, though his numbers don't warrant the trip.

In the American League, reigning MVP Miguel Tejada got off to a terrible start. Derek Jeter was sidelined for six weeks after dislocating his shoulder on opening day. And Bernie Williams is out with an injured knee.

With rosters expanded from 30 to 32 this season, there is plenty of room for new names. Some choices are not easy: Jim Edmonds or Andruw Jones in centerfield in the NL; Alfonso Soriano or Bret Boone at second base for the AL.

Remember, every team must be represented, and each All-Star squad will have 12 pitchers.

Baseball's annual midsummer argument is on.

"There are a lot of deserving guys who are out there every year, and you almost get to play Santa Claus by putting them where they should be," AL manager Mike Scioscia said. "The flip side is, no matter how many picks you have, there's always a cutoff line where there's somebody deserving who is not selected _ unless you're going to have a 50-man roster."

Players also have a vote now. And in a two-year experiment that has caused much debate, the league that wins will get homefield advantage in the World Series.

Without regard to fan balloting, here are our choices at some key positions for the 74th All-Star Game in Chicago on July 15. The teams will be announced Sunday.

+ AL second base: Seattle's Boone (70 RBIs) barely gets the starting nod over the Yankees' Soriano because of stellar defense.

+ AL shortstop: This might be the best chance for Texas' Alex Rodriguez to win a game that means something. He gets a slight edge over Boston's Nomar Garciaparra. Tejada and Jeter are left out.

+ AL outfield: Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox starts in leftfield, Toronto's Vernon Wells (80 RBIs) in center and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki (.345 batting average) in right. Baltimore's Melvin Mora is the top backup, with Anaheim's Garret Anderson (71 RBIs), Kansas City's Carlos Beltran, Aubrey Huff of the Rays and Detroit's Dmitri Young joining him.

+ AL pitchers: Chicago's Esteban Loaiza (11-3, 2.18 ERA) gets the start. At age 40, Seattle's Jamie Moyer makes his first All-Star team and Yankees ace Roger Clemens his last.

+ NL first base: Colorado's consistent Todd Helton starts and is backed up by Milwaukee's Richie Sexson (23 HRs) and Philadelphia's Jim Thome (21 HRs).

+ NL outfield: San Francisco's Barry Bonds starts in left, St. Louis' Edmonds in center and Atlanta's Gary Sheffield in right. Reserves are Colorado's Preston Wilson, Arizona's Luis Gonzalez, Cincinnati's Austin Kearns, Atlanta's Andruw Jones and Cliff Floyd of the Mets. Sosa (11 HRs, 71 Ks) is snubbed because of a prolonged slump, not the cork in his bat.

+ NL pitchers: Dodgers ace Kevin Brown is awarded the start, and Florida rookie Dontrelle Willis is on the staff.

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