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Players get taste of how tough the voting can be

Mike Mussina was stuck.

The Yankees ace filled out his ballot for the All-Star Game, picking nine AL position players plus a seven-man staff. Still, he was one starting pitcher short.

So he wrote down his name.

"Was it neat voting for myself? No, it felt kind of dumb," Mussina said. "But I was the last one, and it didn't say you couldn't do it."

Fans once again chose the starters. But a new players ballot gave major-leaguers, managers and coaches a say _ for the first time since 1969 _ for the reserves in their leagues.

Barry Bonds, Carlos Delgado and some other big names are likely to be the top choices by both groups. In those cases, the next-highest finisher on the players' list goes to the game July 15 at Chicago.

The 32-man rosters will be announced tonight, except for two to be selected by fans on the Internet.

By all indications, voting was brisk among the ballplayers, with 90 percent or more taking part. Only one team did not actively participate _ fewer than half of the Yankees turned in ballots.

Players had until June 27 to vote and, like fans, they used a variety of methods to pick their teams.

Baltimore pitcher Pat Hentgen was scientific. He kept a copy of the leaders in his lap as he marked his choices.

"I went pretty much with straight stats," he said. "But if a veteran and a young guy were even, I picked the veteran. A young guy might have more chances to get there, but with a veteran, he's been doing it for a longer period of time and might not get another chance to play in an All-Star Game."

Colorado reliever Steve Reed did it differently.

"Oh, no, I didn't look at stats. I did it off the top of my head. I don't know the averages with runners in scoring position, but I know who's doing what," he said. "I think players see guys who are out there that are playing hard and deserve to go that might be younger guys and not household-name guys."

Players tried to sort out a couple of issues that fans wrangle with each year: Should a perennial All-Star and fan favorite such as Sammy Sosa get special consideration, and what about a young player such as Hank Blalock who's off to a good start?

"Stats," Atlanta slugger Gary Sheffield said. "It depends on who is having a better year. It's not a popularity contest. It's based on guys putting in the work, putting up the numbers and deserving to be rewarded for it."

Players were given a list of names to work from, though write-ins were allowed. Along with a name at every position, AL players picked a DH.

The ballot also asked for five starting pitchers and three relievers. After last season's 7-7 tie in 11 innings at Milwaukee, each team will now include 12 pitchers so that neither side runs out _ AL manager Mike Scioscia of Anaheim and NL manager Dusty Baker of the Cubs got to select four additional pitchers.

There's something else new. The league that wins the game gets homefield advantage in the World Series, and that affected how players voted.

"Part of what comes into play now is you want your own league to win. You have to look at who is going to help the team win," Arizona reliever Mike Myers said.

Pittsburgh outfielder Brian Giles definitely was overlooked _ the two-time All-Star never got to vote. He figured it had to do with the Pirates cutting Kevin Young last month.

"I didn't even know about it. Nobody gave me a ballot," Giles said. "It's the first I've heard about it. I guess that's what happens when your player representative gets released."