Five deserving Phillies for All-Star Game

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Placido Polanco is almost certain to be named the starter at third base in the All-Star Game. (David M Warren/Staff Photographer)

The Phillies have the best record in baseball. At this point of the schedule, that's nice. Along with a buck, it will get you a copy of the Daily News at any retail outlet in the area.

What is does not guarantee is that the National League All-Star team will be overstuffed with Phils when the rosters are announced Sunday. Some of that is happenstance. Some of that is because, for the first time in 3 years, Charlie Manuel will not be managing the NL squad and thus will not be in a position to lobby for his own guys.

So here's an advance look at which Phillies deserve consideration for the July 12 gala in Phoenix . . . and an educated guess on which will actually make it.

- Placido Polanco. The third baseman had a commanding lead in the final announcement of fan balloting and is almost certain to be named the starter at his position.

It's hard to argue that Polanco is undeserving. It also would be hard to raise a big stink if he had been left off the team entirely. Chase Headley (Padres), Aramis Ramirez (Cubs), Chipper Jones (Braves), Pablo Sandoval (Giants) and even Ryan Roberts (Diamondbacks) could plead a case.

The field is thinned even further because David Wright (Mets) is having a down season and has been sidelined for more than a month.

- Carlos Ruiz. Let's assume that Atlanta's Brian McCann is the starter, that Yadier Molina of the Cardinals is almost certain to be added as a backup and that the NL will carry three catchers.

If San Francisco's Buster Posey hadn't suffered that season-ending knee injury, that would pretty much fill up the dance card. Instead, it gets dicey. Ramon Hernandez (Reds), Jonathan Lucroy (Brewers) and Miguel Montero (Diamondbacks) have to be considered.

The vote here goes to Ruiz. There may be a little bit of hometown bias involved but his offensive numbers are comparable to the rest of the field and everybody understands how much the Phillies pitchers respect his work behind the plate.

Plus, he's the only member of last year's regular lineup who hasn't made an All-Star team. So maybe he's a sentimental pick as well.

- Ryan Howard. He has a chance, depending on how many first basemen make the final roster. Albert Pujols (Cardinals), Joey Votto (Reds) and Prince Fielder (Brewers) would all have to be ranked ahead of him, but Pujols isn't expected to be back until sometime in August with a fractured left forearm. So if manager Bruce Bochy decides to go with a trio of first sackers, Howard could be in.

That's probably it. Chase Utley's streak of consecutive All-Star appearances should end at five even though there are no obvious candidates after Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks; he's just missed too much time coming back from patellar knee tendinitis.

It's the pitching, of course, that has carried the Phillies. And the three top starters - Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels - all deserve to make the trip.

Hamels won't. Even before he took a line drive off his non-pitching hand during yesterday's start against the Red Sox, the Phillies had ruled him ineligible by letting it be known that he's scheduled to start the last game before the break.

That leaves Halladay and Lee. Both have to be considered virtual locks although it's likely that the Phillies will quietly lobby behind the scenes to be sure that both don't actually appear in the game. The other could well start, a nod to the Phillies' first-half dominance.

Which leaves the bullpen.

Ryan Madson probably had an outside chance before going on the disabled list with a contusion of the right hand. Now there's no way. But that doesn't mean the bullpen won't have a representative.

The idea of giving homefield advantage in the World Series to the All-Star winner remains a tacky gimmick. But as long as it's in place, it forces managers to think a little differently about how they use the players they have on hand and, by extension, how they construct their rosters.

The trend in recent years has been to have a utility player on the bench and maybe a low-profile reliever who's having a terrific, under-the-national-radar season.

So, Antonio Bastardo, come on down. Numbers aren't everything, but these are ridiculous: 0.93 ERA, .116 opponent's batting average, 0.83 WHIP, 33 strikeouts in 29 innings. And he's equally effective against lefties and righties.

Still waiting for Bochy's call seeking input, but here it is, anyway. The Phillies who should be on the All-Star roster: Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Antonio Bastardo.

PHAIR & PHOUL

- Barkley on baseball: Former Sixers star Charles Barkley dropped into the Toronto Blue Jays broadcast booth during Tuesday night's game against the Pirates. He said he's a huge Phillies fan who attends at least 15 games a year. He also had some free advice for general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

"We've got a good pitching staff. We can't hit,'' he observed. "We've got a good pitching staff. I think they have to make a trade, though. With that great pitching and not being able to score, it would be a shame to waste that. They've got to do something. They need somebody behind Ryan Howard.''

Barkley, by the way, was in Toronto to participate in Joe Carter's golf tournament. Joe Carter? Don't you remember 1993? Say it ain't so, Charles.

- Quotable: Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who had to play first base against the Phillies Wednesday night to get his bat into the lineup, admitted that he was a little concerned about the Phils' big lefthanded bats hitting screaming line drives at him.

"I had a little chat with [Ryan Howard] before the game,'' Big Papi said. "I told him I had a family waiting for me at home.''

- Blog shots: Steve Lombardo posted a list of all teams since 1973 with two starting pitchers with 18 or more wins in a season on baseball-reference.com. Here's what's interesting, though. The Phillies have a trio (Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee) with at least nine wins each at the statistical midpoint of the season. And there have been only five teams in that span with three pitchers winning at least 18 in a season . . . and only two in the National League. That would be the 1985 Cardinals (Joacquin Andujar, Danny Cox, John Tudor) and 1993 Braves (Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux).

Elsewhere on baseball-reference, it was pointed out that the Phillies had 12 shutouts in the first 80 games of the season. Only eight teams since the mound was lowered in 1969 have had more: 1969 Cubs and 1981 Dodgers (15), 1970 and 1980 Dodgers (14) and 1969 and 1972 Orioles, 1981 Astros and 1988 Mets (13).

Off the hook: The 1999 Phillies held a dubious record coming into this season. It took them just 38 games to go from 10 over .500 to 10 under. But the Florida Marlins have shattered that record. They did it in just 26 days earlier this year, according to SABR researcher Frank Vaccaro.

AROUND THE BASES

- Changeups: Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has made six managerial changes in his 10 seasons running the team. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who had more wins (276) than any skipper in franchise history before being fired last year, says that's just the way it is.

"I think Mr. Loria - and I love him to death and there are no hard feelings - there's not a guy out there he thinks can manage his club whether it's Connie Mack or Bobby Cox or [Tony] La Russa. That's his passion. It's one of those things,'' he told MLB Network Radio.

- Add changeups: Jack McKeon, who replaced Edwin Rodriguez as the Marlins manager this year, is 80 years old and probably will give the job up at the end of the season. In the meantime, he's going to do whatever he wants. He's already benched Hanley Ramirez and Logan Morrison and this week closed the clubhouse during the game so that all the players had to watch from the dugout.

- Another Guinness: The Class A Lowell Spinner set a new Guinness world record for most people flossing simultaneously when 3,014 people practiced dental hygiene together in the middle of the fourth inning at their game against the Tri-City ValleyCats on Wednesday night.

- Either way: If Cody Kukuk makes it to the major leagues, the seventh-round draft pick of the Red Sox would be the eighth major leaguer with a palindrome for his last name.

- Astro-logical: Jim Crane is poised to officially take over ownership of the Houston Astros and every indication is that one of his first orders of business will be to hire his own general manager. Tampa Bay's Andrew Friedman has been mentioned as a possibility but he's expected to stay where he is. Former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker is considered a strong contender.

This happens all the time when teams are sold, but that doesn't make it any easier for Ed Wade, who currently holds the job. If Wade is replaced, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him back with the Phillies, where he was general manager from 1998 through 2006, as a special assistant to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

- North by northwest: The Marlins had to play three "home'' games in Seattle because their stadium had been rented out for a U2 concert. Fish reliever Brian Sanches told the Boston Globe that it would be only fair if Bono gave all the players backstage passes when the band plays near their hometowns this offseason.