THREE YOUNGSTERSNAMED Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson made their first All-Starteam in 1990. They would combine for 32 more All-Star selections, including atleast one for 15 consecutive years. This year's game, however, like lastyear's, is likely to go on without them--confirmation that baseball belongs toa new generation. ¬∂ For further proof, check out my 2006 All-Stars. Eight ofthe 20 players have never been selected to an All-Star Game, and four have beenpicked only once. Nine are so inexperienced that they've never seen a Yankeesworld championship in their big league careers. Thirteen are younger thanAlicia Silverstone, who turns 30 on Oct. 4. ¬∂ For first-time stars MattHolliday, Jonathan Papelbon and Alex Rios, maybe this year will be what 1990was for Bonds, Griffey and Johnson. Then again, another first-time All-Star, a25-year-old righthander named Jack Armstrong, was the NL's starting pitcher inthat '90 game. He never made another All-Star team, going 23-52 thereafter.
A 10-game suspension (for punching White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski) and asore back could deter him, but Barrett is on pace to exceed 20 homers, 75 RBIsand a .300 average for the first time.
Mauer (.375) could become the first catcher to lead the major leagues inhitting since 1875. "The hitting, the leadership, the defense--he's an MVPpackage," one AL scout says.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
He led the league in homers (25) and was second in RBIs (65) despite missing 15games with a pulled muscle. When he was injured on June 3 he had been kept offbase only five times in 53 starts.
NEW YORK YANKEES
With one of the game's best batting eyes, Giambi ranked fourth in the AL in OBP(.434), and his rates of one homer every 10.5 at bats and 4.5 pitches per plateappearance would be career bests.
Despite a slim build, the 27-year-old Utley has surprising power (12 homers).He's also winning fans in high places. Says commissioner Bud Selig, "Heplays the game the way it's supposed to be played."
Signed out of Venezuela at age 16, the 22-year-old Lopez is more than halfwayto a 100-RBI season, thanks to a blistering .400 average with runners inscoring position.
Back in the NL and more comfortable in a less pressurized environment thanBoston's, Renteria, 30, opened the season with a 23-game hitting streak andregained his All-Star form.
True, Tejada is a .363 hitter at home and a .268 hitter on the road, but heremains one of the fiercest at bats in crunch time, hitting .423 with two outsand runners in scoring position.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
At the deepest position in the major leagues, the honor goes to Rolen, 31,whose glove is the gold standard and who hit .385 on the road and .341 overall(.351 while Pujols was out).
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Glaus also may be doing most of his damage at home--15 of his 21 dingers havecome at Rogers Centre--but no position player in the league had more homeruns.
The best player you've never seen, Bay led National League outfielders in OPS(1.014). Says one NL scout, "Just imagine what he'd be if he had someprotection in the lineup."
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Dye led all AL outfielders in slugging percentage (.620) and OPS (1.012) whileon pace for 52 homers. "He's healthy and he's using the whole field,"says one NL scout.
NEW YORK METS
A relaxed and healthy Beltran has already hit more homers (19) than he did lastyear (18). "With the surrounding cast he's got now, there's a lot lesspressure on him," says an NL scout.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Wells, who began this year as a .221 career hitter before May 1 and a .296hitter after, cranked up his off-season workouts to prepare for the WorldBaseball Classic, then hit .396 in April.
Holliday reached May 1 with a .255 batting average. Since then, however, he hashit .395, vaulting him into the league lead for hits while ranking him third inbatting and second in slugging.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Rios, who hit 20 homers in five minor league seasons, had 15 in his first 232at bats this year. Says J.P. Ricciardi, the Jays' G.M. "He's a totallydifferent hitter. He deserves the credit for working his butt off."
Webb, 27, has grown into an ace with the world's nastiest sinker and amarksman's control. He walked only 17 of 468 batters with the game's highestground ball--to--fly ball ratio (3.21 to 1).
A true ace, Santana, 27, is a strikeout pitcher with impeccable control, havingwhiffed nearly seven times as many batters (a league-best 109) as he has walked(16 in 15 starts).
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Of the first 100 batters he faced this year, Hoffman walked only three (hestruck out 23) and allowed one home run. With 18 saves in 19 chances, Hoffmanis 24 short of Lee Smith's record of 476.
BOSTON RED SOX
We're looking at what may be one of the great relief seasons of all time, inthe company of Dennis Eckersley's in 1990. Papelbon, a rookie, had almost asmany saves (23) as base runners allowed (24).
STATISTICSTHROUGH JUNE 22
Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos (Holliday)
Greg Foster (Rios)
FROM TOP: JERRY LAI-US PRESSWIRE; BOB ROSATO; AL TIELEMANS; BRAD MANGIN; BOB ROSATO; SEAN BRADY/WIREIMAGE.COM; CHUCK SOLOMON; JAMIE SCHWABEROW/NCAA PHOTOS; ROBERT BECK (2)
FROM TOP: RON LEBLANC/WIREIMAGE.COM; CHUCK SOLOMON; AARON KEHOE/US PRESSWIRE; JOHN IACONO; TOM DIPACE; JOHN BIEVER; CHUCK SOLOMON; JORGE RIOS/ WIREIMAGE.COM; ANDY ALTENBURGER/ICON SMI; DAMIAN STROHMEYER