This is known as keeping the troops happy.
New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre has named seven of his own guys to the American League All-Star team. The Yanks were shut out in the voting for starters, but they will now have the single largest contingent of AL players, larger even than the Seattle Mariners, who have four starters and two reserves.
Torre, of course, has earned the right to name whichever players he chooses. In this case it appears he also chooses to tend to the morale of his own clubhouse while he makes the selections of the All-Star pitchers and reserves.
This is one way of accomplishing that task. This is one goal that can be fulfilled. But this sort of thing is probably not on the agenda for the rest of us who regard the Midsummer Classic as something of a sacrosanct occasion.
Clearly, with all those World Series victories and the third-best record in the American League as we speak, the Yanks deserve significant representation. But they don't deserve to have roughly 25 percent of the roster.
Examining the Yankees on the All-Star roster won't necessarily lower your eyebrows, either. Roger Clemens is a must. Jorge Posada at catcher is fine. Derek Jeter at shortstop is predictable. Ditto for Bernie Williams in the outfield. Closer Mariano Rivera is almost a given.
Wasn't that nice? We have just conceded the Yankees five spots without even a hint of argument. But on the selection of Mike Stanton, well, he probably should have been either Arthur Rhodes or Jeff Nelson of the Mariners. If we're going to exalt the role of set-up man, let's glorify a set-up man whose work has helped a team to ascend almost unprecedented heights. Stanton's work has been excellent, but Rhodes and Nelson have been just as good, and they have been part and parcel of a legendary first half.
And Andy Pettitte? That spot could have gone to Seattle's Aaron Sele, who is 9-1 and who, again, was a major part of the firsat half's best team. Or it could have gone to Hideo Nomo. But that would have meant naming a member of the Boston Red Sox, and since we had a shutout going, well, it just wasn't happening.
There are two ways of looking at this. One is that if you're the manager naming the reserves and the pitchers, and if there's any doubt, any gray area, you bend over backward to give the impression of fairness and impartiality. Or, if there's any doubt or gray area, you take care of your own guys because they are the ones who will have to win it for you in the second half of the season.
Everything you know about Joe Torre indicates that he would follow the first path. But everything you see in his selections indicates that he has taken the second. Kind of a letdown.
Now over on the National League side of the ledger, much will be said about New York Mets Manager Bobby Valentine not picking Cliff Floyd of the Florida Marlins because of their feud, spat, tiff. This is unfortunate. Floyd is obviously deserving of an All-Star berth. But on balance, Valentine's selections raise no red flags. Maybe it is easier to select All-Stars when your team is deep in fourth place and the vast majority of your players have conveniently played their way out of consideration.
But Valentine made some very acute choices. For instance, if you're going to select an Atlanta starting pitcher, the obvious choice would typically be Greg Maddux. But Maddux himself has said that the choice should be teammate John Burkett. And even though Maddux has the better won-loss record, for most of the season Burkett has been Atlanta's most consistent starter. He has simply not been blessed with much run support. Nobody could quibble if Valentine picked Maddux, but Burkett has been ever so slightly more deserving this summer. So Valentine's selection merits sincere applause.
Same thing for Jon Lieber of the Cubs. He is not the most heralded member of the Cubs' newly robust rotation. But he is the most dependable; a "strike machine," as Manager Don Baylor puts it.
Certainly there can be debate on the NL roster. There are always deserving players who don't get the call. For instance, arguments could be made on behalf of Arizona's Jay Bell or Houston's Craig Biggio. And Houston's Wade Miller is one of the best young pitchers in baseball, albeit probably one of the most under-publicized.
But without the issue of naming seven of his own players, Valentine's All-Star selection work seems to have been more clear-cut here. In a perverse way, this is a great day for Yankee-haters. The Yankees already owned the postseason. Now they have hand-picked a plurality at the All-Star Game.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com based in Milwaukee.