07/02/09 7:50 PM ET
Manuel debating his All-Star selections
Skipper partial to Phils, but plans to be 'fair to the game'
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
His players won the World Series last season, which is why he is partial to them. He mentioned that Thursday when he talked about his eight selections for the NL All-Star team. Fans vote for the eight starters. Players vote for eight reserves and eight pitchers (five starters and three relievers). Fans then vote for the 33rd player after Manuel makes his picks.
"I'd be partial to my guys," Manuel said. "I'll be the first guy to tell you that. Everything that I've gotten out of us winning ... I've got a World Series ring, and everything I've got was because our guys played good and they won. If you want to call me a player's manager, I think I am because I think the players definitely have everything to do with it. I think good players make a good manager. I think good players can play over some of the mistakes a manager can make."
Outfielder Raul Ibanez and second baseman Chase Utley both will be starters at their respective positions based on wide leads in fan voting.
But what other Phillies could go?
Left-hander Cole Hamels (4-5, 4.98 ERA) and closer Brad Lidge (0-3, 7.57 ERA and 14 saves) might have been smart bets before the season started, but both have struggled and have not had All-Star-worthy seasons. It is very unlikely Manuel would pick any of his pitchers to join him in St. Louis.
Ryan Howard and Shane Victorino could be possibilities.
Howard was hitting .256 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs entering Thursday. He is tied for second in the league with 41 extra-base hits. He is third in RBIs and go-ahead RBIs (19), tied for third in game-winning RBIs (nine) and he is fifth in home runs. He is from St. Louis, where the game will be played July 14. He has been one of baseball's best run producers over the years. He has meant the world to Manuel as a force in the middle of the lineup.
But Howard has some stiff competition at first base. Albert Pujols (.337, 30 homers and 77 RBIs entering Thursday) will likely be the starter. Prince Fielder (.306, 20, 74), Adrian Gonzalez (.268, 24, 48), and Todd Helton (.312, 9, 53) are legitimate candidates, too. There are only so many first basemen Manuel can take, which puts Howard in a numbers crunch.
Victorino is hitting .295 with five homers, 34 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. He is tied for second in triples (five), tied for fourth in runs (52), tied for ninth in hits (89) and stolen bases. Obviously, there are plenty of outfielders with better power numbers than Victorino, but he is not a power hitter. He is a speed guy, who plays great defense and can hit. He might be an easier case for Manuel to make.
Third baseman Pedro Feliz has had a nice season, but he also appears to be in a numbers crunch with David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds, Casey Blake and others.
"If you ask me who I would vote for or pick, anytime I could pick one of my players, definitely I'm in favor of that," Manuel said. "But at the same time, when you look at things, you have to be fair to the game and also the guy who is having a big year. That can be hard to, because there are so many."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.