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Strasburg hasn't earned All-Star spot

Look, I'm as fascinated with Stephen Strasburg as the next guy. It was a thrill to cover his final minor-league start here in Buffalo. On Monday, I recorded his game against Atlanta and watched it before going to bed. Strasburg is a pitching prodigy. If he stays healthy and keeps his head on straight, he can be one of the best ever.

But he has no business in the All-Star Game. Not this year. Strasburg will have started six major league games when the rosters are announced July 4. That's simply not enough to warrant an All-Star spot. It will be a disservice to baseball, and to Strasburg himself, if he's on the National League team in Anaheim on July 13.

The advocates argue that the All-Star Game is a show. It's for the fans. People want to see Strasburg. He'll boost ratings. They also say Strasburg would give the NL an advantage in a game that decides home field in the World Series.

Come on. Strasburg would pitch an inning. Let's be honest. If winning were such a priority, the managers would play their best eight guys and let their starting pitcher go more than two innings. Allowing the game to affect home field in the World Series was a bad idea to begin with, a panic move by Bud Selig after the '02 game ended in a tie.

Is baseball so desperate for viewers that it needs a cameo by Strasburg to boost ratings? Shouldn't having the best 68 players in the world be enough?

The game is for the fans. But it's for the players, too. Some of them go an entire career without making an All-Star team. I'd rather see a veteran rewarded for years of service than a rookie picked on the assumption of greatness.

It was an all-time classy gesture when Joe Maddon gave Tim Wakefield his first All-Star spot last year at 42. Charlie Manuel, the NL manager, could do a similar kindness by putting 47-year-old Jamie Moyer on this year's team.

Of course, it would be hard for Manuel to justify picking Moyer (his own guy) when there are so many worthy candidates. It's been a great year for NL pitchers. There are 13 starters with ERAs under 3.00. Many have been as unhittable over three months as Strasburg (2-2, 2.27) has been in his five starts.

The Brewers' Yovani Gallardo is 7-3, 2.36. He's allowing 7.1 hits per nine innings, the same as Strasburg. Atlanta's Tim Hudson (8-3, 2.37) beat Strasburg on Monday. Do you keep him off the team? Who does Strasburg bump off? Mike Pelfrey (10-2, 2.71)? Roy Halladay (9-6, 2.29)? Mat Latos, a Padres rookie, is 8-4, 2.85. His hits per nine is even lower than Strasburg's.

If they want pitchers who started the year in the minors, how about the Mets' R.A. Dickey, who is 6-1? He's 35 and has never been an All-Star. Arthur Rhodes, the Reds' 40-year-old reliever, has an 0.28 ERA and hasn't allowed a run in his last 29 innings. Tyler Clippard has carried the Nationals' bullpen this year. He could be Washington's representative.

There are three ways Strasburg could make the team: His fellow players pick eight pitchers, including five starters. The manager fills out the staff of 13-14 pitchers. The final spot on the 34-man roster is picked by the fans in online voting.

I imagine Strasburg is ambivalent about the issue. He's a reserved 21-year-old who has been uneasy with all the attention that's come his way.

"I think Stephen is embarrassed by it a little bit," said Washington manager Jim Riggleman. "He has such great respect, not only for his teammates but for the whole league."

Putting Strasburg on the NL team would cause resentment among veterans who feel a deserving player missed his chance. It's not worth it.

Let the kid have the three days off. After everything he's been through in the last month, he can use the rest.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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