Mothers, don't let your boys grow up to be first basemen. Not if they hope to be All-Stars.That admonition appears to be one of the things to take out of Sunday's Major League Baseball All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell. Where is Albert Pujols, the world's most feared hitter? He is an All-Star MIA -- Mainstay in Absentia. And mending from a fractured left wrist is no explanation; you can get picked, even if you can't play. But deserving Prince Fielder has the starting spot, and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto and the Marlins' Gaby Sanchez are on Bruce Bochy's bench. So Pujols and his eight-year All-Star Game streak -- every season 2003-2010, following his rookie selection in 2001 -- are out. So is a junior first-base playing member of the Mainstays Club, the Phillies' Ryan Howard (2006 and 2009-10), even though he ranks third in the Majors with 67 RBIs.
Their position is just as crowded in the American League. Adrian Gonzalez came across league lines to start and Miguel Cabrera is on the team again as a reserve. Left on the outside are Mark Teixeira and Paul Konerko -- although the White Sox captain is given another chance through the 2011 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint. And we won't even get into Tampa Bay first baseman Casey Kotchman, who is hitting .336.The player with the longest continuous All-Star Game streak left on the sidelines actually is Ichiro Suzuki, the Seattle outfielder who doesn't know what it's like to not travel to the Midsummer Classic. Ichiro has to fill his All-Star break for the first time, having been an All-Star every season since joining the Mariners in 2001, and is a nine-time AL starter. Unlike others who have gone MIA despite deserving performances, however, Ichiro would concede his numbers, normally off the charts, are simply off, period. He finished Sunday's play batting .272, which was 31 points lower than his career full-season worst (.303 in 2005, the only summer he was an All-Star reserve). "He's had a heck of a run," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge, saluting his team's centerpiece. "Ichiro has had a great career. He's worked hard this year to find it, to get back to being as productive as he's been in the past. He's still fighting that fight. "He comes to the ballpark each and every day and prepares like he prepares, and that's all you can do. He's been better here the last 2-3 weeks, and hopefully he can be more consistent in the second half for us." Several other familiar Midsummer Classic faces are missing, including a trio that was coming off back-to-back All-Star seasons: Outfielders Carl Crawford and Torii Hunter, All-Stars in 2009-10, and second baseman Chase Utley, who had a five-year streak dating back to 2006. Additionally, Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia missed out on a fifth All-Star berth despite being tied for the Major League lead with 11 wins. "I felt like I've had a pretty good first half," said Sabathia, a selfless sort who late last season deferred in the AL Cy Young Award race to the eventual winner, Felix Hernandez. "There's a lot of good guys pitching, though. Guys are having great years, so I'll just keep going." Also missing is another left-handed mainstay, Billy Wagner -- who has the only good excuse. Wagner retired following a 2010 season in which he was in an All-Star bullpen for the sixth time.