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Voters need to recognize Norris, Justin Upton

Padres catcher, left fielder worthy of All-Star Game recognition

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Fan voting for the All-Star Game is imperfect.

We knew this more than five decades ago when seven members of the 1957 Cincinnati Redlegs - yes, that was their nickname then because of the connection between Reds and communism -- were voted to the starting lineup for the National League All-Star team.

The only non-Cincinnati player elected to the starting lineup was St. Louis first baseman Stan Musial. Cincinnati outfielders Gus Bell and Wally Post were voted in over Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Cincinnati shortstop Roy McMillan got the nod over Ernie Banks. Redlegs third baseman Don Hoak won the vote over Milwaukee's Eddie Mathews.

The ballot boxes were stuffed with the help of the Cincinnati Enquirer - which printed and distributed pre-marked ballots with the newspaper on Sunday morning - and local businesses that refused service until patrons filled out a ballot.

Commissioner Ford Frick stepped in. He benched Post and Bell in favor of Aaron and Mays. Five other Redlegs - outfielder Frank Robinson, third baseman Don Hoak, catcher Ed Bailey, shortstop Roy McMillan and second baseman Johnny Temple - still started the game.

In the wake of the scandal, Frick did away with fan voting. Players, coaches and managers picked the All-Star teams until fan voting was reinstated in 1970.

There's another controversy brewing this season. Seven members of the Kansas City Royals are leading the American League voting. Four St.Louis Cardinals are headed for the National League starting lineup.

And two deserving Padres - catcher Derek Norris and left fielder Justin Upton - could be left out. Norris has climbed to fourth in the voting. Upton is sixth.

Norris is hitting .270 with seven homers and a Padres-leading 39 RBIs. He leads National League catchers in most offensive categories (including RBIs and 26 extra-base hits) plus a Major League-leading 20 runners caught stealing. On Friday night, Norris hit a two-run homer to give the Padres a 3-2 lead, threw out a Dodger trying to steal second and picked another run off second.

Upton is hitting .290 with 12 homers, 13 steals, 39 runs scored and 38 RBIs. He is the only hitter in the National League with 12 steals and homers and ranks fourth in the league in runs accounted for (65). He has a .373 on-base percentage and a .491 slugging percentage for a .864 OPS.

From the scorecard

•  Friday night marked the first time this season that the Padres fielded a starting lineup that included no one who was in the club's organization at the start of the 2014 season - first baseman Wil Myers, catcher Derek Norris, left fielder Justin Upton, right fielder Matt Kemp, second baseman Yangeris Solarte, third baseman Will Middlebrooks, center fielder Melvin Upton Jr., shortstop Clint Barmes and right-handed pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne. It was the second time this season that none of the nine starters were on the Padres' Opening Day roster in 2014.

• Left-handed pitcher Cory Luebke, who has had two Tommy John surgeries since he last pitched early in the 2012 season, will start and pitch one inning for high Single-A Lake Elsinore Saturday. Luebke, 30, was 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA after five starts and emerging as the Padres top pitcher when he injured his elbow. He had his first Tommy John surgery in 2012 and the second last season. Luebke has been in extended spring training in Arizona.

• Right-handed starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne allowed two runs (one earned) in 6 1/3 innings Friday night and has a 2.24 earned run average over his last five starts. He is 5-3 lifetime at Petco Park with a 2.66 ERA in 13 starts. In nine career games (seven starts) against National League West opponents, Despaigne is 4-0 with a 0.86 earned run average. He has allowed three earned runs over his last 40 innings against N.L. West opponents at Petco Park for a 0.68 ERA.

• Shortstop Clint Barmes is hitting .423 (11-for-26) over his last eight games. He is hitting .306 (11-for-26) this season in 18 games at Petco Park.

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