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 NEW YORK (AP) -Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn think it's a no-brainer: Barry Bonds deserves to be on the NL All-Star team.
``Yes, there's a shadow that's hanging over top of him. The commissioner and Hank Aaron are torn whether they should celebrate the breaking of the all-time home run record,'' Ripken said Tuesday. ``But when I think of Barry, I think of him as an All-Star player.''
Bonds began Tuesday with 749 homers, six shy of Aaron's record. After hitting 11 homers in his first 76 at-bats for the San Francisco Giants, he has four in 109 at-bats since.
Still, his .292 batting average leads Giants' regulars, and the 13-time All-Star outfielder tops the major leagues in on-base percentage (.498) and walks (75).
``There has to be one guy from each team, and there's no question, I think, he's having the best year on that team,'' Gwynn said. ``They're playing it in his home park. And I honestly think he deserves to be there.''
In the latest fan voting for starters at the July 10 game in San Francisco, Bonds was fourth with 1,213,423, trailing the New York Mets' Carlos Beltran (1,698,217), Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. (1,640,575) and the Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano (1,332,581).
Players vote eight more position player to the NL roster and the St. Louis Cardinals' Tony La Russa, the NL All-Star manager, selects three non-pitchers in conjunction with the commissioner's office.
Rosters will be announced Sunday from 4-5 p.m. EDT on TBS. Ripken and Gwynn, both set for induction to the Hall of Fame on July 29, are among the hosts.
``Like Cal said, there's always going to be a cloud hanging over Barry because of all the speculations, but you're talking about one of the two, three greatest players that ever played this game, and the game's in his ballpark,'' Gwynn said. ``I just completely believe he should be there.''
The pair repeatedly praised Bonds during a telephone conference call. Gwynn said there's no question that Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame.
``He's one of the most complete players probably to have ever played this game. I know he's the best player that I played against in my career,'' Gwynn said. ``I think he's good for baseball in the sense that he gives kids the opportunity to see what's possible on the baseball field every day, and there's an anticipation that happens when he comes up to the plate.''
While Bonds is a ``Hall of Fame-caliber player'' in Ripken's mind, he said the issue of whether Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs could be held against him by voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. While Ripken (98.5 percent) and Gwynn (97.6) easily gained election to the Hall, Mark McGwire appeared on just 23.5 percent of ballots.
``I'm someone that assumes innocent until proof is otherwise given. But having said that, the natural tendency is to be suspicious,'' Ripken said.
On another topic, Gwynn said Milwaukee's Prince Fielder and Detroit's Magglio Ordonez were his first-half MVPs, that Boston's Josh Beckett was the top AL pitcher and that San Diego's Jake Peavy and Philadelphia's Cole Hamels were tied as the best NL pitchers.
Ripken said the most impressive first-half players were Fielder and the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez.
Both predicted the Yankees will make the playoffs.
``They're going to get better as the year goes on,'' Ripken said. ``They've got too good of a team and they're pitching staff will become a little but more stabilized.''
Gwynn thinks they'll finish second to Boston in the AL East and win the wild card.
``I think they'll find a way to get in because good teams find a way to win games when it matters the most,'' he said.
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