Wednesday, July 28, 2010

D. Lee - Loser, Part 2: ....And we have our answer

I had started out the day thinking about my post regarding Derrek Lee and the possibility that he'd veto any deal that would send him to a contender. One very plausible reason that Lee would veto a trade -- something I knew about but wasn't thinking of as I wrote my entry -- is because his daughter suffers from a rare disorder called Leber's Congenital Amaurosis. You can read more about Lee's Project 3000 here.

I would give Lee a pass here if I truly believed that was the reason, but there is some evidence to suggest that a bigger reason is just that Lee would prefer to draw his salary and finish out the season with the Cubs and doesn't care in the slightest about having a chance to compete down the stretch -- and of course rebuild some of his value as he heads into free agency.

The topic came up on WSCR's "The Mully and Hanley Show" this morning as the hosts spoke with Chicago Tribune baseball writer Phil Rogers. You can listen and judge for yourself, but to me, Rogers tone of voice confirmed what I've thought and written about -- that Lee doesn't put much importance on winning. Rogers even mentioned that when asked about going to a contender, Lee commented that he'd "...been on 100 loss teams before..." when he was in Florida. Hardly sounds like a guy that values the ring, huh?

And now we have proof as ESPN1000's Bruce Levine has confirmed that Lee will turn down any opportunity to join a contender, in spite of the fact that we know that both the Rangers and the Angels have inquired about making a deal. I can now say, with certainty, that Derrek Lee is the PERFECT poster child for the mess that the Cubs have become.

Monday, July 26, 2010

D. Lee: How to admit you're not a winner without actually saying so

When he was first traded to the Cubs, I thought that Derrek Lee was as classy of a player as there was in the NL. He also chose that time to start putting up some pretty impressive numbers, and so I thought the Cubs at least had a player around that I could root for. Now, in 2004, I was probably closer to being a bandwagon Cubs fan than I've ever been at any time in my life. Let me explain that real quick -- I grew up a Cards and a Yanks fan, but lost touch with baseball a bit when basketball was top dog in sports. I also drifted away from the Cards a bit because of some down years and then Tony La Russa's decision to force out my all time favorite player -- Ozzie Smith -- in favor of Royce Clayton. Had the Cards won the NLCS in '96 and faced the Yankees in the World Series, this point would be moot. 1996 was also the year I had moved to the Chicago area, and was dating my future wife, who is a HUGE Cubs fan. I had so much fun watching the 2003 post season through her (and other Cubs fans that I know) that it was tough not to get a little caught up in things. As 2004 opened, my wife and I made our first trip to Spring Training in Arizona, and it seemed like the Cubs were about to put it all together. Statistically speaking, they had a better year than many realize, but what you saw playing out in reality was a team built to win that had put itself in position to do just that -- and then choked the whole thing away with as unlikeable group of players as I've ever watched. Chief among them for me -- Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou and (possibly my least favorite player of all time) LaTroy Hawkins. In '05, I made the first of my yearly treks down to Busch Stadium -- this one for the final time at the second version of the park -- and it rekindled my love of the Cardinals.


(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Sorry, that was quite a tangent....but does speak to the respect I had for Derrek Lee. He's hit .282, averaged around 25-26 homers, stolen over 100 bases and driven in 983 runs in his Cubs career. He's played gold glove caliber defense for most of this time, and has won the award in '05 and '07. He also won the Silver Slugger award in '05. He had done all of this with a quiet grace, and I took him as a player coming into his own that lead by example. He was easy to root for. The one thing I always bristled at -- and, yes, largely because of my rooting interests -- was that the Cubs had their answer to Albert Pujols. Sorry, Derrek Lee has NEVER been anything other than a poor man's Pujols on his best days.

Earlier this week, Jayson Stark of ESPN tweeted the following:

A source who has known Lee for years says it's "highly doubtful" he'd waive his full no-trade to OK any deal at this stage.

My opinion of Lee has been on the decline over the last few seasons, and I think it may have bottomed out with this revelation. Obviously, until we get to the end of this season, we can't close the door on the topic, but to me, this confirms what I've started to suspect for the last couple of seasons -- that Derrek Lee just isn't a player that is driven to win. I started to notice a shift in his body language the last few years and saw signs that he was far to nonchalant towards the game. Sure, there were the flashes of anger as he'd slam his bat down after striking out at a key moment in a game or when he'd hit into a(nother) double play -- it got to a point where the sports media here in Chicago started calling him "DP Lee". He rebounded nicely in the second half last year and I thought his impending free agency coupled with the arrival of Rudy Jaramillo would be key factors in a big year for Lee.

That hasn't been the case. He's currently hitting .251 with 11 HR and 44 RBI. Not awful numbers, but not what you've come to expect from D-Lee. According to, his runs above replacement has dropped from 45 in '09 to 4 in '10. Pretty big drop, huh? His wins above replacement has slipped from 4.7 to .4 in the same time. I've also heard mention on WSCR (a Chicago sports/talk radio station) that both Lee and Aramis Ramirez were players that had refused instruction from Jaramillo earlier in the season. They may not have agreed with his teachings, but given the sluggish start both players got off to, there is no earthly reason why you wouldn't talk to your hitting coach to see what he might suggest.

If Lee refuses to be traded to a contender, that cements it for me. (How could a Southern Cal native not see the benefit of playing in LA?) He's just another player out there who puts up good numbers, plays the game well during his time and then fades into the background after he retires. I think Lee has the talent to have been an all time great player -- if not at least an all time great Cub. As it is, I don't think he'll be all that fondly remembered....He'll be missed next year certainly, but 10 years from now, I don't think he pops to mind as a defining player of this current Cubs team. And that's too bad, because I think we're seeing proof that he is all too good a representative of this decade's Cubs -- talented, capable, but ultimately forgettable.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I-55 Showdown, Lou Retires, Cards Finally Lose a Game

The Cardinals opened the second half with 8 consecutive wins. During the run, they played as well as they have all season. The offense, for the most part, resembled the one that we all expected coming into the season. The most gratifying of the wins in this stretch was a come-from-behind win vs. the Dodgers last Sunday -- all with Albert Pujols taking a much deserved day off. Birthday boy Allen Craig filled in at first and had a big day -- driving in 3 runs, including the tying run. Matt Holliday, who is starting to look like a player worthy of being a team's highest paid, drove in the winning run. The Cards followed up the sweep of the Dodgers by taking 3 of 4 from the reeling Phillies before falling 2-0 in extra innings yesterday. From here, the scene shifts to Chicago as the I-55 rivalry is renewed. I've said time and again that for my money this is the best rivalry in baseball. The one element truly missing, however, is that it is extremely rare to have both teams in position to win it all. The last time this rivalry was ratcheted up due to a playoff berth was 2003. Both teams have been in the mix since, but that was the last time that you saw the off-field quotes that make a rivalry all it can be.

We also learned this week that Cubs manager, Lou Piniella, has decided to hang it up after this year. His time in Chicago hasn't been as successful as many had hoped. He did lead the Cubs to two consecutive division titles in '07 and '08, but both times the team was swept out of the playoffs. In '09, it was the Cardinals turn to win the division and get swept by a team from the NL West. 2010 has seen the Cubs underperform at almost every turn, so it comes as no surprise that Lou is ready to move on.

So the spotlight in Chicago shifts to the search for a new manager. Many expect Hall of Fame 2B Ryne Sandberg to take over, as he's paid his dues managing in the Cubs minor league system for the past 4 years, working his way up from low A to the AAA Iowa Cubs. I've had the pleasure of seeing him manage several games at for the single A Peoria Chiefs, and have to say that I'm surprised at the great job he did working with the young players. That said, I really hope that he doesn't get the job. I am always of the belief that your franchises great players get nothing but trouble when they return to manage/coach their team. Too often, you're just setting yourself up to boo and ultimately fire one of your great players. With apologies to Cubs fans that might read this, I really don't see the Cubs being World Series contenders over the next few years, and in this day and age, no manager gets long to prove he's the right man for the job. I would expect the 2011 Cubs to be similar to the 2010 edition, so you've already got one down season for Ryno if he gets the job. It could be as soon as 2012, then, that you start to wonder about his job security. Ryno's been far too classy of a player and now manager to put him through that.

I do think the Cubs need to promote the guy, though, and would think making him the bench coach/manager in waiting is a good move. Some other names that have been floated are Joe Girardi, Joe Torre, Bob Brenly, Pat Listach and Freddi Gonzalez. I'd be shocked of Girardi leaves the Yankees for the Cubs -- even though he is an Illinois native and began his baseball career with the Cubs. Torre would be intriguing, and would be amenable to a shorter term deal, but the fact that he'd be replacing a retiree that is younger than he is to manage a team that doesn't appear to be WS ready -- well, that makes me skeptical. I don't know much about Listach, who currently coaches for the Nationals. Gonzalez is believed to be the man that will replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta.

That leaves Brenly, and I really believe he'd be a fine choice. He's better equipped to ride out some of the bad contracts as the team phases out some of its veteran players (Soriano, Zambrano, Ramirez) in favor of a younger team (Castro, Colvin, Wells). I think Ryno would have a great influence on these guys, and Brenly's no-nonsense, "Just play hard" attitude would help to teach them the right way to play like a big leaguer. A younger Piniella would likely have been better for them, but you sense that he came to Chicago thinking a title was almost assured and that he didn't have much to do besides sit on the bench and let it all come together. Not to suggest that he hasn't done a better job than many give him credit for -- winning the division two years in a row is an accomplishment that you can't really discredit. But I also don't think this is the same guy that managed Cinci to a title and turned the Mariners into perennial contenders.

But first things first, the Cardinals are in town. I expect the Cardinals to take 2 of 3, losing on Friday, then winning both weekend games. No matter what, it will be a great weekend for baseball.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

As it often goes in New York, much ado about nothing.

The Yankees said their official goodbye to George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard last night, and as always, the Yankees do these things in a way few other teams can match. The ceremony was followed with a thrilling walk-off win as Nick Swisher delivered a game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth. Earlier in the day, New York papers made an issue out of the fact that none of the current or former Yankees players attended the funeral of Bob Sheppard, and have made a particularly big deal out of the fact that Derek Jeter did not attend the service as the team's representative.

I understand the point, and while I'm mildly surprised by it, this is just one of those things that proves that players in New York deal with media pressure that few other markets can match. Especially in the case of Jeter, you are a little surprised, because he's crafted a public persona that exudes class and he always seems to know the right thing to do. At the same time, we tend to forget that its not at all uncommon for people to deal with these types of situations in their own way, as Jeter and Joe Girardi both suggested before and after yesterday's game. So I agree that it is a little surprising to see the franchise that does ceremony so well not send at least one player to the funeral, I really don't see why its the big deal that it is being made out to be.

In the same article about Jeter, the point is made that the game was a fitting tribute to the Boss, but that it would have been even more perfect if Jeter had been the hero of the game. Personally, I think it was more fitting that Swisher was the hero, because he is a perfect metaphor for what has been so right about the latter half of the Steinbrenner reign and what was so off about the lowpoint in the 80's. For all the talk of the Yankees buying their championships, they have had their greatest success when the team is built around homegrown players and guys that were acquired through shrewd trades. You've got the core four players (Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera) along with other farm products like Cano and Gardner. There are the big names of A-Rod, Teixeira and Sabathia -- the Yankees have always signed big name players -- but its moves like Swisher that really make this a team that I root for. The same could be said for the Torre lead dynasty. Swisher, to some degree, reminds me a bit of Paul O'Neill. I don't mean to suggest that Swisher is as good as O'Neill was, but when the Yankees sent Roberto Kelly to Cinci for Paulie, O'Neill wasn't an every day player. He wasn't one for his first season or two with the Yankees, either. Swisher wasn't supposed to be one, but became one after an injury to Xavier Nady opened up more playing time.

Swisher has responded to playing in New York, and you can bet that the Boss would have had kind words for his play over the last season and a half. He's far from the best player on the team, but he's been as important to the Yankees success in 2009 and 2010 as any player out there.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All Star reaction, Odds & Ends

The 2010 All Star Game is in the books. The streak is over. The NL finally won a game. Ding dong the witch is dead.

Honestly, I thought it was a good game. It kept me watching, which isn't always the case with these exhibitions. I've already blogged about things I don't like about the affair, but the game itself is always fun for me. As a kid, I used to marvel at seeing all of the different uniforms, seeing all of these great players that I idolized playing on the same team. I'm sure this will come off as a little cliche and really sappy, but I still get that feeling watching the teams come out -- even if FOX does try to sap ever ounce of enjoyment out of the telecast by making the pre-game drone on and on. Didn't mind the "All Stars Among Us" stuff, but do we really need a cast member of Glee out singing extra songs? She did a great job with the anthem, but I guess I've grown a bit weary of anything to do with that show.

But, yeah, the NL did it. So whichever team decides to play well enough to represent the NL gets home field advantage. I still hate that wrinkle, by the way. If I had to choose right now, I'd say that the Yankees and Braves will meet in the World Series this year -- and I say that with an attempt to strip away as much bias as I can. I'd love to say Cardinals/Yankees in the WS, but honestly, don't want that to happen because I don't want to be forced into rooting against one of my favorite teams, and I just don't think the Cards are playing well enough to get there. There's a lot of time, obviously, to change that, but as of the 1/2 way point, doesn't look like they are going to get the job done.

I haven't been as active the last few days, so a few random thoughts -- some baseball, some not:
  1. It has been a horrible year for Cubs fans, but Marlon Byrd has been a pleasant surprise. I thought he'd be a bust for Chicago, but as it is, he's the one player on that team that I enjoy watching this year. Glad to see him come up big in last night's game.
  2. I know the LeBron/Wade/Bosh thing is old news by now, but that introduction ceremony? C'mon -- even the Yankees don't trot guys out like that. It made Jason Giambi crying as he put on his pinstriped jersey look positively normal. I was always taught that as you play sports you should always act like you've done good things before and expect to do them again. I think that also includes don't celebrate like you've won a championship when you just signed a couple of players -- no matter who they are.
  3. Sticking in the NBA -- Kyle Korver has a new fan in me for having the guts to stand up at a press conference to announce his signing with the Bulls and admit that he hated Jordan and the "Unbeata-Bulls". Good job, Kyle. I love it.
  4. Also had no problem with Joey Votto saying he didn't congratulate Byrd because he's a Cub. Maybe not the classiest moment ever, but all sports are better off when there's animosity between teams and players. There's far too much back slapping and chit chat these days.
  5. Wrote a full post on Steinbrenner, but one more note on the guy....I think he was great for baseball and he made the Yankees great for baseball. I know most people hated him and hate his team, but that's what is good about them. Love 'em or hate 'em, you tune in to watch 'em. That's good for the game no matter how you slice it.
  6. Speaking of the Yanks -- people were up in arms as they ALMOST traded for Cliff Lee last week. "The Rich Get Richer" is what I heard from a few friends. Look, I get why the Yankees and their payroll are not popular, but when you've got the prospects to get a deal done, it has nothing to do with the rich getting richer. It has to do with smart baseball people understanding how to market the talent in their farm system. When they sign Cliff Lee to a big contract during the offseason, complain all you want. Until then, understand that trading is about having what the other team needs, not flexing your financial muscle.
  7. Another note on that topic....How come nobody ever cites the fact that other teams contribute to the problem? I apologize for picking on the Cubs again -- well, no I don't -- but look at the deal they gave Soriano. No one else was offering anywhere near that much money. So after that deal, there were a bunch of players saying "I think I'm worth Soriano money." During the same off season, they overpaid for Mark DeRosa, which in hindsight worked out well, but at the time was questioned by writers here in Chicago. They also overpaid for Jason Marquis. The next year they extended Zambrano's contract and spent too much on Milton Bradley. I know that some of the spending is done to "keep up with the Jones" -- or Steinbrenners as the case may be -- but its always the Yankees fault when you talk about the contracts. Not arguing that the Yankees don't deserve a bigger share of the blame, just pointing out that a lot of teams give out a lot of dumb contracts that end up driving the asking prices higher, and soon you get the Yankees signing Teixeira, Sabathia and Burnett and most teams can't afford one of those guys.
  8. I love the World Cup, but the final was brutal. Still, I am going through some serious withdrawal and can't wait for the Premier League to start back up in August. There are two things that I won't miss about the World Cup.....Soccer snobs who tell me I can't properly enjoy the game because I didn't play and American sportswriters tripping all over each other to say how boring the game is and that it's still not "on the rise" in this country. Both camps -- go away now. The snobs do more to hurt fandom over here, and the writers should be ashamed for going to the same well every four years. Come up with something new already.
  9. Ok, a non-sports diversion. Last September, they re-released the Beatles' catalog, and I've been slowly updating my collection. I bought the remastered White Album today -- which has a lot of great music, but as a whole has never been my favorite Beatles album (Abbey Road is far and away my favorite, followed by Revolver, then Sgt. Peppers, then Rubber Soul). Listened to it during my afternoon commute, and was struck by 2 things: (a) Even when they weren't at their best, the Beatles made more interesting music than most could only dream of and (b) I have yet to find a double album that wouldn't be better as a single album. I mean, if the greatest band ever can't make a great one, who can?
  10. Almost forgot -- Bob Sheppard. I have only been fortunate enough to go to Yankee Stadium (the old one) once. It was back in 2000 and I saw the Yanks and Clemens face a young Barry Zito and the A's with some tickets that a co-worker had been given. The Yanks were losing 2-1 late in the game, when my co-worker says "It's a school night for us. Do you mind if we take off at the end of the 7th?" No problem -- I was sure that I was jinxing them, and we did have an hour's drive back out to CT. So we leave, get to the car and turn on the radio to hear the end of the game. Right as we turn it on, we hear David Justice hit a home run to win the game in the 9th. The two things I'll always remember from that night are that you don't ever leave a game early and Bob Sheppard's voice is even more amazing in person. I'm glad I got to hear it for myself at least one time.
Thanks for reading.

The Boss

(Photo courtesy of the NY Daily News)

I had intended to put this up last night, but a failing wireless router and a more-entertaining-than-I-expected All Star Game got the better of my evening.

It's hardly news at this point that George M. Steinbrenner III passed away on Tuesday after suffering a massive heart attack. It was widely reported over the last few years that his health was slipping, but this was a bit of a shock just the same. To paraphrase Derek Jeter at the All Star Game -- you just always thought the Boss would be there.

Many tributes have already been written, and will be far more eloquent than anything I could come up with, so I won't waste much space actually eulogizing the man. I will say that the news hit me a bit harder than I really suspected. Growing up in the 80's, I'd have probably been counted among those that didn't like the guy -- although I wasn't old enough to really understand much about him. Most of my opinions at that time were formed by what I'd heard my Dad say, and he thought he was a jerk. I believe most Yankees fans -- I guess I should say most baseball fans -- thought he was just this side of the devil, if not Satan himself. He was loud, boisterous, intolerant, quick tempered, and he pushed baseball into an age where most consider players to be overpaid jerks who are out of touch with reality. And, in truth, the 80's were years where I was a much bigger Cardinals fan than I was a Yankees fan (though I did always claim both teams). I should also point out that during this time, I fancied myself as a future NBA star -- a thought that is so far beyond laughable if you know me that I have to laugh as I type that -- and was far more invested in the Boston Celtics and the NBA at the time than I was in baseball.

As the 90's opened, I did start to follow the game a bit more closely, and was among those that wasn't all too upset when George was banned from the game. Of course, this also coincided with Buck Showalter and Gene Michael gaining control of baseball operations and starting to turn the franchise around. When Steinbrenner did come back, he balanced the larger than life personna that many saw with a guy who would let his baseball people do their jobs, and we all know how that turned out. He somewhat reclaimed his free spending ways after losing the World Series in 2001, and I've always maintained that is why the team didn't win it all again until 2009. By this time, Hank and Hal had taken over things, so while "Big Stein" was still in the picture, he wasn't the force he'd been in the past.

Over the last two days, we've been flooded with story after story about what a giving man he was, how nice he could be -- if you didn't work for him -- and how he was great for baseball. The most descriptive word that keeps popping up to describe him is "complex"....which is completely appropriate, because you also heard reminders that he was twice suspended from baseball -- once for illegal campaign donations and then again when he'd paid a gambler to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. And no mention of Steinbrenner would be complete without talking about how he fired manager after manager after manager.

When someone passes away, we have a tendency to focus on the positives of the person. It is hard to do that with a guy like the Boss. When he was banned from baseball the second time, Yankees fans at the old stadium stood and applauded for 90 seconds. Yet, if you polled most Yankees fans today, I think the majority (myself included) would say they liked the Boss and will genuinely miss him. And I think most honest baseball fans would admit that among the reasons they hated the guy was the fact that didn't own their favorite team. He was a flawed man, and you couldn't always understand why he did things he did. But, you hear a story of how he interacted with kids, made an employee's mom feel like she was the most important person at a game or picked up a the tuition for the child of one of his fired office employees and you realize that for all of the negatives you could throw out he really was a decent person. Even a Boston sports writer wrote a touching tribute to the Boss. My favorite part of the article is when he points out that the Red Sox were better for having Steinbrenner's Yankees to keep up with -- a point that is true of many teams in baseball. Some of us loved him, many of us hated him, and often times we did both. He helped change baseball from the game that our fathers grew up with into the game that we know and love today.

R.I.P. Big Stein. We'll miss you.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Getting caught up.....

Started out the week intending to continue commenting on the All Star Selections, specifically how I don't think Strasburg is among the "snubs". I started writing that last Sunday night, and here we are a week later, and haven't finished that thought. In lieu of a bunch of disjointed posts, I thought I'd just get a bit caught up on things I had wanted to cover over the last week.

  • All Stars -- I know that many wanted to see Strasburg make the NL team - and he might yet be an injury sub - but I don't think it was a big deal that he was left off. In fact, I think there are a number of more deserving young pitchers that have earned a spot ahead of him. Jaime Garcia, Matt Latos and Tyler Clippard all deserve to be there.
  • I know that Ubaldo Jimenez is the choice of most to start for the NL, but I think Josh Johnson has been the better starter. Of course, hard to argue with 15 wins.
  • Felt like 1999 again on Wednesday, as a record number of HRs were hit. Remember when it was like this EVERY night?
  • We almost saw a near perfect game last night (Saturday) as Reds rookie Tim Wood carried the Perfecto all the way until the bottom of the 9th. While he was more hittable, Roy Halladay matched Wood with zeroes all the way, and the Phillied ended up prevailing in extra innings. I really felt bad for Wood -- as you almost feel like this is a game that could end up having a negative effect in the long run, because he almost certainly feels like he let his team down in the end.
  • Wood is just the latest rookie to have an impressive night. Rookies have been the big story this year, and I can't remember a year that has been dominated by youngsters like 2010 has. Here is a quick rundown of what a rookie All Star team might look like. Don't think this would be a bad team at all....
  1. Catcher - Carlos Santana - CLE - Only hitting .425 through 29 games. Buster Posey could back him up. You lose some on offense with him....he's only hitting .389 through 38 games.
  2. First Base - Ike Davis - NYM - The guy that Mets brass wanted to shield from being viewed as the savior of the club keyed the team's turnaround by hitting .337 with 11 HR and 40 RBI in his first 75 games.
  3. Second Base - Scott Sizemore - DET or Neil Walker - PIT - Weaker position for the rookie class, but both of these guys have serious potential and are hitting at or near .300.
  4. Third Base - David Freese - STL - OK, giving the nod to my team over the more hyped Pedro Alvarez. But Freese earns it, checking in hitting .361 with 4 HR and 36 RBI.
  5. Shortstop - Starlin Castro - CHC - He's been a brighter spot for a struggling Cubs squad, and drove in 6 runs in his debut. He has struggled a bit after his first night, but he's only 20.
  6. Outfielders - Jason Heyward - ATL, Tyler Colvin - CHC, Brennan Boesch - DET - Heyward is the most known of the trio, but Colvin has played his way into regular playing time in recent weeks. Boesch has the best stats of the three with a .397 average, 12 HR and 49 RBI.
  7. Starters - Jaime Garcia - STL, Mike Leake - CIN, Stephen Strasburg - WAS. Garcia has been as dependable as any starter for the Cardinals, and has stepped up with 8 wins after injuries to Kyle Loshe and Brad Penny. Leake make the Reds opening day roster bypassing the minors completely and has already racked up 109.2 innings and 6 wins. Strasburg, of course, is THE guy we were all waiting for, and he has not disappointed. While I'll continue to make the case that others are more deserving of All Star spots, there is no denying that Strasburg has lived up to the hype through his first several starts and looks like he could turn out to be a once in a lifetime type of player.
  8. Relievers - Neftali Perez - TEX - Perez has 23 saves for the first place Rangers. When baseball Pundits spoke of him early on, you hear the classic phrase "...his stuff is nasty."
Now we head into the All Star Break....the Home Run derby is on tap for tomorrow night -- an event that really isn't as exciting as it used to be, and something promises to give us several more hours of Chris Berman than anyone this side of his mother really cares to listen to in a single evening. But, despite my complaints, I usually watch and generally enjoy the event. The game itself should be interesting. We have a great mix of veteran and new talent at the game, and I really am rooting for the NL to finally break through and win one. See you on the other side of the break, and as ever, thanks for reading.

** Stats courtesty of **

Fix this please....

I have no doubts that by the time we sit down to watch the 2010 All Star Game, many of the "crimes" committed with the initial roster will have been corrected. I enjoy the debate, but usually feel like too much fuss is made over the rosters. This year is proving to be an exception, as we've seen a few head scratchers. The biggest one, and the one that tips me to the side of really being annoyed, is Omar Infante. I have nothing against Infante -- I like him as a player, recognize his value to the Braves, and generally root for these types of guys to do well. But, aside from a week or two when he was filling in for an injured Chipper, Prado or Escobar, he hasn't come close to resembling an everyday player. But Infante was chosen for the game, while the likes of Joey Votto -- arguably the second best first baseman in the NL -- sits at home. Most opinions, mine included, point to this being an attempt by NL Manager Charlie Manuel to add some flexibility to his roster to try to end the NL's losing streak. Of course, as we all know, this game "counts", and I've always felt that it was one of the dumber wrinkles that we've been subjected to during the "Reign of Bud". Of course, he is listed on the ballot for the final vote, and has an early lead, so hopefully, the fans will get this one right. No guarantees, though, because when you look at the list for the final NL spot you realize that everyone listed deserves to be there over Infante.

Selig and Fox long for the days of Pete Rose bowling over Ray Fosse (in the 1970 All Star Game). The fact of the matter is that today's player just doesn't approach the game the way that guys did back in the 70's. In Rose's day, a passion bordering on obsession was a must for a major leaguer -- after all, many players still needed jobs in the off season to get buy. Even the lowest paid players in today's game make salaries that are out of the common man's reach. Your body is what you depend on to bring in that money, and you can understand why the idea of a break in the middle of a long season might be appealing. You can also understand why a guy like A-Rod (who, like Infante, is going to Anaheim while more deserving players are left on the outside) might simply let himself be tagged out rather than trying to knock the ball out of Yadier Molina's hand. We can long for these days all we want, but they're not coming back. The game is different now, and trying to put artificial importance on what's approached as an exhibition is foolish.

The real baseball fans are going to watch the game no matter what -- even if the game moves to ESPN or MLB Network. The fringe fans are going to lose interest at some point, and home field in the World Series won't change that. You can argue that it works as a short term fix, but I don't think it works long term.

We'll always have room for debate when it comes to the All Star Roster, and it adds as much fun to the process as frustration. Debate is fun, but Bud's attempt to place importance on an unimportant game is starting to move past debate and leaving us with a serious injustice.