Posted on: July 16, 2008 4:01 am

Oh no -- not Milwaukee again!

NEW YORK -- It was shades of Milwaukee in the wee hours Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, and not in a good way.

Lovely town, Milwaukee, but baseball is still scarred from the embarrassing All-Star tie played there in 2002. And as the AL and NL were deadlocked in the 15th inning in the 79th All-Star Game, each manager had called on his last available pitcher -- Scott Kazmir in the AL, and Brad Lidge in the NL.

Things were so grim in the NL dugout, especially with San Francisco's Tim Lincecum unable to pitch because he was stricken with the flu Tuesday, that Cubs closer Kerry Wood volunteered. Wood was taken off of the active roster because of a blister on his right index finger, but he was here in uniform.

"I asked if I could go, but I don't think I was an option," Wood said. "I think because they had taken me off of the active roster."

He asked bench coach -- and Cubs manager -- Lou Piniella, and the two of them were stumped for a minute.

"Maybe," Piniella told Wood, on the basis of Lincecum being out.

While that was left unclear -- Wood never did even go down to the bullpen and warm up, let alone pitch in the game -- NL manager Clint Hurdle was dangerously close to asking Mets third baseman David Wright to make his major-league pitching debut had the game gone much further.

"I told David, 'You were the last pick, I went and got you, have you ever pitched in an All-Star Game?'" Hurdle said. "I said, 'You wanted to be in this thing, that's all I've read, all I've heard for the last three days. You won't believe how much you might be in it here real quick.'"

Wright's response?

"Let's go."

Indications were, though, that there was no way the game was going to let another Milwaukee occur.

"We were told the game would find a way to finish itself," Hurdle said. "I'm good with that. That's communication. Black and white. Plain and simple. We knew that going in. We talked about it before the game."


It was only the second walk-off victory for the AL in All-Star history, the other one coming in 1941.

And in a statistical oddity -- the Elias Sports Bureau dug this up -- the NL fielded a lineup Tuesday that included Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters with batting averages  of .340 or higher for the first time in an All-Star Game since ... 1941.

Back then,  the AL batted Joe DiMaggio (.357) third, Ted Williams (.405) fourth and Cleveland's Jeff Heath (.371) fifth. Tuesday, the NL batted Lance Berkman (.347) third, Albert Pujols (.350) fourth, Chipper Jones (.376) fifth.

The AL won that '41 game on Williams' game-ending homer.


Go figure: When the game got late and the lineups got crazy, NL manager Clint Hurdle moved Cristian Guzman to third base. Guzman has started more than 1,000 major-league games at shortstop, but had never played third. He made a terrific play on a Carlos Quentin chopper to end the 11th.


The NL had been 9-0-1 in All-Star extra inning games.


Posted on: July 15, 2008 8:09 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2008 8:10 pm

As the All-Star Crow flies

NEW YORK -- Talk about your perfect paparazzi moments: Slugger Alex Rodriguez planting an autograph on rocker Sheryl Crow's baseball just in front of the American League dugout during batting practice before Tuesday's All-Star Game.

Crow was at Yankee Stadium to sing the national anthem and to help promote baseball's campaign to raise money for cancer research, Stand Up To Cancer.

So, you bet she and A-Rod were surrounded by television cameras and photographers on the jam-packed field, and they smiled pretty for the cameras.

I caught up with Crow a few minutes later and couldn't resist. This is how rumors start, Sheryl: Today Madonna, tomorrow Sheryl Crow. ...

"Listen, you don't get bigger than Madonna," the pretty and personable Crow said, smiling. "So I'm pretty certain that that rumor would die pretty quickly."

Crow spent much of the AL's allotted batting practice time on the field and played the part of your average autograph hunter. Well, as average as you can get with gold records and million-dollar compact disc sales.

I asked her whether she'd sold the A-Rod autographed ball yet, and she joked, "I intend to put it on e-Bay as soon as I get home."

Then she turned serious and said, "Let me tell you, I've got a couple of nephews, 9 and 11, and they'll be worshiping the ground I walk on when I get home with these baseballs.

"This is really a thrill for me. I'm a big Cardinals fan, and I want to make sure I walk out of here with Albert Pujols' autograph."

She seemed to know her baseball. She grew up in Missouri -- thus, her Cardinals interest -- and she wasn't just some chick who scored a field pass. She even asked Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox for his autograph.

"I grew up watching the Cardinals," she said. "Later on, I got to know a lot of those players -- Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Andy Van Slyke. I've always been a fan."

So much so, it turns out, she even knows the nicknames.

"I've got to get Big Papi's or I won't be able to get in the house when I get home," she said. "My 9-year-old nephew will kill me."

She missed David Ortiz on the field. But not long after the AL went inside, someone grabbed Ortiz and told him Crow would love his autograph, and she was waiting outside the clubhouse.

Ortiz, who can't play because of his wrist and is here just to soak up the sun, went out and obliged.

And Crow? Well, the All-Star Game will be played in St. Louis in 2009, you know.

Might a certain Missouri-native singer be in attendance?

Said Crow: "Absolutely."

Posted on: July 15, 2008 4:29 pm

Of All-Stars, fathers, sons and the big night

NEW YORK -- I'm sitting here in the Yankee Stadium press box more than four hours before tonight's All-Star Game, and it's one of my favorite times of day. Early afternoon, when the ballpark is quiet, with just the very early signs of it stirring to life.

Outside, it's a mob scene here in New York and if you get a chance to be in front of the television and get a look at the pre-game show, from what I'm hearing, you should make sure to see it.

More than 40 Hall of Famers are here for a special pre-game ceremony, and -- careful, spoiler alert -- it sounds like they're going emerge from Monument Park as they're being introduced to the sold-out crowd of some 55,000, and walk across the outfield before taking their positions -- whatever position they played.

Anyway, there are just a few TV folks down on the field now. Actually, they're off to the side, in front of the dugouts. Aside from a couple of groundskeepers, the only folks on the infield are Yankees manager Joe Girardi and his son Dante, 6. Girardi was pitching to Dante a little bit ago, then Dante went out to third base and Girardi hit him several ground balls and pop-ups.

Now Dante is pitching to his pop, though with that little arm, he's not exactly all the way back to the mound. What a nice moment it is, before the big stadium lights come on later and the noise level rises and the stakes get higher.

Yes, this time it counts, again. And here are just a couple of other items as we head toward first pitch:

-- Commissioner Bud Selig, at a lunch with the Baseball Writers' Assn. of America, said he's fully committed to keeping the current format in which the All-Star Game winner decides World Series home-field advantage. "It's restored intensity to the sport," Selig said. "You don't hear people bitching and whining anymore about coming to the game. There was a time in the 1990s where people didn't want to come. Players were gone by the third or fourth inning." Hey Frank Thomas, your ears burning?

-- Selig said he thinks Florida will have a stadium soon. And he said Oakland needs one. "They need a new ballpark. There were people in the '70s who thought they needed a new ballpark, and they got Charley (Finley, the old owner) instead," Selig quipped.

-- He danced around the topic of the Yankees charging up to $2,000 a ticket for games in their new ballpark next year. Yes, you read that right. The lowest ticket in new Yankee Stadium is expected to go for $50. Hey family of four, good luck. "I am sensitive to ticket prices and, for the most part, I'm very proud of what clubs have done," he said. "You always assume the club is sensitive to its local market and knows it's market and will do what works in its market. I'm going to give both the Yankees and Mets their due in that regard. Life had changed. When I ran a club (Milwaukee), in the '70s and '80s I used to sit and agonize for months over a quarter raise (in ticket prices)."

-- Good line from NL manager Clint Hurdle the other day discussing how he put his starting lineup together: "I tried to combine some speed and some power, tried to have length in the lineup, had all that from top to bottom. And you look at the numbers that many of these men have put up, you know, I'm a big fan, I hear a lot about OPS, OBP ... I'm a big fan of G-U-T-S. I like guts."

Posted on: July 15, 2008 4:06 pm

Cheater? Perry says his case different from Bonds

NEW YORK -- If Barry Bonds never plays again, and his agent says prospects certainly look "bleak" at this point, he'll become eligible for the Hall of Fame following the 2012 season.

And for those who say Bonds should be inducted because there are folks already enshrined in Cooperstown who cheated, one guy has a pretty interesting take.

Guy who often serves as Exhibit A for those who may have gained entrance to the Hall with the help of foreign substances, in fact.

"I think whoever says that doesn't know what they're talking about," says Gaylord Perry, who gained fame for allegedly loading up baseballs with Vaseline. "It's such a different thing to talk about. Many guys threw the pitch I was accused of throwing.

"I played with Barry's dad, I knew his mom. I'm very fond of his family. He's got to wait awhile. ... He was a great, great hitter, a great player. He was the MVP five, six, seven times (seven is correct).

"I think they'll make him wait awhile, and that will be the punishment he'll have to take."

Though Perry, in town with more than 40 other Hall of Famers for the All-Star Game, hears all the time that players from the Steroids Era shouldn't be penalized in Hall of Fame voting because Perry rode his spitball all the way to Cooperstown, he says he's not insulted.

"No, people who compare those two don't know what they're talking about," Perry says. "It's like comparing steroids with corked bats. There's no comparison. Or with stealing signs. There's a difference.

"If a guy is going to put down one finger for a fastball and you see it, you're going to tell your teammates, right?"

Perry says he's regularly approached by pitchers today who quiz him on what tricks he may have mastered in doctoring the baseball. And he says he's happy to oblige.

"Oh yeah," he says. "I tell them some good stuff. I know they want to survive in the big leagues.

"It's called survival. Most every time you get around ballplayers, they want to talk about it."


Category: MLB
Posted on: July 15, 2008 3:43 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2008 3:44 pm

Gossage: Rivera, not Papelbon, should close

NEW YORK -- Mariano Rivera or Jonathan Papelbon as the possible All-Star closer in tonight's All-Star Game, which is doubling as a sort of national farewell to Yankee Stadium?

Goose Gossage, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this month, scoffs at any whiff of controversy.

And this being New York, you bet there was controversy. The back page of the New York Daily News on Tuesday screamed "Papelbum!" and ripped him for saying he should close over Rivera

It was a classic case of taking things out of context. Yes, Papelbon said Monday he'd love to close. Yes, he said, every player is going to stick up for himself and think he should play.

But he also paid his respect to Rivera, and he acknowledged that sometimes in this game you must pay your dues, and noted that maybe this is his dues-paying time.

"Oh, I think Mariano should close it out," Gossage, the former Yankees closer, said at a gathering of Hall of Famers on Tuesday before the legends were to appear during an All-Star pre-game ceremony. "If we were in Fenway Park, then (Papelbon) should close it out.

"He's way off track on this one. He's full of s---. I like Papelbon, but he's way off base on this one."

As for himself, Gossage, who is emotional when he talks of the end of Yankee Stadium, said he still wouldn't trade anything for the opportunity to come back and work the ninth in tonight's final All-Star Game in The Stadium.

"I've closed out enough games," he said. "Mariano is the heir apparent to the finality here. I can't believe Papelbon said he should close. That's a no-brainer, man."

As for the goliath new Yankee Stadium under construction next door, Gossage said it looks nice, but it still can't substitute for actually playing on the same grounds on which the Babe, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle played.

"It's too bad tear this stadium down and take the new one on rollers and plop it down in the same place the old one is," Gossage said. "Seems like with the technology we have today, you could do that. ...

"It's amazing. I can't imagine not ever playing here again."


Posted on: July 14, 2008 10:40 pm

Canadian influx to All-Star Game

NEW YORK -- You probably are well aware of the influx of major-league  players from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.

But did you know there are three players represented at the All-Star Game from ... Canada?

It's true.

Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster was born in British Columbia.

Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was, too.

And Dodgers catcher Russell Martin is from Montreal.

"Pretty exciting," Morneau said. "It's pretty cool. That's something we're definitely proud of."

Posted on: July 14, 2008 10:32 pm

Making nice in AL Central

NEW YORK -- The skies are even friendlier, apparently, on Tiger Airlines.

After Minnesota finished taking three of four in Detroit over the weekend, the three Twins' All-Star representatives -- first baseman Justin Morneau, catcher Joe Mauer and closer Joe Nathan -- were invited by Tigers manager Jim Leyland to fly to New York on a special charter.

It was Detroit owner Mike Ilitch's private plane, which the Little Caesar's pizza magnate had arranged to fly Leyland, an All-Star coach, and infielder Carlos Guillen to New York.

"That was really nice of him," Mauer said. "We got a little delayed, but it was really nice of him to do."

Air Ilitch, like many other planes carrying All-Stars, was delayed by a couple of hours Sunday night because of thunderstorms in the New York area.

"Saved us from having to go through security at the airport," Morneau said.  "Leyland is a great guy. He's a great manager. I don't know if I was driving him nuts or not. I was asking him questions the whole flight."

Among the things Morneau wanted to know: Who's the best player Leyland ever managed?

Answer: Barry Bonds. "Hands down," Leyland told Morneau.


Posted on: July 14, 2008 10:20 pm

Rivera must close All-Star Game ... right?

NEW YORK -- Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon spoke Tuesday as if he thinks he's got a chance to pitch in a save situation in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's All-Star Game, and maybe he will.

If Yankees closer Mariano Rivera suddenly disappears into thin air.

One of the best storylines here this week is the chance for Rivera to collect a save in Tuesday's All-Star Game, possibly the final big-stage event in Yankee Stadium history.

C'mon, Jonathan, do you think AL manager Terry Francona would get out of New York alive if he opted for you instead of Rivera, given the time and place?

"You're starting to scare me with that question," Papelbon quipped Monday. "Is the mob involved in this?

"There are so many different routes you can go with this. So many different scenarios. It's just not that easy. It's not. You have to understand what major-league baseball is about, what the game is about. You've got to understand how players pay their dues.

"I don't know, man."

Everything Papelbon said, including admitting that he's still in the dues-paying stage, spoke toward Rivera getting the ninth-inning nod.

Francona declined Tuesday to state his ninth inning plans on the grounds that "out of the spirit of the game, competition, having a little bit of fun, we're not going to announce the rest of our rotation yet."

To which, NL manager Clint Hurdle countered, "I'm going to stick my neck out there and say we'll prepare for (Rivera) a little bit, watch a little video."

Rivera talked Tuesday like a man planning on pitching the ninth.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I'm looking forward to doing it one more time (on a big stage in Yankee Stadium), yes."

This AL squad is deep in closers. Los Angeles' Francisco Rodriguez, who leads the league with 38 saves, is here. So are Papelbon and Baltimore's George Sherrill, tied for second at 28 saves. And Minnesota's Joe Nathan, fourth at 27; Kansas City's Joakim Soria, fifth at 25; and Rivera, sixth at 23.

"If this is one of my dues, it's one of my dues," Papelbon said. "If I was the manager and I had to make the decision, I'd be closing.

"If I said I'd get Mariano Rivera to do it, that's not the competitive nature of Jonathan Papelbon."

However, he also said he'd understand if Francona told him he was going to go with Rivera.

"I think it would be bullheaded of me and selfish of me not to understand it," he said.

Papelbon said he "honestly" doesn't think Francona has made up his mind yet, though that seems awfully difficult to believe. Francona is big on respecting the game, and it's difficult to see him electing to go with anybody but Rivera if it comes down to it.

Not in this ballpark.

It's the main reason why Nathan doesn't expect to get the ball in the ninth.

"We've got a lot of good guys who can close," Nathan said. "I think Mariano is definitely going to do it. You've got to throw him in there."

How does Nathan rate his own chances at getting the ball in the ninth inning?

"I'd say slim to none, with that guy around," he said, chuckling.

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