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.

Posted on: July 9, 2008 11:10 pm

Billy Beane and the NL Central arms race

Three major pitching moves a 72-hour period in the NL Central -- Milwaukee trading for CC Sabathia, the Cubs snapping up Rich Harden and, sadly, Mark Mulder leading Wednesday night's game with more pain in his left shoulder.

Mulder's comeback bid lasted only three batters before he was forced out, and in a suddenly fast-moving division, the ramifications could be far-reaching.

One of them is obvious.

One of them, not so much -- but it could have important repercussions for Chicago Cubs fans.

The obvious one, of course, is that the Cardinals are probably going to have to figure out a way to acquire more pitching help if they plan to stay in the race. They are still hoping ace Chris Carpenter returns sometime in the next month, but Mulder's setback, if it is as serious as it appears, still leaves them lacking.

St. Louis probably doesn't have the resources to trade for Toronto's A.J. Burnett, who scouts continue to say has one of the best arms in the game but never has been able to figure out how to be a winner. Seattle's Erik Bedard will be pricey. San Diego probably will be offering Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf, and wouldn't Maddux, the former Cub, be a fascinating addition in St. Louis? Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo is another possibility, but Cards GM John Mozeliak would have to convince ownership to crack open its piggy bank.

It's clear that the Cubs, with a healthy Harden, and Brewers, with Sabathia, have gotten better. St. Louis, with Mulder again hurting, hasn't. Plus, the Cardinals have problems at the back end of their bullpen -- their 19 blown saves leads the majors.

Now ... how might Mulder's latest setback be related to the Cubs?

Like this: Mulder walking off that mound in Philadelphia is simply one more reminder that Oakland GM Billy Beane's track record of trading away ace pitchers is nearly impeccable. He got peak years from Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito before cutting ties with them -- Hudson and Mulder via trades, Zito via free agency. He traded Dan Haren, starting pitcher for the AL in last year's All-Star Game, to Arizona over the winter and got back two starters, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith, who are contributing this year.

Beane does not make mistakes when he trades away pitching. That doesn’t mean Harden won't help the Cubs. But if you're a Cubs fan, it should give you pause -- and maybe even make you shudder when you consider Harden's injury history.

Likes: The All-Star break. ... The All-Star Game. ... The All-Star arguments -- who should make it, who shouldn't. ... Luis Gonzalez mentoring the kids in the Florida Marlins clubhouse. ... CC Sabathia now going by CC instead of C.C. OK, whatever, dude. ... Early action on the trade market. ... Brad Lidge coming back strong in Philadelphia. ... Mid-summer, when everyone seems to slow down and take a breath. There's no rush to get home when you're at the ballpark -- no school for the kids in the morning -- and you see all sorts of people out running, walking their dogs and gardening throughout the neighborhood. ... Summer nights, and darkness not arriving until late. ... Fresh strawberries over vanilla ice cream.

Dislikes: The construction folks beginning to tear down Tiger Stadium. It's been long overdue -- Detroit despicably allowed a treasure to become just one more abandoned building over the past nine years -- but it's still gut-wrenching.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there’s time to change"

-- Train, Drops of Jupiter

Posted on: July 1, 2008 1:38 am

What if Brandon Morrow was a starter?

From his perch in the Seattle Mariners' bullpen, where he is chief set-up man to closer J.J. Putz, Brandon Morrow can't help but keep an eye on his old college rival.

He isn't alone. San Francisco's Tim Lincecum is tearing it up at 9-1 with a 2.38 ERA (second in the National League) and an NL-leading 114 strikeouts.

They pitched against each other in college, sort of, Lincecum starring for the University of Washington and Morrow for Pac-10 rival University of California.

"They were rained out or something right before we played them, and they jumbled their rotation and he didn't pitch that Friday," says Morrow, who did.

He wasn't exactly disappointed at the time -- "Gave us a better chance to win," he says -- and the two would run into each other across the country in the Cape Cod League as well.

Morrow was Seattle's first-round pick in the 2006 draft, fifth overall. The Giants chose Lincecum 10th overall in '06.

Morrow made the majors to stay in '07, ahead of Seattle's schedule, because the Mariners had a need in their bullpen. He was good as a set-up man last summer, going 3-4 with a 4.12 ERA over 60 appearances, but as Lincecum deals, he can't help but wonder what life might be like back in the rotation.

"I was always a starter," Morrow says. "You can't put enough importance on a quality start. If you don't get a good start, the relievers don't matter."

Until the Mariners traded for Erik Bedard and signed Carlos Silva as a free agent last winter, the club intended to slot Morrow in the rotation this season. He even made seven starts in the Venezuelan Winter League, working on building his endurance so he could pitch more innings.

"I was slightly disappointed I went through all that" and then was pushed back to the bullpen, Morrow says. "But anytime you're in the big leagues, you can't complain."

Meanwhile, several hundred miles south of Morrow, Lincecum's All-Star season continues for San Francisco.

"He's been throwing the hell out of the ball all year," says Morrow, who's seen it before.

Likes: Tampa Bay and Boston this week in a meaningful series. What fun. ... Roy Halladay, and six complete games. He would have fit in very well alongside Mickey Lolich,  Gaylord Perry, Catfish Hunter and Bert Blyleven. ... Safeco Field. Still beautiful after all these years. ... The way they arrange the AL flags in order of standing at Safeco. And yes, what an odd thing to see the Rays flag flying ahead of Boston's and the Yankees'. ... Seattle's "Countdown to Cooperstown" -- it's at 27 days -- in anticipation of legendary broadcaster Dave Niehaus' impending induction into the broadcasters' wing. ... Tim Lincecum pitching, any night. ... ... Ferndale, Wash., from Sandy Point to Barlean's Fishery.

Dislikes: Racial threats against Boston Red Sox players? What is this, 1859? Sad to say, that kind of backwater thinking continues to exist. Look at the Democratic primaries this year, where a stunning number of voters in West Virginia and Kentucky admitted in exit polls that race factored into the way they voted.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Racism lives in the U.S. today
"Better get hip to what Martin Luther King had to say
"I don't want my kids being brought up this way
"Hatred to each other is not okay
"Well, I'm not a preacher just a singer son
"But I can see more work to be done
"It's what you do and not what you say
"If you're not part of the future then get out of the way"

-- John Mellencamp, Peaceful World

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or