Posted: Monday July 12, 2004 12:58PM; Updated: Monday July 12, 2004 6:17PM
How can an entire umpiring crew mess up whether a ball is fair or foul? Third base umpire Gerry Davis called a foul ball by Atlanta's Rafael Furcal a three-run home run Friday, and when Phillies manager Larry Bowa had Davis confer with his cohorts, they all agreed: the foul was fair. Replays clearly showed the umpires missed the call.Bowa went wild, was ejected and undoubtedly will get fined. The umpires will get a write up. They should be sent back to remedial umping.
Giants outfielder Dustan Mohr tore a biceps tendon completely off the bone in batting practice Wednesday. The thing came off his shoulder, rolled up into his arm like a cheap window shade and ended up looking like the arm was on a permanent iron pump. Friday, he was back in the lineup against Arizona, going 1-for-4 with an RBI single. Said manager Felipe Alou: "If that tendon is not needed, how come it's there?"
"We've got a black cloud over us and we have to get from under it."
-- Mariners manager Bob Melvin, explaining Seattle's impending firesale, in the Tacoma Tribune
HOUSTON -- If there's one thing Major League Baseball craves -- more than a home for the Expos or a leash for George Steinbrenner -- it's a good, bankable sideshow.
The bigger, the better. The All-Star Game isn't simply an All-Star Game any more. It's an All-Century, All-MasterCard-Moment, All-Old-Timers, All-Feel-Good All-Star Weekend.
Just holding an All-Star Game isn't enough. What good is a simple exhibition game? A couple of years ago, Baseball actually interrupted the All-Star Game to present an award to Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn. Pulled out a lectern, stuck it right there on the third-base line during the game in Seattle and had commissioner Bud Selig punch out a few planned platitudes for the TV cameras. It was a decent game, too. But Baseball felt it needed a little ... oomph.
That wasn't the first time the Game took a back seat. Few remember the Game of '99 as much as the pre-Game, which featured a ceremony with Red Sox slugger Ted Williams in Fenway Park. Pete Rose's introduction as part of the All-Century team stole the spotlight from the Game in Atlanta in 2000. It happens all the time.
Again this year, the biggest event in town doesn't figure to be the Game -- scheduled for Tuesday night here at Minute Maid Park -- but the annual sideshow. The Home Run Derby, a competition of sheer might and bombast that draws better ratings than the All-Star Game, is scheduled for Monday night.
This one may be the all-time, All-Star Home Run Derby.
Every living player who has hit 500 home runs will be in Houston for the show, making Monday night an unprecedented gathering of the game's most productive sluggers. Not only that, three of the active players who have hit 500 homers -- Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and RafaelPalmeiro -- will compete in the Derby. It would have been four, but Ken Griffey Jr., who hit his 500th earlier this year, blew out his hamstring Saturday and had to drop out.
This year's Derby figures to be the hottest ticket around for the couple of days that baseball takes a break here in Houston. It will be huge. It's bound to draw ratings.
And, clearly, it's a little odd.
In any year, the Derby is a love-hate kind of event. Glamorizing the home run is risky. Purists blanch at the whole idea of the Derby. Critics laugh at it.
But this year, with a steroids scandal still in the news, playing in a ballpark that has done its part to aid in the home run explosion of the past decade, cobbling together every living member of the 500 Home Run Club for a sideshow like the Derby seems particularly ... misplaced.
Still, the gathering makes for great theater. Having Bonds, the most feared slugger in the game today, compete in the Derby makes everything even better. Bonds hasn't participated since 2001. He wouldn't have this year except for the historic nature of the event.
When the Derby started in 1985, with guys such as Ryne Sandberg and Tom Brunansky swinging for the fences in Minneapolis, it was a little sideshow, an interesting warm-up to the All-Star Game. Since then it has grown into what it is now -- the strangest, yet most interesting part of the All-Star experience.
The Derby has become the guiltiest of pleasures during a weekend of All-Star excess. This year, it just happens to be a bit more of all of that.
Which, in the end, is just what baseball is after.
Sorry -- but not surprised -- to see Seattle send good-guy shortstop Rich Aurilia to the showers. Aurilia has almost twice as many strikeouts as walks, his range is limited in the field and, right now, he's not hitting worth a broken bat. Maybe some contender will take a chance on him. But things look bleak. Aurilia had 37 homers and 97 RBIs in an All-Star 2001 season, but he's been slumping since. He'll be 33 in September.
Word out of Houston is that Astros manager Jimy Williams may not make it out of the week. Something's gotta give on the underachieving Astros. Williams may be the only logical choice.
Where is the bottom for the Royals? Last week, they were outscored 25-0 in three straight complete-game shutouts by the Twins. The Royals managed only 13 hits in the three games. It was the first time a team has had three straight complete-game shutouts thrown against it since 1995.
And, staying on the theme of teams in the tank, did you catch the shouting match and near donnybrook between Arizona teammates Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez on Friday? The Big Unit was upset with Gonzo for dropping a fly ball that led to three runs. But, c'mon, everybody knew something like that was going to happen. Trade rumors, Bob Brenly getting fired, all the losses, the injuries ... it was inevitable. A word of caution to Gonzo, though: Watch out for that left hook.
Carlos Beltran is an NL All-Star after playing 16 games in the league. If this isn't a blurring of the lines between the AL and NL, I don't know what is.
Fox has ground-level cameras at Minute Maid Park for the All-Star Game. I'm not sure I want to see baseball players from that angle.
The full E-Bag runs on Friday. This is the All-Star version.
During Saturday's Cards-Cubs game, Fox's Tim McCarver-Joe Buck duo talked about how stunned everyone was that the Cardinals were in first. This is a team that nearly won the Central last year with Jason Isringhausen missing half the season; his absence dealt a mortal blow to their chances. Commentators want the Cubs to win, and for that reason they seem to think the Cubs are more talented than the Cardinals. They're not -- especially because Dusty Baker burned out Kerry Wood and Mark Prior last season. -- Javad, Boston
Comments, questions or obviously unfounded criticism? To e-mail Donovan, use the form below.
Well, Javad, I'll admit that the Cardinals have taken me by surprise. At the beginning of the season, it just didn't look like the Cardinals' pitching staff could allow them to hang with the Cubs. Or even the Astros. But Chris Carpenter and Jason Marquis (nine wins apiece) have been better than expected. If the main guys, Woody Williams and Matt Morris, settle down ... well, if that race isn't over already, it will be if those guys come through.
If Cal Ripken Jr. was the "Iron Man," does that make Ken Griffey, Jr. the "Paper Boy"? -- I. Macias, Jr. San Antonio
Oooooh. Paper cut. Paper cut.
Please tell me Bob Melvin will be golfing with his old buddy Bob Brenly after the All-Star break. I don't care how bad the Mariners are, that guy can't manage a major league team. -- Bruce Olds, Redmond, Wash.
Seems to me the Mariners are willing to blow up the rest of their team and let Melvin keep his job. If they haven't jettisoned him yet, and they're already talking about letting the young guys play, it looks like Brenly will have to find another golfing partner -- at least for the rest of this year.
How could Detroit's Carlos Guillen not have made your list for "Most Surprising Player" of 2004? The man has put up incredible numbers in the first half of the season. I was shocked by your oversight. And how in the world did the Tigers not receive your nod for "Most Surprising Team?" C'mon, Donovan! Why must my favorite team continue to not get their due respect based on this remarkable turnaround? -- James Cross, Detroit
Well, there were a lot of candidates for the surprises, James. I'll tell you, though, I have to think that the Mariners are beating themselves up on the decision to trade Guillen and sign Aurilia. Guillen has been fantastic. As for the Tigers, they're a huge surprise, but not more than the Devil Rays, who didn't make nearly the offseason splash the Tigers did.
Sorry, John, but the most annoying trend in the entire sports world is staring you right in the face: The use of the word "nation" to describe a group of fans. Husker Nation, Bulldog Nation, etc. What is that all about? The second most annoying trend is T-Mac, K-Mart, A-Rod, etc. -- Ken Mills, Southaven, Miss.
Yeah, K-Mill, I'm with you on that. I will say, though, that I haven't been approached by too many members of Devil Rays Nation. Maybe they're out there, and they're just trying to stay quiet. Like Switzerland.