Major league players agreed to put World Series home field advantage on the line at the All-Star Game only if they had a say in picking the teams. The ballots go out this week. Players (along with managers and coaches) will vote only for players in their own league.
NL players will pick eight position players to supplement the fans' starting eight, and the AL will add nine, including a designated hitter. Players also will elect eight pitchers in each league. Unlike with the fan balloting, however, baseball will not release vote totals from the players. Why? Keeping the results secret prevents the embarrassment of unreturned ballots and gives baseball leeway in cases in which the players' picks match the fans' picks. At those positions the commissioner's office can ignore the runner-up to satisfy its archaic rule that every team be represented.
Under this system, managers have little wiggle room. AL manager Mike Scioscia, for instance, has only five picks, and four must be pitchers. This year's selection process is improved, but it would be even better if the players' vote totals were revealed and if only the game's host team were guaranteed a representative.
Something odd happened to Atlanta's Greg Maddux (left) in his June 15 start at Seattle. "I got a call [for a strike] that I thought might have been a ball, the kind where you go, 'Oh,' " Maddux said. "Think about that. The middle of June, and it was the first time it happened all year."
Control pitchers such as Maddux, who rely on getting calls on pitches just off the black, suffer most from the QuesTec crackdown, the high-tech effort to have umpires call the true width of the plate, no more, no less. ( Maddux struck out 11 Mariners at Safeco Field, a non-QuesTec ballpark.) As Tom Glavine did a couple of years ago with another well-publicized strike zone reformation, Maddux grew frustrated in the early part of the season. "It doesn't bother me now," he says. "I'm just going out there and pitching." With a win over Baltimore last Friday night, Maddux was 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA in his last six starts.
Seattle designated hitter Edgar Martinez is reconsidering his plan to retire at the end of this season. Hitting .300 will do that for you. "I want to leave it open now," he says. "I'm having a good season and feeling well, so now I want to wait to see what happens."...
After floating the idea of having players wear generic league uniforms for the All-Star Game (to make a few bucks by selling replicas), baseball heard the near-unanimous dislike for it from players and the media and dropped the proposal....