Monday, July 30, 2007

The Bonds HR Tour Goes South

Now that the Bonds Home Run Tour moves down the coast to Los Angeles, and then on to San Diego, sportswriters and fans are all asking the same question – how will Barry be treated by the fans in both cities? Bonds still needs one dinger to tie Henry Aaron, and then another one to claim the record as his very own.

"This is going to be a test," said Giants outfielder Dave Roberts, who spent about 2½ seasons with the Dodgers, "whether they're going to show their knowledge, appreciation and love for the game -- like they are passionate for the game -- or are they going to go the other way?"

I'm guessing Bonds and Dodger Stadium security personnel had better be prepared for "the other way." Dodgers’ fans aren't real fond of the Giants, with or without Bonds. The home run quest only adds more tension to an already heated rivalry.

Roberts really surprises me with his ignorant comments. The man has played for both the Giants and the Dodgers, so he must know that Dodger fans are a class act compared to the Giants fans. SF fans are boorish, rude, obnoxious and really offensive when it comes to the SF-LA rivalry. Dodger fans are much more laid-back and reserved. They enjoy their baseball, but they’re not willing to get into a fist fight over it and possibly mess up some really expensive plastic surgery.

Roberts knows this, but he’s just trying to put a pro-SF spin on it.

My question is – how do you think Giants fans would act if the situation were reversed? If say, Jeff Kent was going for the record, how would SF fans react? Well, I’ll tell you – they’d boo the man from the first inning on, without mercy. Extra security would probably have to be hired, because Kent’s life would be in danger.

Bonds should be grateful that he’s not traveling to New York or Philadelphia to try and break the record. Those fans are hard core. LA and SD fans act like little kittens compared to those in the Big Apple and the City of Love.

Do you think Dodger fans will remember when the SF fans booed every one of the Dodgers all-star players just a few short weeks ago? Have they forgotten all of the “Beat LA” chants or all of the “Dodgers Suck” or “F the Dodgers” t-shirts and signs? I personally hope not.

"Be a part of history, but make it the great moment it is and don't tarnish it by acts of cruelty, or however you want to word it -- you know what I'm saying -- by throwing things, whatever they want to do, if they choose to go that way," said Roberts, sounding like a public service announcement. "Be above that. [The home run record is] bigger than being a Dodger fan. It's bigger than rooting against a divisional rival. It's the game of baseball. It's the history of baseball, so be above that. That's what I would do."

That's what Roberts the teammate, Roberts the friend and Roberts the professional peer would do. But that's not what a lot of people at Chavez Ravine are going to do Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Too many cynics. Too many skeptical fans who consider Aaron's record their record too.

Maybe Bonds doesn't understand this, but Roberts does. He doesn't criticize those who doubt the legitimacy of Bonds' home run numbers. How could he?

"But you can't take away the fact that he's one of the greatest players ever to put on a baseball uniform," Roberts said. "He's had a 20-year career which is a Hall of Fame career and ... when I see kids in the stands booing and holding signs, and [they] really have no idea what they're booing or holding signs for, it breaks my heart. As a father, I would never bring that upon my kids. I would say, 'Son, watch this guy. He's one of the best players of all time.'

I predict that fans in both LA and San Diego will boo Bonds lustily and often. And, in my opinion, he deserves it. He’s been treating fans and writers like second-class citizens from day one, and now it’s pay back time, baby!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

2007 Arena Bowl Happening Today

Today is the Arena Bowl and the San Jose SaberCats are going for their third straight Arena Football Championship. It’s been a great season for San Jose, but the SaberCats know the regular season won't mean anything when they face the Columbus Destroyers in the Arena Bowl on Sunday.

Columbus has been a different team since barely qualifying for the playoffs with a 7-9 regular-season record. The Destroyers come into the game averaging 63 points in the postseason — an improvement of 13-points over their regular-season average — and with playoff victories over Dallas and Georgia, the teams with the best regular-season records.

"You can't help but have respect for the road that they've gone down," San Jose quarterback Mark Grieb said. "... They've just played gritty football. They've been very opportunistic, and their offense has just gotten it done."

The SaberCats haven't lost in 3 1/2 months and have won two of the last five AFL titles. The Destroyers, seeking their first championship, hope to become the second straight team to win the Arena Bowl after a 7-9 regular season. Chicago did it last season.

During the playoffs, Columbus quarterback Matt Nagy has completed 67 percent of his passes and thrown 14 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Destroyers' wide receiver Damien Groce said it took time for the team to "get in sync" with new players and a new offensive coordinator this season.

"It happened late, but it happened," said Groce, who has scored five touchdowns in the playoffs.

Columbus lost five of its last six regular-season games, including a close game at Philadelphia, before winning their last game, 74-43 over New York.

"We came out of the Philly game and finally started believing," Columbus coach Doug Kay said. The New York game was "probably the thing that put the swagger back a little bit and made them believe they could still be a good football team."
San Jose was 3-3 before winning its last 10 regular-season games and beating Colorado and Chicago in the playoffs.

"You just take your lumps to a certain extent in the early part of the season, but know that by the end of the season you're going to be playing your best football," said Grieb, who has completed 73 percent of his passes this postseason and thrown for 15 touchdowns and one interception.

Receivers James Roe, Rodney Wright and Ben Nelson have combined for 54 catches and 13 touchdowns in San Jose's two playoff victories.
The Arena Bowl is being played in New Orleans, where San Jose and Columbus each posted regular-season losses to the hometown VooDoo this year.

I believe that the SaberCats are just too tough and talented for Columbus, although the Destroyers are hungry and should be ready to play.

My final score prediction: SAN JOSE: 62 COLUMBUS: 52.

Say it Can't Be, Donaghy!

The Tim Donaghy betting scandal story just got worse this afternoon. Based on statements made directly to me by an anonymous source who works for an NBA team, it is reported that Donaghy may have done more than just bet on games in which he acted as a referee. I’m now hearing that he may have also provided bookies with other NBA ref’s officiating schedules. This would allow bookmakers to use this information to hedge bets and move betting lines, thereby giving them an unfair and substantial advantage.
Certain referees are known to call particular types of fouls and teams that are prone to commit these types of infractions are less likely to win games in which these referees are officiating. In addition, some officials are known to dislike certain players and will call more fouls against them. By looking at referees’ tendencies, bookies can more accurately predict how a game will go. That’s why the NBA keeps their officials’ game schedules a secret.
If Donaghy leaked any of this information, it could have disastrous effects on the integrity of the game and mean that maybe hundreds of NBA games were compromised.
In further developments today, police staked out former NBA referee Tim Donaghy's home after he received two telephone threats following disclosure that the FBI is investigating him for betting on games he worked.
Both calls seemed to come from the same unidentified caller, Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Randy Warren said.
"There is reason for us to keep an eye on his place and follow up," he said.
Three squad cars arrived at Donaghy's home in Bradenton, Fla., on Sunday after he received the calls, according to a sheriff's office report. Donaghy did not have a listed phone number at his home.
Donaghy is not expected to turn himself in until later this week or early next week.
When he does surrender to authorities, he will do so in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, according to a person familiar with the FBI investigation.
Though under investigation, Donaghy has not yet been charged with any crime.
NBA commissioner David Stern plans to hold a press conference Tuesday morning.
A person with knowledge of the FBI investigation said the NBA was unaware of the FBI investigation until after the NBA Finals. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ongoing case.
According to a law enforcement official, authorities are examining whether the referee made calls to affect the point spread in games on which he or associates had wagered thousands of dollars over the past two seasons. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, because he wasn't authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.
The referee had a gambling problem and was approached by low-level mob associates through an acquaintance, the official said.
He is the only referee, at this point, under investigation, according to a law enforcement official, but others outside the NBA are expected to be charged in the betting probe.
The New York Daily News, citing unidentified law enforcement sources, reported Sunday that Donaghy will cooperate with authorities and possibly name other officials and players involved in the betting scandal. On Monday, the newspaper reported former neighbors of Donaghy in Pennsylvania said they were approached more than a year ago by a private investigator they believed was hired by the NBA to check into Donaghy's gambling habits.
Kit Antsey, a real estate agent in West Chester, Pa., who helped Donaghy buy a home, told The Daily News a private investigator contacted him 18 months ago and asked him whether Donaghy bet on sports and at an Atlantic City casino.
Donaghy was an NBA official for 13 years. He officiated 68 games in the 2005-06 season and 63 games in 2006-07, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He also worked 20 playoff games, including five last season -- Pistons-Magic on April 23; Warriors-Mavericks on April 27; Suns-Lakers on April 29; Nets-Raptors on May 4; and Spurs-Suns on May 12.
In Bradenton, Fla., on Saturday, a woman came to the door of the home where Donaghy lives and shouted through the door: "We have no comment."
(Portions of this article were taken from both cbssportsline and

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Well, we did it. On Wednesday, I picked up Ed in San Francisco and we went to the Palace of Fine Arts to participate in ESPN’s Beyond 756: An ESPN Town Meeting about Barry “Steroid Boy” Bonds and the home run record, hosted by the great Bob Ley. The panel was made up of three former Giants who played with or managed Bonds (Dusty Baker, Ellis Burks, and Kurt Reuter), as well as four reporters (Juan Williams, Lance Williams, Brian Burwell, and Buster Olney). Interestingly enough, Lance Williams is the co-author of the book on BALCO, Game of Shadows, that first detailed all the information on Bonds and his steroid use.

We had a lot of waiting (two hours’ worth) before we made it inside, but once in the theater, Ed moved quickly and secured us seats in the front row. There followed 90 minutes of debate in which the former players and manager answered every question by insisting Bonds was innocent since he hadn’t failed any drug tests. On the other hand, all the writers seemed to believe that Bonds was guilty of using steroids, and Burwell, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was especially vocal. There were also plenty of boorish Giants fans in the audience booing and hissing whenever the writers expressed an opinion and cheering when the former Giants said anything. Fortunately, I didn’t hear any of the booing when I watched the tape of the show later, so the microphones must not have picked it up.

As a humorous epilogue, I made it on TV—right before the last commercial break, the camera pans down the front row, and there I am, clapping. Pretty funny! We also took a few pictures after the show was over, so we’re posting a couple of them here.

SEASONINGS: I just want to say before I close this week that it’s a shame that the biggest U.S. sports all have scandals associated with them as we speak. In baseball, the home run chase is tainted by the allegations that Bonds pumped himself up artificially. In basketball, the betting scandal in NBA officiating deals a most serious blow to the league’s credibility. In football, the Michael Vick dogfighting charges are another black eye on the NFL. Across the globe in Europe, the Tour de France is racked with drugs and lies. It really seems that as we move toward the future, more people see sports strictly as “entertainment,” and no one cares if the players are criminals or cheats, as long as the audience is entertained. But I think all of this is disgraceful. I can’t believe that my views might be considered old-fashioned, but I still think that the sanctity of records and the integrity of a long history can be kept without sacrificing the entertainment factor. These games should really be about players striving for the win as hard as they can on the talent they were born with. What could be more exciting than that?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sharks Unveil New Logo

The San Jose Sharks hockey team changed their logo recently. It wasn’t supposed to be revealed to the public until later this month, but someone leaked it before the official unveiling and here it is. I think this logo looks a lot better than the old one. This shark is meaner looking and has a little more personality than the original logo. The old shark looked like he was on Prozac or something – like he had accidentally chomped into an underwater power line and was still in shock.

This appeared the other day on the Sharks’ web site,

When the Sharks take the ice for the 2007-08 campaign, they will be doing so with a different look, and not just with regards to the players. There are few details publicly available, but the one certainty is the Sharks logo will have a more updated feel this fall. There will also be new secondary marks introduced. “I think people are going to like it,” said defenseman Kyle McLaren, one of several Sharks who had input on the updated design. “I think they’ll embrace the change. It goes with the new NHL.” The Sharks did not take altering their brand lightly, as the main logo has been one of the most popular in professional sports since the club’s inception in 1991. “We put a lot of research into this and feel the fans will thoroughly appreciate the updated logo and new marks,” said Sharks President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison. “The players were heavily involved in the process and they were extremely happy with the outcome.” Fans will have their first opportunity to view the new look and secondary marks on July 24 at 10 a.m. PST on and merchandise with the updated logo and new marks at the Sharks Store will be available starting on that date as well. While the logo will be released this month, the new-look jerseys will not be previewed until closer to training camp. All NHL jerseys will be altered to some degree this year as Reebok introduces new fabrics to help enhance player skills. The Sharks primary mark has not changed throughout the Sharks 16-year history, but the jersey has been altered on several occasions. San Jose’s original jersey was introduced in 1991 and the most recent incarnation was put in place in 1998, although it served as an alternate jersey the prior campaign. The alternate black jersey debuted in 2001.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ed and Meat on ESPN Wednesday, 7/25

Meat and I will be hitting the street this Wednesday at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre in San Francisco, as part of the audience attending a live town hall event that will appear on ESPN. It’s called Barry Bonds – Beyond 756, hosted by ESPN’s Bob Ley, and it’s a town hall discussion focusing on Barry Bonds and his quest to break baseball’s all-time home run record and his legacy. It will feature a panel of former baseball players/managers like Dusty Baker, Ellis Burks, Kirk Reuter and some local baseball authors. The show will pre-empt SportsCenter on Wednesday, starting at 3 pm. So, if you get a chance, tune in. Hopefully you’ll see Ed and Meat on ESPN.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

My wife, Laurice, works at Children’s Hospital Oakland, and through her work, she found out Tuesday that Nick Swisher of the Oakland A’s was hosting a bash to benefit the hospital, as well as to benefit his own kids’ charity, Swish’s Wishes. Laurice promptly got tickets for the event. (Thank you so much, my dear!)

Wednesday night, off we went to the Pyramid Brewery in Berkeley. I’d been to this brewhouse before, and needless to say, there was more security than usual. Once the Men In Black had ushered us inside, Laurice went to get a t-shirt and baseball while I waited in line at the bar. Who was pouring drinks but A’s outfielder Travis Buck, pitcher Lenny DiNardo, and new fulltime catcher Kurt Suzuki. The A’s players seemed to be in a jovial mood—with brilliant pitching, DiNardo had just helped to stop a 10-game losing streak with a win that afternoon against Texas. When Laurice returned, we got a place at the bar, where Suzuki signed the ball and shirt and got us an Amber Weizen and an Apricot Weizen. I told him I hoped he had success with the A’s. Clean-cut Travis Buck, newly shorn of his lengthy locks, also gave us a signature.

From there, we strolled the room, making our way through the throng to see who else we could see. We were a little late, so the buffet was not crowded at all when we went to get our food. Let me just say here that the food could have been better at this event, although I suppose if it means that more money went to the charities, I can tolerate mediocre food. The fare was plain—salad with two choices of dressing, rolls, a rice dish, a squash dish, a chicken dish (the chicken was dry), and a beef dish (the beef was too rare and tough as shoe leather). I’d expect that clubhouse catering is probably better than this was, but the players were eating it, too. Pitcher Chad Gaudin—whom I had seen give up 5 runs at the Coliseum on Tuesday during the A’s ninth loss in the 10-game streak—came to the buffet while we were there, and we got a signature from him, too.

Overall, we met nine members of the A’s. We got signatures on the ball from eight of them—Suzuki, Buck, Gaudin, DiNardo, Dan Johnson, Jack Cust, Jay Marshall, and of course, Nick Swisher. We got pictures with most of these guys, too! It was great to talk to them, and they were all really nice—just a bunch of guys having a good time. Laurice was especially taken with Swisher, who is one of her favorite A’s players. He complimented her long hair after she mentioned his own hair, which he had grown and cut earlier this year for Pantene Beautiful Lengths. This organization encourages people to grow and donate hair to make wigs for women with cancer who have lost their hair. It was fantastic to see these guys make a charity appearance and have a good time with the fans. This is what more ballplayers should do—donate time and money to good causes. We are so used to many sports figures being selfish, entitled jerks who have no grounding in the real world. Most of the A’s didn’t come off like that at all. Instead, they genuinely seemed happy to be there.

Only one player was sour when we met him. We saw him at the bottom of the staircase that led up to the VIP and players’ lounge, and we were the only fans near him, but when I said his name, he blew us off with barely a second glance and went to sign autographs for a bunch of groupie-types wearing too much makeup and trashy clothes. I’m sorry to say it was Joe Blanton, who I always thought was a good guy. He was the sole member of the team in attendance that made a poor impression on us. But at least he was there, I guess.

Anyhow, some of our pictures are included with this post, so feel free to comment—a change has been made to this site so that anyone can post a comment at anytime now, no passwords or memberships necessary—and we’d love to hear from you! Thanks to all the guys on the A’s who came out on Wednesday for the event and gave some time for children in need.

Photo #1: Kurt Suzuki pours Meat and Laurice their beers while Travis Buck serves another customer.

Photo #2: Meat meets Dan Johnson.

Photo #3: "Hey Meat, thanks for supporting the team," Jack Cust says.

Photo #4: Laurice with Nick Swisher.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

San Francisco is Going Bonkers for Bonds

The balls are being marked, City Hall is emblazoned in orange (see photo) and every move Barry Bonds makes is being chronicled throughout the world. Baseball fans, souvenir hunters and those who just want to be around baseball history will flock to San Francisco next week hoping to see Barry Bonds hit the big one.

The Giants slugger is only two more homers away from tying Hank Aaron's career mark of 755, perhaps the most well-known record in the world of sports. There’s a very good chance that he could break the record during a seven-game homestand starting Monday against the Atlanta Braves, Aaron's former team, and the jockeying for position to catch the home run ball at AT&T Park has already started.

The games next week against the Braves and the Florida Marlins are within a few hundred seats of being sold out, leaving fans with a hankering for history little choice but to wade into the online resale market or deal with scalpers on the street.

I hope Bonds breaks the record in San Francisco. Not because I’m, enamored with the guy, but because I believe it will be better for baseball. If he hits it in another city, it could be a very embarrassing situation. The fans will likely boo and it could get ugly. Bonds is a god in SF, but he’s not particularly liked by fans anywhere else in the country.

People are clamoring for these tickets for some simple reason – to see Bonds make baseball history. That has to be the one and only reason. After all, the Giants are in last place in the NL West.

"This is the hottest ticket sales have been since the All-Star Game," said Jennifer Swanson, spokeswoman for TicketsNow, which resells tickets to the public from licensed brokers. "It's reaching a fever pitch."

Seats in the arcade section behind the right field wall -- a common location for Bonds homers to land -- usually go for between $29 and $33, but they were being peddled online Friday for as much as $500.

The Giants still have standing-room-only seats available for some games for $10, team spokeswoman Staci Slaughter said, but those too are expected to turn into gold as soon as the

Giants head home from their series this weekend in Milwaukee.

Tickets for games next week are selling for an average of about $80 at the various online sites, including the Giants' own Double Play Ticket Window, which allows season ticket holders to squeeze the ticketless masses for all they are worth.

Home run fever officially started Thursday when Bonds whacked two dingers into the ferocious winds at Wrigley Field during the Giants' 9-8 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
The blasts were his first in 16 days, and they awakened the slumbering national media.

"We definitely noticed an uptick in ticket sales after he hit the home runs," Slaughter said. "Everything kind of calmed down after the All-Star Game, and then he hit the two home runs, and my phone has been ringing off the hook."

Sean Pate, spokesman for StubHub, which charges a 10 percent fee to buy and a 15 percent fee to sell tickets on its Web site, said prime seats for next week's games are selling for upward of $300. He figures that's just the beginning.

"It's going to be very crazy," he said. "People are going to want to be there for the tying or record-breaking home run. When he's on 754, each game is going to be a premium game."

The Giants, San Francisco police and the Coast Guard are preparing for the craziness by beefing up security in and around AT&T Park.

The Giants normally sell several hundred standing-room-only tickets for big games, and many of those ticket-holders congregate in the arcade section. That's going to be harder to do this homestand, Slaughter said.

"We will be checking tickets for people with seats in that area and allowing in a limited number of standing-room tickets," Slaughter said.

All the baseballs pitched to Bonds now are stamped with a special logo for authentication. The fan who emerges from the inevitable scramble for the record-setting ball will be hustled away by security guards, Slaughter said.

"We want to make sure they are in a safe spot," she said. "If they want to watch the rest of the game, we will put the ball in a safe for them. It's really up to the person who catches the ball to determine what he wants to do with it. We usually meet with them and try to figure out if there is anything they would be interested in to trade for the ball, but this is going to be a pretty valuable ball."

Outside the park, people will be able to watch the game through the right field knothole fence for three innings at a time, the usual limit at big games.

The Coast Guard will keep an eye on the regatta of rafts, canoes, kayaks and other watercraft expected to congregate in McCovey Cove in case the record-breaking tater is a "Splash Hit." Bonds has hit 34 of those in his career.

There is no plan to have boaters preregister or to limit their numbers, as was done during the All-Star Game, said Lt. Anya Hunter, the spokeswoman for Coast Guard San Francisco.
Hunter said the Coast Guard's primary concern is the barge outside AT&T Park loaded with fireworks for the moment when Bonds hits No. 756. She said boats will be kept 1,000 feet from the barge.

"The problem with this event is we don't know when it is going to happen," Hunter said. "All of our crews out there are on alert, and everyone knows that this is pending, but they can't sit out and wait for days at a time. As soon we know that the fireworks show is going off or if there is a safety concern because of a large number of boats, then we will respond."

The record-setting home run will be a spectacular conundrum for a nation in which many people view Bonds as a cheater whose home run power is tainted by the use of performance-enhancing drugs, something the Giants slugger has denied doing knowingly.

Aaron isn't planning to show up for any of the games or, it seems, even acknowledge the record. But it still amounts to big business in the city by the bay.

"Just like the stock market, these games are hot, so people are going to start asking higher prices," Pate said. "It is going to be pretty busy around here for the next week or 10 days."

(Thanks to for some of the quotes in this article.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Yang Wins the Whole Ying

Jerry Yang, a 39-year-old psychologist who uses his professional training in his card-playing arsenal, won the $8.25 million top prize Wednesday at the World Series of Poker.

Hats off to Jerry Yang, the 2007 World Series of Poker champion. He beat the odds as one of the low-money participants entering the final table and took home a mess o’ cash. Anyone who has ever played poker knows how hard it is to win a tournament like this, and Yang did it in spectacular fashion.

The fact that he got into the WSOP by winning a $225 satellite tournament shows that anyone can gain the top spot in a sport where the common man is on the same footing with the established pros. Eat your heart out -- Hellmuth, Brunson, Chan and the rest of the clan!

Here’s how the Associated Press reported it:

Yang vaulted quickly from eighth to the chip lead soon after play began Tuesday afternoon.He knocked out seven of the eight other players at the final table, reminiscent of last year when Jamie Gold ran over his opponents. The main difference, Yang did it from the back of the pack."The only way I would win this tournament is to be aggressive from the very beginning and that's exactly what I did," he said.An ethnic Hmong who grew up poor in Laos, Yang said before the final table began that he would donate 10 percent of his winnings to charity, including the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Feed the Children, the Ronald McDonald House and his alma mater, Loma Linda University.He won his way into the main event from a $225 satellite tournament at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula and only began playing poker two years ago.Despite his 5-foot-3 stature - often standing up from his seat to move chips or stare down opponents - Yang was an intimidating force at the table from the beginning.He aggressively raised pots and became the first player at the table to go all-in. On the ninth hand, he forced Lee Childs, a 35-year-old software engineer from Reston, Va., to fold pocket queens, face up, on a board with a seven, four and deuce.Yang began heads up play with a giant chip lead against Tuan Lam, a 40-year-old professional online poker player from Mississauga, Ontario. Yang had 104.5 million in chips to Lam's 23.0 million.On the last hand, with a huge mound of cash deposited on the felt, Lam moved all-in with an ace and queen of diamonds and Yang called with pocket eights.When a queen, five and nine came on the flop, it looked like Lam, waving a Canadian flag, would be on the verge of a miracle comeback, making a pair of queens for the lead.But a seven on the turn and a six on the river gave Yang a straight, sealing a win in which he dominated the final table from the moment the nine finalists sat down."I've seen the miracles of God with my own eyes," Yang said. "I did a lot of bluffing, also."Lam, who earned $4,840,981 for his second place finish, was also a refugee who found his way to Canada from Vietnam. He said he'd be returning to his village, Bao Trinh, to help those who need it."I was patient and waited for the big hand, but the cards came out different," Lam said. "I have been through a hard life. And I will be going back to Vietnam and giving back."Play at the final table began at noon in Las Vegas and didn't finish till nearly 4 a.m.The finalists ranged in age from 22 to 62, and hailed from five nations: the U.S., Canada, Russia, England and South Africa. By birthplace, players also were from Laos, Vietnam and Denmark.Each had their section of fans in the audience, and the arena took on the air of the Olympics as supporters broke out into national songs every time their player won a big hand."The final table says a lot about the globality of poker and the globality of our fans," said Jeffrey Pollack, World Series of Poker commissioner for event owner Harrah's Entertainment Inc.Yang burst out of the blocks shortly after play began. But 31-year-old Dane Philip Hilm made a stand with a flush draw and a pair of fives on the flop, pushing all-in against Yang. Yang made the call holding an ace and king for a pair of kings and Hilm never improved, finishing ninth for $525,934.Lee Watkinson, a 40-year-old poker pro from Cheney, Wash., pushed all-in before the flop with an ace and seven, but Yang read through the show of strength by calling with an ace and nine and Watkinson fell in eighth for a $585,699 payday."I was playing for the bracelet," Watkinson said. "I wasn't going for third, fourth or even second. I wanted to make a play and be a contender."Childs, who quit his job a month ago to play poker for a living, finished seventh with $705,229 when he went all-in with a king and jack against Yang, with a jack and eight. Childs lost when an eight came on the turn.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Grand Jury Throws Michael Vick to the Dogs

Well, it finally happened Tuesday. INDICTED in big bold letters. Michael Vick will now have to turn himself into authorities and face the music. I guess the grand jury didn’t buy his lame excuse that he didn’t live in the house where all of the alleged dog fighting took place.

I caught a lot of heat from Vick fans for my BrooWaha article, “Message to Michael Vick: Dog Fighting is Dog----!” I also got a lot of views. It’s a very hot topic right now, and with Vick’s indictment, it’s going to get even hotter.

On July 7th, reported that is was very unlikely that Vick would get indicted on this case. Well, guess what? Even the big boys get it wrong sometimes.

I will never convict a person until the evidence is presented and until that individual is tried in a court of law. But, a grand jury isn’t going to go to all the trouble of indicting someone -- especially someone as high profile as Michael Vick – without some sort of hard evidence. All I can say to Mike is good luck!

This appeared Tuesday on

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to illegal dog fighting.
Vick and three others were charged with violating federal laws against competitive dog fighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the enterprise across state lines.
The indictment alleges that Vick and his co-defendants began sponsoring dog fighting in early 2001, the former Virginia Tech star's rookie year with the Falcons.
It accuses Vick, Purnell A. Peace, Quanis L. Phillips and Tony Taylor of "knowingly sponsoring and exhibiting an animal fighting venture," of conducting a business enterprise involving gambling, as well as buying, transporting and receiving dogs for the purposes of an animal fighting venture.
Telephone messages left at the offices and home of Vick's attorney, Larry Woodward, were not immediately returned.
A woman who answered the phone at the home of Vick's mother said the family knew nothing about the charges.
On July 7, federal authorities conducted a second search of the Surry, Va., property owned by Vick that is the center of the dog fighting investigation.
According to court documents filed by federal authorities earlier this month, dogfights have been sponsored by "Bad Newz Kennels" at the property since at least 2002. For the events, participants and dogs traveled from South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Texas and other states.
Fifty-four pit bulls were recovered from the property during searches in April, along with a "rape stand," used to hold dogs in place for mating; an electric treadmill modified for dogs; and a bloodied piece of carpeting, the documents said.
During a June search of the property, investigators uncovered the graves of seven pit bulls that were killed by members of "Bad Newz Kennels" following sessions to test whether the dogs would be good fighters, the documents alleged.
Members of "Bad Newz Kennels" also sponsored and exhibited fights in other parts of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey and other states, according to the filings.
On Vick's website, he lists his birthplace as Newport News, "a.k.a. BadNews."
The documents said the fights usually occurred late at night or in the early morning and would last several hours.
Before fights, participating dogs of the same sex would be weighed and bathed, according to the filings. Opposing dogs would be washed to remove any poison or narcotic placed on the dog's coat that could affect the other dog's performance.
Sometimes, dogs weren't fed to "make it more hungry for the other dog."
Fights would end when one dog died or with the surrender of the losing dog, which was sometimes put to death by drowning, strangulation, hanging, gun shot, electrocution or some other method, according to the documents.
Vick initially said he had no idea the property might have been used in a criminal enterprise and blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity.
Vick has since declined to talk about the investigation.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Here we are again!

I am really impressed with all the awesome photos that Ed got to snap at the All-Star festivities in San Francisco, and I hope everyone takes a good look below, if you haven’t seen them already. How cool! Ed deserves kudos as a photographer, in addition to being a great writer!

As for me, I am beginning to wallow in the misery of the Oakland Athletics. What started out as a promising season is going belly-up. Have I given up hope for the A’s? No, not quite yet. Anyone who watches baseball somewhat regularly knows that the A’s have a habit of going on an incredible run in the second half—they’ve done it the last several years in a row. So even if they did not make the playoffs, they were always in contention for a spot right up until the final week of the season.

This year? Not so sure. As of this writing, the Green and Gold lost their last three before the All-Star Game and their first four since play resumed to create a season-worst seven-game losing streak and drop them four games under .500 for the first time this year. During those seven games, the A’s have been outscored by their opponents 37–15 and have posted a measly batting average of .155. In their nine games before Sunday, the A’s scored three runs or less—the first time they have done that since 1978. Please note that in 1978, in the middle year of a three-year swoon of terrible baseball, the team went 69–93. Also note that they only scored three runs Sunday, as well.

We spoiled fans have come to expect more than this from teams assembled by General Manager Billy Beane. Not that I object to a down year or two in the grand scheme of things. It’s not like the A’s are the Kansas City Royals or Tampa Bay Devil Rays—I mean, there HAVE been winning seasons around here. Why, just last year, the A’s took the AL West and made it into the ALCS, and the team has been to the playoffs in five of the last seven years.

Maybe the team’s success last year makes this year seem all the more disappointing. I know there have been injuries—Mike Piazza, Rich Harden (again), Justin Duchscherer, Mark Kotsay. But other teams have them, too, and the ones who surmount them play in October. The A’s just don’t seem capable of making a run this year, and the fact that Seattle and Anaheim are playing so well sort of puts the nail in the coffin.

Next year, Beane will have to get some hitters. Shannon Stewart is the only one on the team hitting over .300, and the next highest average belongs to Travis Buck, at .275. It gets worse form there. Bobby Crosby is batting .222, and Jason Kendall is at .226. Those are awful numbers for everyday starters, and they are bringing the A’s down, down, down. Sure, the A’s have good starting pitching these days, but it’s not enough to overcome the pitiful hitting.

I really hope I have to eat my words, and that the A’s can go on some kind of fantastic run—they are the best team in baseball after the All-Star break, with a 376–221 record since 1999. But I don’t see it. I’ll have to throw my fortunes into the National League, with the Mets, who are looking better, but still have a ways to go to convince me they can contend. But at least they are in first place, not 11.5 games back like Oakland.

Dodgers Get Healthy. Barry Gets Huffy.

The Los Angeles Dodgers swept a three-game series from the San Francisco Giants this weekend and it was interesting to watch. I would compare it to the first stages of the sinking of the Titanic. When the ship hit the iceberg and sprung a leak. It took a while for the boat to sink, but it was only a matter of time. The Giants are dead, even though the body is still warm. Their demise is in sight and the team’s disastrous season will only get worse, I believe.
AT&T Park should change its name to Dodger Stadium, because when the Blue Crew plays there, it’s like a comfortable home. They’ve won 11 in a row at the Ballpark at the Bay. It seems as though there’s just something about clam chowder, sourdough bread and sea breezes that appeals to the guys from Southern California.
I thought it was classless when the San Francisco fans booed all three Dodger all-stars at the introductions prior to the MLB All-Star Game last week. The Mid-Season Classic should be a time when fans forget their rivalries and cheer for the game itself. The Giants fans even booed the LA Angels’ all-stars, evidently because the Halos defeated the Giants in the World Series of 2002. Talk about sore losers with long memories.
The Dodgers beating the Giants the way they did is something I like to call “karmatic snap-back.” It’s also called Just Desserts.
And then, to see Barry Bonds reacting the way he did during the series aftermath is even more satisfying to watch. If anyone has a karma reach around coming his way, it’s Barry. The man has a reservoir of bad karma that the Hoover Dam couldn’t prevent from overflowing.
This appeared yesterday on
Barry Bonds flipped a laundry cart to the ground yesterday and stalked away.
Calling himself an "embarrassment" and mired in one of the worst slumps of his career, it was his hardest hit of the day.
Bonds had a second straight 0-for-5 performance to extend his hitless stretch to a season-worst 20 at-bats, and his San Francisco Giants lost their 11th in a row at home to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-3 on Sunday.
"It's an embarrassment for me to be wearing this (expletive deleted) uniform 'cause of the way I'm playing. There, that's it. Now go away," Bonds said at his locker.
Then he overturned the cart as he walked through the clubhouse, a rare public display of emotion with his chase of Hank Aaron's home run record at a standstill. He's been at 751 homers and four from tying the Hammer since July 3.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy suggested his star player might be too "pull conscious."
When asked about that, Bonds said, "That's not it."
Does he need a day off?
"That's not it, either."
Whatever it is, the Dodgers were happy his problems happened when they were in town.
"We didn't do much differently. We certainly caught him at a good time," Los Angeles manager Grady Little said. "He's at a point where he's really trying to get it done. He will eventually. But hopefully it will be against another team."
With Bonds searching for another long ball, the Dodgers won with small ball to hand their biggest NL West foe a fourth straight loss.
The Dodgers scored twice on squeeze bunts.
Bonds' legs are sore and it shows. This is the slugger's longest period without a hit since his record-breaking 2001 season.
"Everybody goes through it," Bochy said. "Barry, tough series for him, no getting around it. He knows it. We all know it. He's our go-to guy."
Matt Kemp had an RBI triple among his three hits and scored twice, including on Brett Tomko's safety squeeze in the fourth inning, to help the Dodgers continue their dominance in San Francisco's waterfront ballpark. Los Angeles' streak is the club's longest in any city since 13 straight wins at San Francisco's Candlestick Park from 1976-77.
A few Dodgers fans waved blue brooms during the seventh-inning stretch, calling for a sweep.
Bonds popped out in the first, flied out in the third, popped out to end the fifth, struck out swinging to end the seventh and popped up for the final out of the game. He was hitless for the sixth straight game and had consecutive 0-for-5 or worse performances for only the fourth time in his career.
"Barry Bonds, he's human," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. "He's going to have times when he's not swinging the bat really well. We pretty much got lucky."
The way this weekend went for the Giants, their fans were forced to come down from the high of last week's All-Star Game in a hurry. San Francisco lost its fourth straight and is winless after the break -- at a time the team knows it must turn things around quickly.
Jeff Kent had a sacrifice fly against his former team and Tomko (2-7), another former Giant, pitched five innings for the win in his first start since May 21 against Milwaukee.
Jonathan Broxton struck out Dave Roberts to escape a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and the Dodgers won again after an 8-7 victory in 12 innings Saturday. Takashi Saito bounced back from consecutive blown saves for his 24th save in 27 chances.
Bonds' last homer -- his 17th this season -- came in the first inning July 3 at Cincinnati off Aaron Harang. Bonds has gone 23 at-bats without a homer since then.
The boats were out in force in McCovey Cove on the final day of a short homestand, hoping for a splash-hit souvenir. San Francisco now heads out for four games at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs starting Monday night, followed by three in Milwaukee.
Bonds was in an 0-for-17 funk this year before hitting his 746th homer against the Rockies on May 27. He had a hitless stretch of 21 at-bats from April 5-12, 2001 -- the year he broke the single-season home run record with 73 -- and had a career-worst 0-for-23 drought from July 6-20, 1986, during his rookie year.
"It's not just one guy," said Ray Durham, who bats before Bonds in the order. "We're a team. We're a family."
Bonds committed just his second error of the year in left field when he booted James Loney's single in the fourth. Kemp followed with his triple and scored when Noah Lowry interfered with him while trying to field a safety squeeze bunt by Tomko and was given an error.
Bonds' legs, feet and toes have been swollen in recent days and he's still tired from the All-Star Game festivities this past week in his city. He was selected to his 14th All-Star Game and first since 2004, and started in left field.
Lowry (9-7) had his winning streak snapped at three starts and saw the end of his seven-game unbeaten run at home. Bengie Molina’s two-run single put San Francisco ahead in the first and Durham hit a tying RBI triple in the fifth to make it 3-all.
Omar Vizquel, the Giants' 40-year-old 11-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop, turned a pretty, barehanded double play in the third when he fielded Kent's bouncer with his right hand.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bull-Running is Bull----. But, It IS Fun to Watch!

Charging bulls gored seven people and seriously injured several others this week as this year's San Fermin festival in Pamplona served up its longest and most dangerous run of the bull-running season.
Fourteen people were hospitalized, seven for gorings, six for treatment of head and other injuries and one with a really bad hang nail, the local government announced. Three people are in very serious condition after undergoing operations.
Running with the bulls is a stupid tradition. A bunch of people (mostly drunk Spanish men) run alongside a herd of bulls, annoying and pestering them until they either complete the run or get injured in the process. The equivalent in this country would be running out into freeway traffic or playing chicken down on the railroad tracks. It’s a really dumb way to have a good time. But, I must admit, I enjoy watching it.
Bulls have been doing just fine for a long time running with each other. They don’t want to run with us. And with all the noise and people, I’m sure it’s no fun at all for them. I hear they do feed them well, though -- so maybe it’s a trade off.
Some folks reason that the tradition of running with the bulls has been devised by the Spanish as a way for the bulls to pay back the people for all the bull fighting that takes place throughout their country every year. If you look at it that way, it’s probably not so bad. Every time a bull gets a hold of some drunk, he’s essentially telling the poor sap, “And that’s for killing my dad!”
We don’t really do anything like that in this country. Florida doesn’t have a “swimming with the crocs” and Alaska doesn’t do a “skating with the polar bears” kind of thing. Most of our traditional animal-related festivals involve harmless stuff like watching frogs jump; groundhogs looking for their shadows, or waiting around to see a bunch swallows come home.
Here’s the rest of the most recent bull-running story, as it appeared in Bull Runners Monthly:
The herd of six 1,300-pound bulls, six steers and one really aggressive goat disintegrated shortly after the animals set off on the dash through the cobblestone streets of Pamplona in the sixth of eight planned runs.
One stray bull turned around and ran the wrong way. Herders with long sticks smacked it in the rump to get the animal pointed in the right direction.
The loose bull charged and tossed several runners—some of them clad in the traditional red-and-white garb of San Fermin—on its way to the bullring.
Several runners were trampled and seven runners were injured by bulls' horns. One 48-year-old man from Pamplona was gored in the chest and was reported to be in very serious condition. A 23-year-old Mexican was gored in the stomach and was also reported as very serious. And an 18-year-old kid got his feelings hurt when one of the bulls defecated on his brand-new Air Jordans.
The other runners who were gored were from Poland, Norway, Spain and Newark, with ages ranging from 23 to 50, officials said. They were all reported to be in serious condition.
The run lasted 6 minutes, 9 seconds, compared with the normal length of about 2 minutes, because the bulls separated—the most dangerous thing that can happen at Pamplona.
The festival in this northern town, renowned for its all-night street parties, dates back to the late 16th century. It gained worldwide fame in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises."
Since record-keeping began in 1924, 13 people have been killed during the runs, the most recent in 1995.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Even More All-Star Photos

More All-Star Parade/MLB Pre-Party Photos

San Francisco Was a Major League All-Star Host

San Francisco can be proud of the job it performed as the host of this year’s MLB All-Star Game. I personally got a chance to attend many of the festivities surrounding the event. Wherever I went, I talked to fans that had traveled from long distances (Japan, France, Holland, etc.) to be at the game, and all of them mentioned how much they loved San Francisco. Yes, the City by the Bay really rolled out the red carpet for this one and it showed.
Of course, I did everything I could to participate in All-Star Week, except for the most important thing (at least to me) which was actually being at the game itself. Who could afford it? Tickets were going for between $600 and $5,000 apiece and I’m just a low-paid freelance writer trying to survive in the most expensive city in the world. There are only a couple of events I would pay that kind of money to see. Maybe if Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin came back from the dead to do a concert. Or possibly the second coming of Jesus Christ. I’d pay five grand to see that, no doubt. Especially if the gift bag included a pass to heaven.
I had a great week hanging out with my fellow baseball fans, but the best thing was probably the parade before the game. All of the players drove by and threw stuff to the crowd assembled along the parade route – it was Mardi gras! It was a great opportunity to get very close to the players.
Then, I unexpectedly conned my way into the MLB All-Star Pre-Game Party. What a bash! They had so much amazing food, including sushi bars, oyster bars, chocolate fondue fountains and piles and piles of shrimp. I ate so much I thought I would burst. I also got to meet a lot of MLB officials and members of the media, which was a blast. For a moment I felt like I belonged and was momentarily able to forget that I had crashed the party.
Then, of course, there was the game, which I watched in the comfort of my home.
And what a great game it was! When Ichiro Suzuki (pictured above in a photo I took at the pre-game parade) raced around the bases as the ball bounced away from Ken Griffey Jr. for the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star Game history I was in heaven. It reminded me of a neighborhood softball game. What a wonderful fluke! On a night of confusing hops and some questionable calls, Suzuki and the American League came back to win – again.
Ichiro’s two-run homer in the fifth inning put the AL ahead, then Carl Crawford and Victor Martinez added a couple of over-the-fence shots and the Americans held on for a 5-4 victory over the Nationals. There was only one problem with Crawford’s blast – it wasn’t a home run. A fan caught the ball before it went over the wall. But, what the heck – it’s the All-Star Game. Bending the rules a little is permitted. It’s a friendly contest.
In a decade of absolute dominance, the AL has won 10 consecutive games played to a decision, with the notorious 2002 tie at Milwaukee interrupting the run.
There were other exciting moments as well. Alfonso Soriano hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth that made it 5-4, and the NL loaded the bases on three walks. Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez then retired Aaron Rowand on a routine fly to right for a save.
"I didn't enjoy it a bit," said AL manager Jim Leyland, so competitive that he screamed at an umpire in the ninth. The reason Leyland yelled at first-base umpire Charlie Reliford was because Derrek Lee of the Cubs checked his swing at a pitch that would have ended the game. The TV replay clearly showed that Lee swung. It should have been the end of the game. But, once again, MLB has its own interpretation of the rules during the All-Star Game.
Willie Mays, Bonds' godfather, was honored with a touching tribute before the game. In the Say Hey Kid's day, the NL ruled All-Star games but not anymore. The AL closed to 40-36-2 and improved to 5-0 since the All-Star winner received home-field advantage in the World Series.
Soriano, who joined Frank Robinson as the only player to hit All-Star homers with each league, connected off Seattle closer J.J. Putz, who then walked J.J. Hardy. Rodriguez relieved and walked Lee on a full count. A walk to Orlando Hudson loaded the bases before Rowand's fly ended it.
Suzuki, on the verge of a large contract extension from the Mariners, had been 3-for-15 in All-Star play coming in. He recorded three hits, was the game's MVP and will be remembered for his strange shot, unfamiliar even to ballpark regulars such as Bonds.
Fans had waited in kayaks out in McCovey Cove beyond right field in vain for some shots into the water -- no souvenirs found their way into the chilly bay.
Bonds, the center of attention in the days before the game, had a quiet night. He flied to right field in the first, hit an opposite-field shot to the warning track in left in the third, and then left the game at the top of the fourth.
He received a huge ovation after he came out on the red carpet during the pregame introductions and bowed three times to his adoring hometown fans. Hitting in the No. 2 spot -- his last regular-season appearance in that slot was 20 years ago -- he even faked a bunt on the first pitch of his second at-bat.
His chase for Hank Aaron's home run record resumes later this week, and the scrutiny will return. But for a night, the swirl of steroids speculation lifted along with the San Francisco fog.
Griffey drove in two runs for the NL with a first-inning single and a sixth-inning sacrifice fly.
Boston's Josh Beckett picked up the win, and San Diego's Chris Young -- who gave up Suzuki's homer -- was the loser.
Young entered to start the fifth and walked his first batter, Brian Roberts. One out later, Suzuki reached down and golfed a ball to right-center field. It hit off an All-Star ad in an area known as the arcade and instead of bouncing straight back, it kicked toward right field.
Young and the Padres should be embarrassed. The pitcher whined excessively about not being selected to the all-star squad, but was subsequently chosen by fans online. Then, he gives up a walk and a homer and essentially loses the game for the NL. Maybe La Russa knew what he was doing when he left Young off the team.
Before a ballpark record crowd of 43,965 on an overcast evening, Mays was honored for being perhaps the greatest five-tool player in the sport's history. After the All-Stars were introduced, he walked in from center field, flanked by Bonds and Derek Jeter, between two rows of the assembled players. The tribute was similar -- but less emotional -- than 1999's ceremony honoring Ted Williams at Boston's Fenway Park.
Griffey was the early star. He put the NL ahead with an RBI single in the first off Dan Haren, then threw out Alex Rodriguez trying to score from second in the fourth on Ivan Rodriguez's single.
Crawford homered with two outs in the sixth against Francisco Cordero to make it 3-1. The ball went a little to the center-field side of Suzuki's shot, about 20 feet from the sign that totals Bonds' homers, currently 751. A fan appeared to reach over the brick wall, about 19 feet high, and gather up the ball.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Time for analysis at baseball’s halfway mark! The season has whizzed by up to this point. Much of what was predicted has come true, but much hasn’t. (Surprise!) I’ve been busy going to games this week—always fun to go around July 4. I was at the Coliseum when Oakland got roughed up by Toronto Monday night, and I was there again Tuesday when the A’s barely squeaked by the Jays with a 3–1 win on superb pitching by Joe Blanton. I was there yet again last night when the A’s beat the Mariners 3–2 behind even more superb pitching by Chad Gaudin and home runs by Nick Swisher and (gasp!) Bobby Crosby. Great game!

I hope Ed can forgive me for not doing picks for the All-Star Game, as we had planned. I’m strictly a stats guy myself, and the selection of players for the All-Star Game is such a popularity contest—also, the fact that every team must be represented throws the whole thing out of whack and always leaves out some deserving players. In addition, I think it’s ridiculous to have home-field advantage for the World Series decided by the outcome of the All-Star Game. Home-field advantage should be awarded to the team that has the best record—what’s so hard about that? Isn’t it the fairest way, after all?

Suffice it to say that I might tune in to some of the All-Star stuff, but it won’t be a top priority on my viewing list. I mean, just how did Bighead Barry Bonds get all those last-minute votes anyway? It sure would’ve been a hilarious story if Bonds didn’t get invited to the All-Star Game in his own park, especially in the year he will set the home-run record.

As for me, I’m set for the second half and hoping the A’s can go on some kind of run….


In the AL East, the Red Sox seem to be having little trouble maintaining a double-digit lead over the Yankees and the Blue Jays in the standings. Today, the Sox are 12 games up over both teams and playing at a fantastic clip. As impressive as this is, remember that we’re only halfway through. I would love to leave the Yankees for dead, but my experience shows me that this is never wise. True, they are also 8.5 games out of the wild-card spot, but stranger things have happened than Joe Torre’s Yankees coming back to make a run in the playoffs after being written off.

In the Central, Cleveland and Detroit continue their seesaw for supremacy, with Detroit behind by a game. Minnesota is still lagging 7.5 games back, but the Twins are only 6.5 games out of the wild-card spot, and we all know they’re perfectly capable of going on a run. Even though the White Sox are finally playing acceptable ball (for the moment, anyway), they’re still 12.5 games out of first place in the division and 11.5 games out of the wild card—still safer to leave them for dead than the Yankees.

In the West, the Angels continue their furious pace, but Seattle is hanging in there, 4.5 back and only 2.5 games off the wild-card pace. The Athletics can’t seem to keep a consistent streak going, so who knows if they even have a chance for postseason play? At 8.5 games behind Anaheim and 6.5 behind Detroit for the wild card, they can start by taking the current series from Seattle. Texas has become the Kansas City of the West. Can anyone say “doormat”? I feel for poor Rangers manager Ron Washington, one of the good guys in the game.

Ah, now for the senior circuit! In the East, the Mets are playing better ball, although they were swept by the Colorado God Squad in three games by a total score of 34–12 earlier this week. The Amazin’s beat the Astros yesterday, so maybe this will finally be the series that helps them regain their steady winning ways. The Braves remain 3 games back, and the Phils, after being humbled by the Mets in losing three out of four last weekend, are holding at 4.5 back. Both teams are also the same number of games back in the wild-card chase.

I am astounded at the run that the Cubbies are making now—they are 21–10 since June 3 and are now only 4.5 games behind Milwaukee for the lead in the NL Central. The Cardinals also seem to be playing better ball, but I can’t remember the last time a World Series champ struggled so much the first half of the following season. With all the trials and tribulations St. Louis has experienced this year, I just don’t know if they have it in them to make a run at the postseason.

In the West, there’s still a cluster at the top of the division, with the Padres on top, L.A. just a game behind, and the D-backs (who seem to be fading) 2.5 back. The Rockies have fallen back a bit, too—guess Yahweh wasn’t paying attention—but are still only 6.5 behind the Pods. The Giants are a giant flop, still 11.5 games back and 10.5 games off the wild-card pace. Surely the only thing that keeps fans coming to the park is the hope that the team’s bigheaded mutant of a left fielder will finally hit a few home runs, darn it, and break Hank Aaron’s record already so we can all stop pretending to pay attention.

Now comes the All-Star break, and then the dog days kick in. In the heat of the 2007 summer, we’ll see who has it in them to keep playing into the cool October night! If any of you out there wants to let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from you…!

My Picks for the 2007 MLB All-Star Game

With the All-Star Game coming to San Francisco’s AT&T Park next week, I thought now would be a good time to weigh in with my AL and NL all-star team picks. The fans actually did a very good job of getting the best players on each squad, but I do disagree with them in some instances.

Victor Martinez, Cleveland Indians
The fans blew it here, picking Ivan Rodriguez. Martinez is the number one catcher in baseball right now, with power, average and production. People have criticized his defense in the past, but he’s improved in that area and should only get better.
Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers
The heart and soul of the Dodgers, Martin has all the tools, including speed on the base paths, something very unique for a catcher. What makes him even more valuable is that he plays almost every day, assuming the iron man role with enthusiasm. A former hockey player, this kid is just fun to watch, because he’s tough, smart and super competitive. Luckily, the fans recognized his greatness just in time to vote him in over the NY Mets’ Paul LoDuca.

Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
The fans put Boston Red Sox team leader David Ortiz in this spot, but I don’t believe that’s fair to Morneau, because Ortiz is a DH, not a first baseman. The one who really got the shaft here is the Bosox’s real first baseman, Kevin Youklis. The fact that Youklis isn’t even on the all-star team at all is a travesty. Morneau is the complete package and is entitled to this starting slot.
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers
All hail to the Prince! This kid has proven that he can play with the best and is one of the reasons why the Brewers are in first place. He has a great attitude, loves to learn and fans all over the world need to see him in the all-star spotlight. Albert Pujols better be wary – if Fielder continues to excel, Albert may never start in another All-Star Classic again.

Placido Polanco, Detroit Tigers
Arguably the most complete player during the first half of the season, Placido has stepped up and established himself as a driving force within the offensive juggernaut known as Tiger Baseball. The fans love him; his teammates adore him and he’s doing it in style, both at the plate and in the field. This one is a no-brainer.
Orlando Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks
Chase Utley is a close second, but Hudson has more tools and means more to his team. The Diamondbacks have surprised a lot of fans this year and are right in the middle of the NL West race. Hudson is one of the reasons.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
He’ll be in the Hall of Fame one day, because he’s the ultimate player – smart, dedicated, respectful and steroid-free. He has survived and thrived in the occasionally circus-like atmosphere of New York, by showing class on and off the field. Sure, he dated Mariah Carey for a while, but other than that he’s played an error-free game. His stats speak for themselves, and although many may argue that the Angels’ Orlando Cabrera might be more deserving, to this all I can say is “Orlando who?”
Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
This is by far the toughest pick of the bunch. I can hear Mets, Braves, Brewers and Philly fans whining already, but I truly believe that Ramirez is the best all-around shortstop in the NL this season. Sure, Reyes steals more bases, Renteria is solid, J.J. Hardy is a great player and there’s no doubt that Rollins can hit for both power and production, but Ramirez has more runs, more hits and a better average than all of them. Plus, he’s not as protected in the lineup as some of these other guys.

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
He’s having the best season of anyone else in the major leagues, so it’s an easy pick. The fact that there’s no one at his position having a year even close to the one he’s experiencing makes this selection even easier.
Miguel Cabrera, Florida Marlins
Cabrera will most likely be playing for another team (a contending one) before the season is over, but right now the Big Fish are enjoying his every day production while trying to forget about his ineptitude in the field. It’s tough to ignore David Wright, but if you look at the numbers objectively Miguel is the Man.

Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The only other candidate in this group that warrants any consideration might be Torii Hunter, but he gets edged out because he’s been streakier than these other guys.
Matt Holliday, Colorado Rockies
Aaron Rowand, Philadelphia Phillies
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
The one that may surprise folks here is Rowand, but he is just having too good a season to ignore. Holliday is hitting for average and is a great fielder and Soriano is heating up. He should have an awesome second half. Barry Bonds was voted in by fans here for sentimental reasons and because the game is being played in his hometown.

Dan Haren, Oakland A’s
This guy just doesn’t like to give up runs. His tiny ERA has elevated him to the top of the heap and has helped establish him as a stopper who opponents should fear and respect.
Jake Peavy, San Diego Padres
I was going to give the nod to Brad Penny, who had a lower ERA until last night when he got bombed and fell out of the running, in my opinion. Besides, Peavy has more strikeouts and Penny started last year’s All-Star Game. Spread the wealth, I say.