Sunday, July 11, 2004

Score it an All-Star error


Beltran's worthy, but interleague trade keeps him out of game

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The official explanation from Major League Baseball required an asterisk, two dashes and 68 words.

All to say Astros outfielder Carlos Beltran, though voted an All-Star reserve by his former American League peers, was not eligible to play in the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Houston.

"It's out of my hands," Beltran told the Houston Chronicle last week. "I think the commissioner (Bud Selig) and Major League Baseball should have known something like this was going to happen.

"It's not my fault that I was traded. They should come up with a better rule."

Beltran was batting .278 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI before the Royals traded him to the Astros and the NL on June 24.

But because player balloting was completed before the trade, Beltran was ruled unable to play in his first All-Star Game for either league's 32-man team. Major League Baseball, however, does recognize Beltran as an All-Star and will allow him to participate in All-Star activities this week.

"I think he's a great player and should be in the game," NL manager Jack McKeon said Thursday. "I think he certainly has the credentials."

SOAP OPERA: The likely NL All-Star pairing of Astros pitcher Roger Clemens and Mets catcher Mike Piazza is sure to garner considerable attention.

It has been four years since Clemens, then pitching for the Yankees, struck Piazza in the helmet with a pitch during interleague play and later threw the splintered end of Piazza's broken bat in the catcher's direction during Game 2 of the 2000 World Series.

Both players say their history is just that, but it will be worth watching how they interact as first-time battery mates Tuesday at Minute Maid Park. Clemens is expected to be named the NL's starter Monday.

"There are more people involved in the game than just those two," AL manager Joe Torre said. "You commit yourself to the fans because it is an all-star game ... and I think that takes precedent over anything else."

MATTER OF INTEGRITY: Robin Yount impressed many by declining an offer to remain on the Diamondbacks' coaching staff after manager Bob Brenly was fired July 2.

Yount, who played all 20 seasons of his Hall of Fame career with the Brewers, resigned as the team's bench coach out of loyalty to Brenly.

"He had to follow the dictates of his conscience," Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. "We wanted him to stay; we asked him to stay. He chose the other path."

LOOKING BACK: The historical weight of Eric Gagne's streak of 84 consecutive saves - a near two-year run that ended Monday - will be determined later.

Some perspective about what transpired as the Dodgers closer piled up the saves: There were 965 blown saves in the majors, and an estimated 7.3 million babies were born.

"As we continue to live our lives, it will be interesting to see if that ever comes close to being done again," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said.

BELATED DATE: The Pirates on Thursday opened their first regular-season series against the Expos in Puerto Rico. Given the link between Roberto Clemente and the Pirates, Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon wondered why the Pirates are presumably the last team the Expos will host in San Juan.

"We should have been one of the first teams to go," he said.

The Pirates played two spring training games against the Expos in 1974 and also played exhibition games in Puerto Rico in 1975 and 1977-79.

QUOTABLE: Texas Tech head men's basketball coach Bobby Knight attended a game between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks last week at Dodger Stadium.

"Good thing those chairs are bolted down," Arizona outfielder Luis Gonzalez quipped.

Odds and ends

• Several teams have inquired about Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson, but the right-hander would have to approve any trade this season as stipulated in his three-year, $22.5 million contract. Ponson has a limited no-trade clause next season but loses all no-trade protection in 2006.

•  Monday is the 25th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago, a promotion that went awry and forced the White Sox to forfeit the second game of a doubleheader against the Tigers on July 12, 1979.

• Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi and pitcher Kevin Brown, who are being treated for intestinal parasites, are convinced they became ill after the team's season-opening trip to Japan.

• Seeking a solution to the chronic blisters on pitcher Josh Beckett's right middle finger, the Marlins sent Beckett to the 15-day DL on Tuesday and then to a burn specialist at the University of Miami on Wednesday.

• Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome and Pat Burrell are the first Phillies players to total 60 or more RBI by the All-Star break.

A wild, wild race

While the St. Louis Cardinals have opened the biggest division lead in the National League, the loop figures to still have four good pennant races - the three divisions and the wild card.

Here's how the wild-card race looked entering Saturday:

Team W L Pct. GB
Cubs 46 39 .541-
Giants4740.540-
Reds4640.535 1/2
Padres 4640 .535 1/2
Brewers 4440 .524 1 1/2
Mets44 41 .5182
Astros4442 .5122 1/2
Braves4342.5063
Marlins4343.5003 1/2

They are coming

The average attendance in major-league baseball entering Thursday was 29,906, an 11.4 percent increase over last year, according to research by USA Today.

Commissioner Bud Selig cites new ballparks in Philadelphia and San Diego as well as momentum built from last season's compelling postseason.

"If this pace continues, and I have every reason to think it will with all the tight races and the parity we now have, we're going to set an all-time attendance record," Selig said. "When you consider it's July 7 and we're already almost over 37 million fans, it's stunning." A look:

Team 2003 2004 % Diff.
Marlins 12,926 22,016 +70
Phillies 24,526 40,569 +65
Padres 23,400 36,222 +55
Astros 28,369 37,864 +33
Devil Rays 12,835 17,058+33
Tigers 17,482 21,991 +26
Rangers 26,259 32,703 +25
Brewers 18,245 22,139 +21
Yankees 39,721 48,016 +21
Orioles 28,471 33,202 +17
White Sox 20,286 23,475 +16
Angels 36,746 41,500 +13
Dodgers 37,338 42,002 +12
Cubs 35,305 39,293 +11
Red Sox 32,899 35,101 +7
Rockies 27,869 29,688 +7
Athletics 26,003 27,036 +4
Cardinals 36,415 37,069 +2
Braves 28,747 29,171 +1
Giants 39,049 39,450 +1
Reds 29,477 29,755 +1
Indians 20,439 20,527 0
Royals 22,809 22,600 -1
Mets 29,543 28,945 -2
D'backs 33,562 32,810 -2
Twins 22,201 20,944 -6
Mariners 38,350 35,103 -8
Pirates 21,660 19,570 -10
Blue Jays 22,603 20,127 -11
*Expos 12,191 9,197 -25

*Combined for Montreal, Puerto Rico

Source: USA Today

MLB power rankings

1. N.Y. YankeesLost 2 of 3 to Tigers.
2. St. Louis CardinalsEdmonds robbed Dunn.
3. Texas Rangers Hart's built another blockbuster lineup.
4. Minnesota TwinsBeat up on the Royals.
5. Philadelphia PhilliesEven David Bell's hitting.
6. L.A. DodgersNew streak for Gagne.
7. Chicago CubsRotation back to full strength soon?
8. Boston Red SoxRacing Yanks for Big Unit.
9. Chicago WS Big deal with Braves in works?
10. Cincinnati RedsJust when we start counting them out ...
11. Oakland AthleticsDotel shaky as closer.
12. Milwaukee Brewers Closer Kolb's plain nasty.
13. San Diego PadresRemember that Nevin-Griffey deal?
14. S.F. GiantsForaging for bullpen, outfield help.
15. Atlanta BravesNo fire sale just yet.
16. Houston AstrosAll-Star Game could be season highlight.
17. Tampa Bay D-RaysCrawford's faster than Piniella's fuse.
18. N.Y. MetsHidalgo coming up huge.
19. Florida MarlinsWent from first to fourth in a week.
20. Anaheim Angels Should be much better.
21. Cleveland IndiansOffense is up and down.
22. Detroit TigersCarlos Guillen emerging as top SS.
23. Toronto Blue JaysWill Delgado be on the market?
24. Pittsburgh Pirates10-game win streak gets Bucs nowhere.
25. Colorado RockiesSeeking taker for Walker?
26. Baltimore OriolesPitching staff in freefall.
27. Arizona D'backsInteresting to watch at trade deadline.
28. Seattle MarinersGarcia trade nets top prospect Reed.
29. K.C. RoyalsAnyone seen Juan Gone lately?
30. Montreal ExposD.C. or Northern Virginia?

---

Information from other new organizations and submitted by other baseball writers was used in this report.




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