All Star lineups
Most of the first-string players on the All Star teams are well qualified, even though they do bear a suspicious resemblance to last year's World Series teams. Managerial discretion? How in the heck did Carlos Beltran get picked over Jose Guillen? And Mike Piazza: Has there ever been an All-Star player with less than his .257 batting average? Since Washington Nationals lack an established fan base, it wasn't much of a surprise that their players received so few All Star votes. Livan Hernandez and Chad Cordero made the cut, and rightly so, but no position players at all??? Something is not right with this popularity contest voting system. Nick Johnson deserved at least a reserve slot, but since he was just put on the DL, it doesn't matter. (Perhaps in a parallel universe where the Expos were relocated to Washington two years ago, All-Star Vladimir Guerrero is wearing a Nats uniform.) The selection of the delinquent Texas Ranger Kenny Rogers is a disgrace, and he is technically eligible to play because his appeal of the suspension and fine is pending, but I doubt that Terry Francona would have the gall to have him pitch.
Welcome back Jose Vidro!
Thanks largely to a clutch double in the seventh inning tonight by Jose Vidro, just back from two months on the DL, the Nats faced down the almost unhittable Pedro Martinez and beat the Mets 3-2. Esteban Loaiza threw eight strikeouts in eight innings, finally getting his fifth win. Yesterday's sold-out July 4 game in Washington was a disappointment, as the Nationals lost to the Mets, 5-2, but it only goes to show that even the best (!) teams have off days. They may still win this four-game series... When one measly loss like the one yesterday gets on a fan's nerve, it may be a sign that we are getting spoiled by success. Let's hope that Washington fans don't abandon their new home team if they can't manage to sustain their recent superhuman performance.
As if we needed any more proof that they are in fact serious contenders for the postseason, the Nationals' sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley Field should lay to rest any doubt. As is their fashion, all three games were low-scoring and were decided by only one or two runs. Brian Schneider was the hero of the series, making a key pickoff at third base in the first game and hitting the game-winning home run in the 12th inning of the third game. Twice the Cubs came from behind to tie it on Sunday, and twice the Nationals went ahead once again; pretty disheartening for the home town fans... Thomas Boswell made the case for a D.C. postseason scenario (which would be the first since 1933) in yesterday's Washington Post: "No Telling When, Or If, This Will End." Believe it ... or not!
Fourth of July sellouts
Attendance at the ballgames yesterday was very good for the most part, but rather poor in a few cities. Ballparks in Atlanta, the Bronx, Houston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Washington were filled to the brim, or nearly so, while most of the seats in Kansas City and Miami were empty. Attendance was so-so in Phoenix and Cleveland, where the Indians have been climbing back into contention (for the AL Wild Card spot) recently.
Sorry for the unannounced holiday hiatus, sports fans. Revisions to the Anaheim Stadium, Tiger Stadium, and Ameriquest Field diagrams are well underway. Y'all come back now, ya hear?