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Article:After 15, 11 Straight For AL

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DID YOU NOTICE that none of the New York Five -- Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and Mariano Rivera for the Yanks, Billy Wagner and David Wright for the Mets -- exactly distinguished themselves in last night's All-Star Game? Jeter got a cheap infield hit, then hit into yet another double play, seemingly the only thing he might lead the AL in this season; A-Rod was 0-2; Rivera gave up 2 hits but no runs; Billy Wags gave up the tying run that sent it into extra frames; Wright had a hit but struck out twice.

Now, none of them were Dan Uggla ugly -- 3 errors, 3 strikeouts, half-a-dozen men left on base in the game for the Marlins' terrific 2nd baseman -- but the worst night had to belong to Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. He had set off the crowd long before he entered the game in the 8th last night and proceeded to give up a cheap run that really wasn't all his fault. But Papelbon had the nerve to say on Monday that he should be the one closing the All-Star Game, not the venerable Mariano in his home park. Then Papelbon, who has reliably proven to be a cringe-inducing egomaniac even by professional athlete standards, predictably backed off his comments later, saying he was misquoted, etc. To top it off, Papelbon used profanity to express to a reporter that he was pissed off about New Yorkers yelling stuff at him and his wife in public. He was roundly and soundly booed by the capacity crowd at the Stadium with every pitch, even though he was technically after all on the American League's and, thus, the Yankees' side, such was the hatred pulsing through the crowd. You'd like to believe Papelbon -- a remarkably talented closer -- would think twice next time, but that would imply that he thinks at all before opening up his big yapper in the first place.

Yet as right as the crowd was to defend the honor of the Great Mariano and let Papelbon have it, there was no call for a chant of Let's Go Yankees! when Rivera entered the game. That's bush league. First of all, the chant only makes sense when the home team is at bat. Second, it's the kind of thing you'd expect from Red Sox fans, or Mets fans.

Why was there nothing about Bobby Ray Murcer last night? Not a mention, except for the Bleacher Creatures, who chanted his name in their roll call last night, more than the stuffed suits of Fox or MLB managed. I guess they couldn't find a fucking sponsor in time, unlike everything else connected to the game, in a typical classless, tasteless MLB/Fox display of rampant, crass commercialism. Joe Buck is the perfect ringmaster for this kind of crap, and that is in no way intended as a compliment, in case you were wondering where we stand here. Murcer, like Donald Arthur Mattingly, had the poor timing and misfortune to play their peak seasons during lengthy fallow periods in Yankee history, missing out on the postseason parade that just followed. Thus the big stage eluded them both. Mattingly retired in 1995, following the Seattle series where Ken Griffey Jr. ripped out the Yankees hearts. The next year Buck Showalter was also out, replaced by Joe Torre, and the glory years that followed.

Bobby Murcer came up just when Mickey Mantle was hitting his down years, and there would be no playoffs for Murcer's first 8 years with the Yankees. He was then unceremoniously traded to the Cubs, only to watch in agony as the Yankees made the postseason 5 out of the next 6 years, winning World Series in 1977 and '78. Murcer did rejoin the Yankees for the very tail end of that run, but by then he was on the last legs of his own fine career.

A moment of silence for Murcer was not warranted at some point in the endless pregame ceremony of hype? Not to be cynical, but it's probably because nobody stood to make a buck from it, so it was therefore overlooked, what with all the hideous product tie-ins we were inundated with throughout the game. It was all Fox could do to catch the first pitch of an inning.

I shut the damn thing off after 9, switched on the radio as I got ready for bed, and then fell asleep with the game still tied. Most of the reserves were in at that point anyway. I got up around 1:30, and the game was still going on, 15th inning. I was too sleepy to care at that point, and found out this morning that the AL had won an incredible 11th straight All-Star Game. But after such a streak, and after a resoundingly dominant interleague advantage in favor of the AL, maybe it's not a shock anymore.

I had somehow forgotten that homefield advantage was once again on the line last night, with the American League winning the right to host the 7th game if the World Series should come down to that. Not that I think this is going to affect the Yankees in any way, because I really don't see them making a playoff run this season. Just too many injuries, too much age, too many other good teams for the Yanks to sneak in there again this year.

But I know enough to know that I don't know which Yankees team will show up in the second half. Will they make a trade for a corner outfielder if Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui can't come back? They've been shut out 3 times in the last 20 games, and have had trouble scoring runs all year. The kid they brought up to play left, Brett Gardner, is batting just .167 (6 for 36), proving the old adage that you just can't steal first. Gardner is quick as a flea, but unfortunately has about as much pop as a small bug.

The only player who came close to stealing 1st base was Rickey Henderson, whose ridiculously low crouch -- where his chest was almost touching his knees -- reduced the strike zone to the size of the baseball itself. Henderson, a true Walking Double, drew more cheap walks than any other player in history, and once on first he wouldn't be there long before he was headed face first for second. Good times, good times...

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