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Browsing posts from July, 2011

Pat Gillick To Cubs A No-Brainer

By bullpenbrian - July 21, 2011 - 1:01 am Leave a comment.

The Cubs have good reason to speak with executive legend Pat Gillick.

The man’s baseball career has been in stark contrast to the Cubs–he’s a winner, plain and simple.

Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle, Philadelphia…he’s built contenders and won at every stop.

Gillick was voted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, enshrined at the Rogers Centre ‘Level of Excellence’ in 2002 and then voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2010.

The Ricketts family, however, is denying reports Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has spoken with Gillick as recently as last week.

From the AP:
-A Ricketts family spokesman denied a report that chairman Tom Ricketts has talked to longtime baseball executive Pat Gillick.

“While Tom respect’s Pat Gillick’s Hall of Fame career, reports of a conversation are unfounded,” spokesman Dennis Culloton said, adding there’s been no contact between them. WSCR-AM in Chicago, citing major league sources, reported Wednesday that Ricketts and Gillick spoke as recently as last week, fueling speculation that the Cubs might be interested in hiring the newly elected Hall of Famer in some capacity.

Ricketts was not available for comment. He gave general manager Jim Hendry a vote of confidence last month and said he’s not interested in bringing someone in to oversee the baseball operation.

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You wouldn’t guess it after Wednesday’s effort, but Ryan Dempster has been a serviceable stopper following a Cubs loss this season.

In 16 starts following a Cubs defeat Dempster is (7-3), which is to be expected from the pitcher we call our ace.

But Demps was far from it yesterday afternoon against the Fightin’ Phils–3 innings, 6 runs, 7 hits. Sadly, chances are Dempster will have the same opportunity five days from now–only with better results we hope.

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Who the heck is Vance Worley?
The 23-yr-old rookie introduced himself to Chicago with 8 innings of 1-run ball.
His 8 IP is a career high.
His 7 strikeouts ties a career high.
He’s allowed 2 or fewer ER in 10 of 13 starts.
Has an ERA less the 1.00 over his last six outings.
Not bad as a fill-in for Roy Oswalt, eh?

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Why is John Grabow still a Cub?
He’s posted an ERA above 8.00 in his last 8 appearances at Wrigley.
Has allowed 4 runs in his last 4 outings overall.
Given up 47 hits in 44 innings.
22 walks vs. 26 strikeouts.
9.9 hits allowed per nine innings.
Why is Chris Carpenter still in Iowa?

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Cubs have committed an error in nine straight games–a season high–including two more Wednesday afternoon.

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Why the Cubs would move Rodrigo Lopez to the bullpen in favor of Randy Wells is mind numbing.

Lopez has been a serviceable spot-starter tossing three consecutive quality starts, including his victory against Roy Halladay on Monday night.

Wells hasn’t been remotely close to such success, but still keeps his spot in the rotation. Why?

+++

Watched former Cub Angel Pagan send the Mets to victory with a walk-off blast vs. St. Louis on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball. Thing. Of. Beauty!

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The Happiest Man In Baseball

By bullpenbrian - July 20, 2011 - 12:15 am Leave a comment.

Another tough-luck loss for Matt Garza.

Three of his last four starts have been terrific, well deserving of a win, but the Cubs just don’t score behind him.

-7/2  – Complete game 1-0 loss vs. White Sox
-7/14 – Seven shutout innings in 6-3 loss vs. Marlins (Marmol blew save)
-7/19 – Seven innings of 1-R ball in 4-2 loss vs. Philly (Marshall blew save)

Garza is (4-7) through 18 starts. His adjusted win record is (7-5). The Cubs have blown the lead in four of his starts, including Tuesday night.

+++

How huge was Starlin Castro’s first inning home run?

Cliff Lee entered the game having allowed one run or less in 6 of his last 7 starts. Castro erased that with one swing of the bat!

Lee, however, quickly returned to form looking more like the guy who went (5-0) with a 0.21 ERA in June.

He fanned six Cubs, walked none and left the game after six innings having tossed 89 pitches. Another ho-hum outing for the lefty.

+++

Goevany Soto’s throwing error marked the Cubs’ 85th miscue this season–worst in the majors.

Philly, on the other hand, sports the top fielding percentage in the National League with just 45 errors on the season.

The Philles have committed 2 errors over its last 73.0 innings played.

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More Reed Please
Since April 12 Johnson is batting .354 with an OBP of .384.
He continues to smash left-handed pitching at a .320 clip, including two doubles and a
single on Tuesday.
Why isn’t Reed in the starting lineup more often?

+++

Who’s the happiest man in baseball?
Jeff Keppinger, that’s who!
The utility infielder was traded from Houston to San Fran on Tuesday.
In less than 24 hours Keppinger went from the major’s worst team to a divsion leading
one–an improvement of 25 wins!

+++

Trader Jack McKeon on his decision to remove reliever Randy Choate in the ninth inning of Monday’s game against the Mets with a count of 2-0 against Lucas Duda:

-I’m interested in winning,” McKeon said. “I thought that was the right move. It’s nothing personal. I just had the feeling—this is the move I have to make. And it worked.”

-“I’m trying to emphasize how to win, leave your egos at the door. That’s No. 1.”

No surprise the Marlins have played winning baseball since McKeon took over in June (15-10).

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Wire Watch

Former Cubs:
-Chad Gaudin, DFA by Washington.
-Aaron Heilman released by Arizona.

-Baltimore transferred Brian Roberts from 15-Day DL to 60-Day DL.
-Mets activated Jose Reyes from the 15-Day DL.

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NL Central Watch

First place Pirates blank Reds 1-0.
Mets beat St. Louis 4-2.
Milwaukee tops Arizona 11-3.

Pit – x
Mil – 1.0
StL – 1.5
Cin – 5.0

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Aramis Won’t Go

By bullpenbrian - July 19, 2011 - 1:01 am 2 comments.

It only seems fitting the Cubs would defeat Roy Halladay with Rodrigo Lopez. Then again, maybe we’re giving the Cubs too much credit?

The heat index at Wrigley Field Monday night was near 100-degrees–a wave of warmth strong enough to slay one of the game’s fittest players in Halladay.

But the Cubs’ 35-year-old right-hander didn’t seem to mind the blaze. He strung together his third straight quality start while improving to (2-2) with a 3.35 ERA.

We haven’t had many opportunities to tip our cap to the Cubs this season…but Monday they took advantage of an ace off his game and beat a good Phillies team to boot. Pat on the back, especially for Lopez.

And now with Halladay out of the way, the Cubs can concentrate on Cliff Lee. Whoa buddy!

+++

Failing to reach six innings pitched ended Halladay’s string of 63 road starts in which he’s lasted at least six innings. That had marked the longest such streak since Walter Johnson went 82 straight road starts from 1911-15.

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What’s Up Doc?
Halladay is (0-3) lifetime at Wrigley Field, just one of six stadiums he’s failed to win a
game at throughout his 14-year career.
-Wrigley 0-3
-Shea 0-2
-SBC 0-1
-New Busch 0-1
-Coors 0-0
-Veteran’s 0-0

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“Right now, I’m not interested in a trade,” Aramis Ramirez

Aramis says family obligations will keep him from waiving his no-trade clause. A classic line we’ve heard numerous times, genuine or not.

Thing is, I actually believe Ramirez. And, he has every right to take his family’s well being into consideration. But that won’t stop contenders from trying to woo him away…or the Cubs from trying to deal him.

Aramis may avoid the stress of a deadline deal, but given his offensive tear as of late…Hendry’s sure to make Aramis feel unwelcomed in Chicago by August. Dealing Ramirez will simply bring the Cubs too much in return.

Likewise, too many contenders need this guy for trade talks to vanish. And enough button pushing by Hendry may have Ramirez’s family reconsidering his guaranteed $16M option if dealt.

My guess says Aramis will have a change of heart.

+++

Cubs radio broadcaster, Keith Moreland, played his first four big league seasons with Philadelphia from 1978-81.

He hit .291 with 10 HR & 74 RBI before being dealt to the Cubs on Dec 8, 1981 with Dan Larson and Dickie Noles for Mike Krukow and cash.

Moreland played six seasons with the Cubs hitting .281, 100 HR & 491 RBI.

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It’s good knowing the Cubs have company. Cincinnati is (1-6) vs. Pittsburgh this season after dropping Monday’s contest 2-0, sending the surprise Pirates back into first place in the NL Central.

Dontrelle Willis (0-1) made his second start for the Reds and lasted 4.2 innings. He allowed just 2 runs on 5 hits but suffered the loss.

Willis is just 29-years-old, but has not won more than two games since 2007 with the Marlins.

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Randy Wells DFA?

By bullpenbrian - July 18, 2011 - 3:25 am 2 comments.

How much longer before Randy Wells is DFA?

The soon to be 29-year-old has made 10 starts this season with little to no success.

He’s become infamous for his first inning struggles, which continued Sunday, allowing three runs, two via the long ball, putting the Cubs in another early 0-3 hole.

Right and left handed hitters are batting well over .300 against him. He’s served up 10 home runs, five of those coming in his last five starts, and he’s yet to pitch seven or more innings.

Where’s the kid who started his Cubs career with 18.1 scoreless innings, finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting while showing promise of a 15-game winner?

Through 69 career starts Wells is (21-27) and has steadily declined in his development.

He’s no where near a third or fourth starter in a big league rotation, and barely a fifth starter–even for the pitiful Cubs.

Maybe it’s time to try Wells’ hand out of the bullpen, or simply hand him a ticket back to the minors?

But running this guy out there every fifth day isn’t working…not for Wells or the Cubs.

+++

The Cubs have scored 53 first inning runs this year, its best mark of any frame. But that production pales in comparison to the 77 runs the Cubs have allowed in the first inning, thanks in large part to Randy Wells’ continuous struggles to get out of the gate unharmed.

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Marlins reliever, Edward Mujica, was caught napping in the bullpen by WGN TV on Saturday. Maybe there’s something to it?

Mujica improved to (8-2) on Sunday as part of a Marlins relief effort that stymied 14 Cubs hitter in-a-row.

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MORE ARAMIS!
Over his last 22 games:
-Batting .373, 11 HR, 23 RBI.
-Has five doubles.
-Scored 22 runs.
-Posted a 1.230 OPS, second in MLB to Jose Bautista.
He’s playing like a man desperate to join a contender!

+++

Sunday’s NL Central
-Brewers, Bucs & Reds win.
-Cards, Cubs & Astros lose.

Mil – x
Pit – 0.5
StL – 0.5
Cin – 3.5

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MLB receives records of Colon’s procedure
-The exploratory treatment involved taking fat and bone-marrow stem cells from Colon,
then injecting them into the elbow and shoulder to repair ligament damage and a torn rotator cuff.

The doctors have used human-growth hormone in similar procedures but said that HGH was not involved in this case.

The 38-year-old, who started Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays, was 6-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 games (12 starts) this season entering the outing.

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Zambrano Will Stay A Cub

By bullpenbrian - July 17, 2011 - 3:07 am 1 comment.

Carlos Zambrano assured himself he’ll be a Cub in 2012 with Saturday’s drubbing of 8 runs in 4.2 innings. The outing virtually lowers Zambrano’s trade value to zero.

No GM can justify taking on Z’s huge contract when Carlos’ head simply isn’t in the game, which was evident Saturday, and Z said so himself:

“I felt good, my fastball was good, my arm, body (were) good. Intelligence? Not good. Bad pitches to Stanton twice.”

That’s not the kind of risk favorable for contenders down the stretch.

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Speaking of trade value, Aramis Ramirez is a must-have for contenders in need of offense.

His three-run shot Saturday, his 16th of the year, gives him 14 HR and 38 RBI over his last 36 games.

Furthermore, he’s gone deep in 7 of his last 8 games…and 11 of his last 21 games. It’s safe to say Ramirez’s trade value may never be higher.

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More signs the Cubs are an awful team…eight of the Marlins 13 runs scored with two outs…while the defense committed two more errors giving them 81 for the season–a major league worst.

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What a display of power hitting by Mike Stanton! Two oppage jobs deep into the bleachers, neither aided by wind. He’s a special kind of talent, one that should stay right in step with Starlin Castro’s climb to stardom.

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I’ve often thought Javier Vazquez is one of the most under appreciated pitchers in the game. He’s spent 14 seasons in the bigs, never been on the DL, and continues to be a strikeout machine at age 34.

He’s started 30-plus games in 11 of 13 full seasons with a record of (157-157). I’m not saying he’s a great pitcher…just not fully appreciated.

+++

Marlins outfielder, Bryan Petersen, reminds me of a young Steve Finley!

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Great camera work by WGN to catch Marlins reliever Edward Mujica napping in the second inning!

Like any true manager would, Bob Brenly called Mujica out on-air for his cat nap. But let’s face it, even Cubs fans were tuned out at that point.

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Cubs 9-2 In Dempster’s Last 11 Starts

By bullpenbrian - July 16, 2011 - 2:05 am Leave a comment.

One of Dempster’s best outings of the season–period. Eight innings, nine punchouts, no walks…and no way Demps was letting Quade pull him early this time!

Surprisingly, the Cubs won the game without plating a single RBI, which is just another weird turn in this frustrating season.

Marmol, obviously, is a mess. He can’t find the strike zone or the touch on his slider. He’s been way too predictable with his pitch selection and the Marlins have made it look easy against him, and we know that’s not the case when Marmol is right.

I have no qualms with Q’s decision to pitch Marmol after Thursday’s meltdown. It’s text book to throw a closer the day following a blown save. This time, however, Quade had Marshall ready in the bullpen, and that was the game saver.

If there’s any good news coming from Marmol’s recent slump it’s that the problems appear mechanical/mental and not physical, which keeps Marmol a valuable trade piece.

What Marlon Byrd brings to this club can not be overstated. His professionalism, his attitude, his moxy…all of it a dynamic the Cubs sorely missed during his injury. Byrd’s heads-up play to gun down Hanley Ramirez at second base in the ninth inning was sensational.

I don’t suspect there’s much of a trade market for Byrd, but I’d be happy to see the Cubs keep him through next season. The guy’s a winner, which is exactly what this roster needs more of. Byrd’s a keeper.

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Jim Hendry is turning the Cubs rotation into Ellis Island by bringing the poor, tired, and huddled masses of washed-up hurlers the likes of: Doug Davis, Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer, Rodrigo Lopez, Ramon Ortiz and now…Dave Bush.

DAVE BUSH
2011 – Tex 0-1   5.79 ERA
2010 – Mil 8-13  4.54 ERA
2009 – Mil 5-9   6.38 ERA
2008 – Mil 9-10  4.18 ERA
2007 – Mil 12-10 5.12 ERA
2006 – Mil 12-11 4.41 ERA
2005 – Tor 5-11  4.49 ERA
2004 – Tor 5-4   3.69 ERA

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The Pirates, for the first time since 1997, lead the NL Central. And that begs the question: are the Peg Legs that good, or the division simply that bad? I’m leaning towards the later, but rooting for Pittsburgh to win this division anyway!

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Mr. Cubs Race!

By bullpenbrian - July 16, 2011 - 1:01 am Leave a comment.

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Cubs’ Special

By bullpenbrian - July 15, 2011 - 2:01 am Leave a comment.

I call it the Cubs’ Special–just give it away.

It’s as if George Strait sang this song with the Cubs in mind.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0N44CWgGx4&w=448&h=252&hd=1]

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Heading into the season Quade promised sound fundamental baseball. The Cubs, however, have played anything but thus far.

Another example being Marmol’s failure to back up a throw to the plate in the ninth, allowing the go-ahead run to score Thursday night.

Clearly, Quade’s approach isn’t working. And he’s the man responsible to hold players accountable for mental breakdowns.

Whatever the case, Quade must make it clear to his players this type of poor execution is not tolerated. If that means sitting Marmol in favor of Wood in the next save situation, so be it.

Sitting guys usually gets the point across. But if that doesn’t work, hit’em where it counts–in their wallets. BUT DO SOMETHING!

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Rarely do we see a player excel as well as Geovany Soto did on his bobble head night! Big Geo went 4-for-4 at the plate in addition to calling a terrific game behind the plate for Matt Garza.

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We know valuing a pitcher based on his numbers of wins alone is a thing of the past.

Which is why I amazed one can’t find the number of Quality Starts listed on the landing page of a stats site.

Baseball-Reference.com…MLB.com…neither lists quality starts on a pitcher’s main stats page. Why is that?

Garza’s seven shutout innings vs.the Marlins ties him for the Cubs lead in QS with (9). Dempster and Zambrano also have (9) QS. Who’s second best?

Try Randy Wells and Doug Davis with (2) each.

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Trader Jack & Cam-Boogy!

Love seeing Jack McKeon back in the dugout at Wrigley. Dude’s 80-years-old and still kicking butt at the major league level!

McKeon, of course, isn’t the long term answer in Miami–he won’t live forever–but I have no doubt the Fish will be a better second half club under his guidance.

And I’ll throw out there I wouldn’t be surprised if the club welcomes him back next year to unveil the city’s new ballpark.

Love me some Cam-Boogy, too! At 38-years-old he’s McKeon-age in player’s years, but it never gets old seeing him roam center field.

Marlins are expected to give Cameron plenty of playing time, which he didn’t get with Boston in the first half of the season, leading to a tough .149 batting average.

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What’s happened to Hanley Ramirez? He went from one of the game’s brightest stars to a near forgotten.

He’s batting 100-points lower than he did just two seasons ago, and his power stoke has seemingly vanished.

Is Ramirez still viewed as ‘The Franchise,’ or has the torch been passed to Mike Stanton?

Hanley Ramirez
2006 – .292, 17 HR, 59 RBI (won Rookie of the Year Award)
2007 – .332, 29 HR, 81 RBI
2008 – .301, 33 HR, 67 RBI (scored 125 runs)
2009 – .342, 24 HR, 106 RBI
2010 – .300, 21 HR, 76 RBI

2011 – .242, 8 HR, 37 RBI???

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Watched The Lincoln Lawyer staring Matthew McConaughey. Not bad, not great, but a good movie overall.

More interestingly, there’s some Cub Love in the flick thanks to William H. Macy’s character ‘Frank Levine,’ who plays a former Chicago police officer.

Was the name ‘Levine’ also a tribute to one, Bruce Levine, of ESPN 1000?

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Ryne Sandberg Still Open To Managing Cubs

By bullpenbrian - July 14, 2011 - 2:01 am Leave a comment.

I believe Ryne Sandberg remains open to the possibility of managing the Cubs. And no, it’s not just wishful thinking on my part.

Sandberg’s candor and diplomatic approach to answering this particular questions is the tell tale sign.

Despite his every right to shun the Cubs after the organization snubbed him in favor of Mike Quade last year, Sandberg refuses to do so. Why?

Because Ryne knows what we do–Jim Hendry and Mike Quade are far from a sure-thing in 2012.

That alone gives Sandberg leverage to unseat Quade heading into the offseason…in addition to having already done everything asked of him by the Cubs organization to earn the big league job, not to mention, earning the PCL Manager of the Year Award in 2010.

It’s a smart approach by Sandberg–quietly keep saying the right things while the Cubs close-in on 100-losses.

The Cubs, meanwhile, are fortunate Sandberg was also passed over by the rest of baseball last year. But with his Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (53-37) 16-games above .500 and leading the International League’s North Division…fat chance he’ll be passed over again this offseason.

Hendry and Quade are tied at the hip…if one goes so does the other. For either to survive a 100-loss season is unlikely, leaving Ryno there for the taking.

There’s no reason Tom Ricketts shouldn’t pick Sandberg this time around. The fans want him…and Ryno wants to be here.

True to form, Sandberg’s just saying it in so many words.

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No brainer decision by the Cardinals to lock up Jaime Garcia for four more years.

The move by-passes Garcia’s arbitration eligible years and offers him a club option for a fifth and sixth season.

The 25-year-old leads the team in victories at the All-Star break. He’s (9-3) with a 3.23 ERA.

The lefty is also tied for the NL lead with two shutouts and has an MLB-best 1.14 ERA with his (6-1) record at home.

Garcia has proven he’s fully recovered from reconstructive elbow surgery that sidelined him two seasons ago…and shown he’s not too shabby vs. the rival Cubs: (2-0), 1.20 ERA.

Four more years of Garcia tormenting the our Cubs…great.

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Welcome back Slowskys!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv_J74YADVE&w=448&h=252&hd=1]
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All Star Game & Starlin Castro

By bullpenbrian - July 13, 2011 - 12:01 am 2 comments.

Starlin Castro pinch runs in the fifth for Tulo.
He steals second, then advances to third on a pitch in the dirt.
Is thrown out at home on a nice play by Angels closer Jordan Walden.
Final line: 0-1, strikeout, two stolen bases.

-Castro brought his mother, father and two brothers with him to the game. Courtesy, Bruce Levine

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Terrible television: former Cub great Mark Grace interviewing Justin Timberlake during the fourth inning.

Interesting television: David Ortiz’s son doing his batting impersonations of Jose Bautista, Kevin Youkilis…and of course, Big Papi!

-Big fan of baseball returning to players wearing their current uniforms during the All Star game. The digs of recent All Star games should remain in the past.

-Prince Fielder is the first Brewer to homer in an All Star game–a three-run shot against the Rangers C.J. Wilson in the fourth inning.

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Only two franchise have yet to host the Mid Summer Classic: Tampa Bay & Florida

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As a National League guy, I was pained by years of losing the All Star game. Finally, two in a row…but a long ways away from the American League’s recent domination.

National League Wins
1994 – Pittsburgh, NL 8-7
1995 – Texas, NL 3-2
1996 – Philadelphia, NL 6-0

American League Wins
1997 – Cleveland, AL 3-1
1998 – Colorado, AL 13-8
1999 – Boston, AL 4-1
2000 – Atlanta, AL 6-3
2001 – Seattle, AL 4-1
2002 – Milwaukee, Tie 7-7 (11 inn.)
2003 – Chicago (AL), AL 7-6 *This one counts
2004 – Houston, AL 9-4
2005 – Detroit, AL 7-5
2006 – Pittsburgh, AL 3-2
2007 – San Fran, AL 5-4
2008 – New York (AL), AL 4-3 (15 inn.)
2009 – St. Louis, AL 4-3

National League Wins
2010 – Anaheim, NL 3-1
2011 – Arizona, NL 5-1

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Yahoo! Sports Jeff Passan
“One of these years, the players in Major League Baseball are going to look at the dumbest rule in the sport – the All-Star game determining home-field advantage in the World Series – and ask themselves how they tolerated something so backward, so inane and so downright wrong for as long as they did.”

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