All-Star silliness can't stain first half of season

The boredom of Home Run Derby is near. The squabble-fest concerning who should and should not pick the roster is alive and well. And Cyber-stuffing the ballot box is once again getting its space.

All-Star fever … chuck it.

And while you're at it, throw Mets manager Bobby Valentine for apparently promising Marlins outfielder Cliff Floyd a roster spot, then taking it back.

Toss normally classy Yankee skipper Joe Torre for picking an unprecedented seven of his own players despite the pinstripes having only the third best record in the American League.

And find a hole for Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for not creating an extra NL roster spot to honor the retiring Tony Gwynn, who achieved what is today the unthinkable by playing his entire 19-year career with the same team.

Did I mention Ken Griffey, Jr. almost beating out Luis Gonzalez for a spot in the National League's starting outfield?

But get me past my mid-season malaise and I can't find many bad things to say about the first half of the Major League Baseball season.


As of this Saturday night writing, only one divisional leader – the Yankees – won their division in 2000. And even that could change by the time play ends today because the Yanks were ahead of the Red Sox by just 1/2-game Saturday night.

Such parity says a lot for a sport that has been rightfully criticized for having a stark correlation between high payrolls and high winning percentages in recent years.

The long-suffering Cubs, who some felt had the worst pitching staff in modern baseball history as recently as two years ago, are in first place due to their … pitching.

The no-name Phillies are atop the NL East, which means the blustery Braves are not.

The Minnesota Twins, those guys with the fifth lowest payroll in baseball who all but had the moving vans en route to North Carolina a few years back, are in first place and have a better record than the wealth-infested Yankees.

And how about the Seattle Mariners? Losers of Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Alex Rodriguez during the past three years, the M's are on pace to make a run at the all-time best record in American League history.

Then there's Ichiro Suzuki, who is better known these days as just Ichiro!

He might have won seven batting titles and had a lifetime average of .353 while playing for Japan's Orix Blue Wave. But most felt that his playground swing would have trouble catching up with the big league fastball.

Instead, he has a good chance to become the all-time single-season hit leader while playing for a team with a chance at the all-time best AL record.

Barry Bonds will probably fall short of Mark McGwire's home run record, but he enters the break with more Big Flies than Big Mac had in his record-breaking 1998 season.

Yes, it's been a first half to remember. Good enough to make the impending 2002 strike easy to root against.

Especially if Albert Belle stays retired.


My first half winners:

MVP: Luis Gonzales, NL; Ichiro Suzuki, AL.

Cy Young: Curt Schilling, NL; Roger Clemens, AL.

Manger of the Year: Don Baylor, NL; Lou Piniella, AL.

Rookie of the Year: Albert Pujols, NL; Ichiro Suzuki, AL.

Comeback Player of the Year: Kerry Wood, NL; Bret Boone, AL.