Baseball's first half

Congratulations to the National League for finally winning an all-star game last night. It was a fun game to watch.

Of course, there are the naysayers today who say the game still lacks meaning, and I'll agree the all-star game isn't perfect ... The in-game replacement player rules are ridiculous.

But it seems to me the league has put together a nice string of exciting games since the 2002 debacle in Milwaukee. In recent years, the managers haven't been cramming every single player into the game (Last night, Alex Rodriguez, of all players, didn't get into the game, which by the way was completely fine by me). The games have been close and there seems to be at least a sense that the players are putting forth some effort. Ryan Braun's diving catch in the fourth and Marlon Byrd's on-the-money throw from right field to cut down David Ortiz at second base in the ninth inning were game-saving plays for the National League.

The pitching was pretty great, too.

Good reads ...
aRyan Braun is a fan favorite for good reason ... Sept. 28, 2008. That was a great day. Though, I was a big  fan of Brauny's long before that.
aBernie Bytes: Home Run Derby? Yawn
aBernie Bytes: The Real NL All-Stars
aWhy the rosters keep growing, and more All-Star game thoughts

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As for the Home Run Derby Monday night ...

I called Prince Fielder's win last year ...

And I predicted Corey Hart as the winner this year ... After a hot start, our beloved Brewer fell just short. David Ortiz won it all instead.

* * *
I learned the news of George Steinbrenner's death on Tuesday morning in the form of a breaking news tweet ...

It was no secret his health had been failing, but my jaw dropped and I spoke a soft, "Wow." ... My next thought was, Leave it up to George Steinbrenner to die on the day of the all-star game, so Major League Baseball can devote a ton of attention to his legacy and honoring him -- and stealing the thunder of Bob Shepard's passing in the process.

I was rendered speechless on the subject for the rest of the day, with ESPN's non-stop coverage (analyzing every angle and drawing reaction from everyone from Dave Winfield to Bob Knight to Dick Vitale) playing on my TV.

Good reads ... (Updated 07.16.2010)
aGeorge Steinbrenner, Who Built Yankees Into Powerhouse, Dies at 80
aThe Pride of the Yankee
aActually, there was a lot to like
aWas Steinbrenner Just Lucky?
aIn Dresser Drawer, Recalling a Chivalrous Steinbrenner
aRed Sox Pay Tribute to Steinbrenner at Fenway
aSultan of Swagger
aFor Heirs, Big Test Is Building on Excellence
aSteinbrenner Remembered as Despot and Hero

* * *

There's a new Geico commercial out that features Randy Johnson ... I laughed out loud when I saw it for the first time the other day.

* * *
I applauded thunderously last month when Bud Selig announced Kansas City would host the 2012 All-Star Game. I'm disheartened by the ticket policies (and the possible costs), but I'm sticking by our pledge to be a part of it.

This guy's lack of love for the Royals, and his Red Sox bias, even though he denies it, makes me more proud that Kansas City got the game.

* * *
Finally, speaking of disheartened ...

After all my whining about the music performances I’m missing in Chicagoland during the coming months, one thing I’m not missing -- amazingly -- is the Wrigley Field experience …

To me, it’s no wonder the attendance is down.

I’m not suggesting I’ve turned into a fair-weather fan -- I still and will always love the Cubs -- but their miserable play this year hasn’t helped my attitude.

Not only are the Cubs playing pretty horribly this season, I’m not fond of the flow of not-so bright changes spurred by new ownership that are putting a dent in the experience I've adored for years and years.

Rising ticket prices. The ugly Toyota sign in left field. Plans to completely alter the neighborhood's charm. This week came the revelation that the Cubs have quit playing organ music as the Cubs batters walk to the plate. And they’ve got a friggin' noodle sitting along Clark Street.

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