July 12, 2006
Michael Young:
Clutch triple with 2 on and 2 out in the 9th delivers 2 RBI and home-field advantage for the AL in the World Series. Not that the Rangers will be there.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Handing out midseason awards:

Here's the biggest story: There will be no debate this year about whether a DH is worthy of winning the MVP award.

For now, the AL MVP is David Ortiz in a walk. (And even if you look at his next closest competitor, it would be DH peer Jim Thome.)

Papi leads the AL in HRs and RBI (by 10!) and is top-10 in OPS. (Not to mention all the unquantifiable clutch hitting he has become known for.)

It's the DH's MVP to lose.

More awards

AL Cy: Francisco Liriano. Despite not starting for the first month, he has 10 wins and 102 K's (against only 23 walks) and an MLB-leading 1.83 ERA. Even Ortiz called him the best player in the AL.

AL Rookie: Jonathan Papelbon. Liriano could win both Cy and ROY, but Paps co-leads the AL in saves and has a microscopic 0.59 ERA.

AL Manager: Jim Leyland. Did anyone see this coming from the grizzled vet who came out of retirement for what looked like a hapless team?

NL MVP: David Wright. And not just because he was the HR Derby runner-up and only the 13th player to hit a HR in his first All-Star at-bat. But both of those things exhibit his poise in leading the NL's top team.

NL Cy: Tom Glavine. 40-something having a renaissance year, leading the NL in wins while anchoring an otherwise sketchy Mets rotation.

NL Rookie: Dan Uggla. Only NL rookie to make the All-Star roster. 'Nuff said.

NL Manager: Joe Girardi. His 38-48 record isn't impressive until you realize he's done it with a glorified Triple-A roster.

You won't find a better take on the All-Star Game's big story line than the one Jayson Stark delivered in his column: "One strike away."

My Top 5 ASG Moments:
1. Young hits game-winning triple
2. Penny K's Ichiro-Jeter-Papi
3. Clemente honored/Ozzie cries
4. Pujols barehands grounder
5. Wright HR (1st ASG at-bat)

But can we all admit that while a taut game is inherently dramatic, the game was a snoozer from Beltran's run through Hoffman's collapse?

Selig speaks
Bud Selig on cheating: "I really think steroid use has been minimized. Amphetamines, we're doing OK."

I'm confused how Bud Selig could make that statement, but then -- when pressed about HGH use in MLB -- say this:

"According to people who are supposed to know, they believe [HGH] is not a big statistical problem today. The medical people seem more concerned about new amphetamines -- which they describe as quite dangerous -- than steroids or HGH."

Well, is MLB "doing OK" on amphetamines or "concerned?" Which is it?

Meanwhile, note how Selig pinned responsibility for any future hindsight that HGH actually is a big problem on "people who are supposed to know." Isn't Selig himself supposed to know?

How can MLB have the scandal of a mediocre pitcher like Jason Grimsley involved with HGH and not think it's potentially all over the place?

WNBA: 10th anniversary All-Star Game tonight in New York
NBA Free Agency: Players officially can sign their deals
All-Star Game in NYC? MLB ponders Yankee Stadium in 2008
Trevor Hoffman: Padres closer is MLB's All-Star Game goat
Colin Finnerty: Duke lax player convicted for 2005 assault
Braves on TBS: New MLB TV deal calls for national schedule
Every time Selig has a chance to reassure fans and critics that he has a handle on baseball's enhancement problem, he finds a way to muck it up rhetorically.

LeBron Re-Signs
James inks a three-year deal, with a player option for a fourth. And I recognize it's LeBron's prerogative to survey the CBA and do what makes the most business sense.

But Cavs fans must feel bittersweet that their star won't commit to the maximum five-year deal (and left the chance wide open that he could bolt in 2010).

"3-Plus-1" is the new "Max": Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony reportedly are eyeing the innovative contract structure as well, choosing the chance for a bigger payday earlier over the security of a longer deal.

More: Timberwolves sign Mike James: So much for Randy Foye as NBA Rookie of the Year. Not with shoot-first PG James sharing the backcourt with him as Minnesota's big free-agency move.

Classic Series
Did you vote in that ESPN Classic All-Time World Series bracket? The big "reveal" show is tonight (6 p.m. ET, ESPN Classic), so I e-mailed participant Buster Olney to get his take on the most undervalued team in the "tournament." His fascinating response:

"I was surprised that the '72 Athletics are not higher than the 16th seed in the American League bracket. This is like making Duke a 13th seed in the NCAA bracket.

"Before the Yankees' dynasty of '96-01, the '72 Athletics were part of the last team that won three consecutive WS, and think about the talent -- Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando -- great pitching, good offense, good defense. And lots and lots of style, with the mustaches and the green and gold unis and the clubhouse brawls.

"After a fight between Reggie and Bill North in '74, Blue Moon Odom said to someone who walked in the clubhouse, 'You're early, but hang around; we'll have a fight for you sooner or later.'

"They've got a brutal first-round matchup against the '27 Yankees, however; wish they lasted longer than they're probably going to last.

"I know Joe Morgan will make a strong case for the '75 Reds as one of the greatest teams of all time tonight, but to me, that Oakland team was the best team since the Yankees' teams of the '50s -- and they beat the Reds in the '72 World Series. We'll have to hash that out tonight."

"715" Ball to eBay
You have to cheer Andrew Morbitzer's decision to put Barry Bonds' 715th HR ball up for auction on eBay. Now, we can all watch as it underperforms in an open marketplace. (Maybe Bonds himself will buy it?)

ESPYS Tonight
Here's why Vince Young will rule the ESPYS:

The ex-Texas/new-Titans QB is a nominee in four "cross-sport" categories. And I project he'll sweep them all, all on the strength of his transcendent performance in the Rose Bowl:

Best Male Athlete: He's going up against Lance Armstrong, LeBron James, Albert Pujols and Olympic snowboarder Shaun White. (What does it say that Heisman-winner Reggie Bush didn't make that list? It says that Young can -- and should -- win Best Male Collegian, too.)

I'll take Young: Lance and White compete as individuals; Young carried an entire team. Pujols and LeBron didn't even make it to their sport's championship series; Young won his sport's title.

Best Team: Young's Texas national champs have a tough field, including the White Sox, Heat, Steelers and Maryland women's hoops.

Given that Texas beat a USC team that many (cough!) were arguing (gack!) was among the top three of all time (d'oh!), the Longhorns' win was most impressive.

If there was any team this year that would have had an argument against Texas, it would have been George Mason (not nominated).

Best Game: Given the 1-2 stakes, the two unbeaten teams, the Heisman star power, the seesaw scoring and the thrilling upset finish, Vince Young's Rose Bowl wins in a rout, particularly given the other contenders (NLDS Game 4, Agassi-Blake U.S. Open quarters).

Best Championship Performance: Forget the instant history of Dwyane Wade's scintillating NBA Finals; fans still remain dazzled that Vince Young nearly single-handedly carried the Texas offense to its Rose Bowl title. In case you've forgotten Young's ridiculous numbers:

Passing: 30-of-40, 267 yds
Rushing: 19 car/200 yds, 3 TDs
Total: 467 of UT's 556 yds

The ESPYS will tape tonight; the show airs Sunday (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).

Marco Materazzi:
Finally fesses up that he spit an insult at Zidane in the World Cup final but denies he called him a "terrorist" (yes, but what about Zizou's mom?).
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie Live
Page 2 Index
MLB All-Stars
Top ESPYS Categories
Best Moment
J-Mac over Kobe, G. Mason?
Best Male Athlete
Do you believe in Young?
Best Team
Steelers will push UT
Best Coach
Larranaga bumps Ozzie, Cowher
Best Play
Too late for Zidane head butt?

Things worsen for Barbaro: His doc reportedly says that the horse's chances for survival have dropped below 50 percent. Sad story getting sadder.

Selig rips Manny: "Look, maybe I'm old-fashioned; you're voted onto the All-Star team, it's a privilege. You ought to be here."

More Manny: A Baseball Prospectus report says Manny has a cartilage tear in his right knee (won't keep him from playing, but worth tracking).

Juergen Klinsmann resigned as coach of Germany's national soccer team. The U.S. would be smart to tap him to replace Bruce Arena. (He even lives in SoCal!)

(Italy's Marcello Lippi also resigned, probably figuring it is never going to get better than this. And it won't.)

Kudos to MLB for posthumously giving Roberto Clemente the commissioner's "Historic Achievement Award," accepted by his wife Vera.

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