Indians recall Vazquez, designate Mota (AP)
Brewers' Yost benches struggling Jenkins (AP)
Rangers sign veteran Eric Young (AP)
Cards' Rolen may sit out Pirates series (AP)
Mets C Lo Duca caught in tabloid storm (AP)
Padres activate RHP Chan Ho Park from DL (AP)
Mets CF Beltran back after missing game (AP)
Braves place LHP Ramirez on DL (AP)
Diamondbacks OF DaVanon goes on DL (AP)
A's LHP Sauerbeck activated from DL (AP)
Traber powers Nationals past Mets (AP)
Duke helps Pirates end five-game slide (AP)
White Sox's Contreras three-hits Tigers (AP)
Wells earns first win, Red Sox rip O's (AP)
Burnett, Jays spoil Garza's Twins debut (AP)
Smoltz, Francoeur power Braves to win (AP)
Astros' Pettitte homers, fans 10 in win (AP)
Saunders pitches Angels past Yankees (AP)
Sizemore, Indians rally past Royals 4-3 (AP)
Phillies outlast Reds in 14 innings (AP)
Rangers' DeRosa has another six-RBI game (AP)
Marlins spoil Hernandez's Arizona debut (AP)
Kielty, A's spoil return of Rays' Kazmir (AP)

Wright helps Mets sweep Padres (AP)
Cards hit three HRs off Arroyo, top Reds (AP)
Police: Marlins prospect overdoses (AP)
Davis, Brewers cruise past Cubs 8-6 (AP)
Angels RHP Santana injured by line drive (AP)
Pavano makes rehab start in Class A (AP)
Baker to testify in steroids case (AP)
Twins P Garza ready to start for Liriano (AP)
Nationals 2B Vidro not ready for rehab (AP)
Santana injured in Angels' 14-2 loss (AP)
Lilly, Blue Jays shut out Twins (AP)
Rookies lifts Marlins past Nationals (AP)
Royals complete sweep of fading Red Sox (AP)
Clemens helps Astros sweep Pirates (AP)
White Sox manager Guillen ejected (AP)
Dodgers top Rockies, take NL West lead (AP)
White Sox take two of three from Yankees (AP)

Stories like this always leave me conflicted: the Florida Marlins' first-round draft choice in 2003 and once-top pitching prospect Jeff Allison has overdosed on heroin for the second time in his short life and far shorter career. He was found lying unconscious on the bathroom floor on Monday afternoon.

Allison overdosed in July 2004. He almost died. Of course they always say "almost died" when a guy overdoses but isn't that sort of inherent in the idea overdosing? Isn't almost dying exactly what an overdose is? Having not overdosed I am perhaps unqualified to opine, but un-qualification has never kept me from running my mouth.

Apparently the kid became addicted to OxyContin while a high school student in Massachusettes. OxyContin is apparently very similar to heroin and often leads its adherents down that path.

It used to be - oh, it still is - that I was very opinionated and cynical, and when I would come upon a story like Allison's, or similar stories such as the recent and not-so-recent troubles of Maurice Clarett, I would shake my head, roll my eyes, and trot out screeds about personal accountability and so forth. I think I've come back a bit on that, and a bit on my cynicism in general. It's a struggle: every day a million different awful things happen and it gets harder to keep any perspective, but I'm a big believer in empathy and at least a good-faith effort in understanding. So now, considering the story of Allison, I can't help but feel for him. Here's a kid whose demons have taken from him the ability to pitch - the team has repeatedly, and justifiably suspended him for in various infractions, including leaving an extended spring training session with permission - and that inability has then worsened and provoked further incidents, as for any athlete, the sport that they play is generally an outlet for them as individuals. So it goes with most of us: the things that we take passion in are those things that get us through our days and without them life would be much more of a struggle.

All of this is not meant to absolve Allison from any blame, nor Clarett in his situation. It seems to me - again, having never faced such predicaments - that you're never going to escape your problems unless you begin by taking some measure of responsibility, and then figuring out where to go from there.

Here is hoping Allison turns it around, and we see him pitch a good career for someone. At age 21, he still has potential. That hope is extended to Maurice Clarett, that he may find some way to recover from all of this and discover a productive life, and for any of the multitudes of people facing such problems.

The candidates for the Comeback Player of the Year Award were announced a while back and I decided to vote today. I have a big problem with any award that is given to big loser that use(s/d) steroids, but you know, that's another story for another time. I also have a problem with the award because I'm not sure what it really means. MLB says it recognizes "those baseball players who have re-emerged as stars on the baseball field," but some of these guys just had a down year. If you have a big year in 2004, a down year in 2005, and then another big year in 2006, are you really re-emerging as a star? Or did you just have a down year and you went back to playing how you were playing normally? Maybe I'm splitting hairs, I don't know.

So, here are the National League candidates and their worthiness in my opinion...

Nomar Garciaparra (LAD) - Nomar has played 80 games this season and he's on pace for 128. That will be more games than he's played since 2003, his last full year with Boston. That year, he hit .301 with 28 HR and 105 RBI. In 2004 and 2005, he averaged a .297 average, 9 HR, and about 36 RBI. This year, his pace is for .328, 19 HR, and 91 RBI. More importantly, he's been relatively healthy. Right now's he injured but he's still going to play.

Johnny Estrada (ARZ) - Last year for Atlanta, all of Estrada's offensive numbers were down from 2004. How much were they down? His numbers were down around 50% and he was a good 40 - 70 percentage points lower in all his averages. That seems like a lot until you consider the fact that a) he only hit 9 HR in 2004 (and 4 in 2005) and only had 76 RBI in 2004 (and 39 in 2005). His average did dip a fair amount and it's back up now, but comeback player of the year? My guess? He had a bad year. It's not like he's coming back to being a star. He's just a catcher who had a sophmore slump.

Carlos Beltran (NYM) - I always thought Beltran was overrated and I thought his contract with New York was pretty ridiculous and the Mets would end up regretting it. But this year, I don't know. He'll end up posting career highs in pretty much everything except stolen bases and possibly batting average. But, really, he's not "coming back" to these numbers. He's just exceeding what he's posted in the past. MVP? Possibly. In fact, very possibly. Comeback Player of the Year? Naw.

Scott Rolen (STL) - Rolen had an awesome season in 2004 for St. Louis and then he was injured in 2005 for a good portion of the season. He wasn't the same player when he did play. This season he's slightly below his 3-year averages for stats. But he's definitely a lot closer to the player he was before his injury. I'd say he's a good candidate for the award.

Joe Borowski (FLA) - He had one good season in Chicago with the Cubs: 2003, where he posted a 2.63 ERA and had 33 saves. He's on pace for an equal amount of saves for a mediocre Florida team. But I don't think he was ever a star and he's just having a good season as the full-time closer for the Marlins. I'm not sure he's Comeback Player of Year, you know?

Edgar Renteria (ATL) - He went from goat of Boston to one of the better offensive players on the Braves. He's better than the guy he replaced (Furcal). He's up from or equal to 2005's offensive numbers but he's reduced his errors from last year's 30 to this year projection of 13 errors. For someone who was a World Series hero and regular on good Cardinals teams, he sure did take an extraordinary amount of crap last year (defensively, it was well deserved). He turned it around and became the NL All-Star starting shortstop. Pretty good comeback.

I'd narrow it down to Nomar, Rolen, and Renteria pretty quickly. Rolen's having a decent season to be sure. But he was coming back from injury and I don't think anyone suspected he'd never be the same. So I'll take him off the list. Nomar was injured for the better part of the last two seasons and I guarantee you a lot of people thought he was through. Renteria was thoroughly trashed by the media and Red Sox fans. Objectively, you can't compare the two in terms of their worthiness. However, I'd say that I suspected Garciaparra would never be the player he used to be and I'd say a lot of you thought the same. Renteria had a bad season, to be sure, but I'll give Nomar the advantage here. So, I predict that Nomar Garciaparra is your NL Comeback Player of the Year.

We'll do the AL candidates a little later.

Reds acquire Hollandsworth from Indians (AP)
Twins to place LHP Liriano on 15-day DL (AP)
Halladay wins 14th, Jays top Orioles 4-3 (AP)
Phils score eight in 7th to beat Braves (AP)
DeRosa's two HRs help Texas rip A's 14-0 (AP)
Washburn leads M's to 2-0 win over Rays (AP)
Dodgers activate Garciaparra from DL (AP)
Mets put Floyd on DL with tendinitis (AP)
Mets top Padres despite Piazza's homers (AP)
Morneau, Santana lead Twins over Tigers (AP)
Indians' Westbrook shuts out Angels (AP)
Yanks' Damon leaves game with sore groin (AP)
Rolen leaves game with back spasm (AP)
Ross' walkoff homer lifts Reds by Cards (AP)
Yanks nearly blow 7-run lead, top ChiSox (AP)
Huff's six RBIs power Astros in rout (AP)
Royals get two in ninth, top Red Sox 5-4 (AP)
Rockies snap Dodgers' 11-game win streak (AP)

ESPN E-Ticket has a story up about America's recent obsession with hating Alex Rodriguez. The piece goes into detail on some of the particulars that fuel the negativity, from machismo to jealousy to the unfounded opinion that he's worthless in the clutch. Considering that, against my continued desire to be as objective as possible in all things, I am firmly entrenched in the anti A-Rod camp, I thought I'd take this space to trot out some of the reasons my skin crawl when I see the guy.

  • When Alex signed The Contract with the Texas Rangers during the 2000 off-season, he claimed he did so because he "wanted to win". His old team, the beloved Seattle Mariners, won 116 games the year before and lost in the ALCS to the Yankees. His new team, that one so dedicated to winning, finished the season 71-91, last place in the American League West. I realize guys cannot come out and say "I signed this contract for the money and I cannot wait to get paid," but really - insulting a team that brought you up by offering some empty, meaningless platitude which no one believes? Why bother?
  • Leaving the Rangers for the Yankees after the 2003 season, Alex was widely quoted as describing the Texas team as a bunch of children, and Alex. That's a great move by any account, nevermind the fact that that group of children went on to make a marked improvement in their record in their first post-Alex season in 2004.
  • In the early stages of team selection during this year's World Baseball Classic, Alex announced intentions to play for the Dominican Republic, not exactly his native country, but then again we had Mike Piazza playing for Italy, so whatever - we'll let that go. Identifying with nationalities and ethnicities barely your own are part and parcel of being an American. However, Alex, as he seems to do, buckled under critics who scolded him for not playing for the nation of his birth, the nation that made him the superstar he is. Soon after, he relented, claiming he wouldn't play in the affair at all because he didn't want to dishonor either the Dominican Republic or the United States. Good, Alex. Let's just not even bother to get out of bed in the morning lest we offend someone with our actions. But it wasn't all done: soon after that declaration, he did a 180, asserting he'd play for the United States, claiming "in recent weeks, following dialogue with caring friends and players, both Dominican and American, I reached the conclusion that if I played in the Classic, I would play for the United States and honor my American citizenship." The whole affair is a concise representation of what's so gross about the guy: he can't do anything without holding a focus group and deciding what works best for his image. It's not that it hints at weakness - weakness is a human foible with which we can all identify and to fault a guy for that is dishonest - but it hints at dishonesty and a general fraudulence.
  • The other week Alex came over to my house, reeking of booze and generally just being an asshole. He arrives in his stretch Hummer limousine, driving it alone to mock my environmental sensibilities. He pulls up in front, parks the thing, rolls down the passenger window, and chucks an emptied whiskey bottle in the direction of my house. It hits the front porch, bounces into the screen door, and shatters. My cats go apeshit. Dude then gets out of the vehicle and staggers up to the door, and rather than ring it like any normal human being, he just starts screaming for me to "get the fuck out here" and "what do you goddamned know about fucking anything"? I walk to the screen door, still inside because who knows what a guy with 452 career home runs is going to do when he's this drunk. "Alex," I say to him, "I don't think you should be driving when you're in this kind of condition. It isn't good for your image." That shut him up for a moment, during which I fling the door open, run outside, and grab the newly opened whiskey bottle he's clutching. "Alex, we're going to go inside and talk about why you're only hitting .283 like civilized people. We're not going to have this discussion out here, with you drunk and throwing things." Alex takes another moment, looks up at me with these sad drunk eyes, and screams "like you'd know what it's like to hit in front of 450,000 drunk New Yorkers on a nightly basis!" Reminding him that Yankee Stadium won't hold 450,000 people isn't going to help, so I just let him keep going. "You just get to go to your little 9-5 and write nasty things about me on the Internet and live here with your stupid cats and your stupid wife in your stupid house!" He punctuates this last sentence by rearing back with the arm that holds the whiskey bottle, and given his career-record 18 errors so far this year, there's no telling where the bottle's going to end up. I start to get angry, what with Alex insulting my wife and I tell him that he's going to go, right now, or I'll go all Jason Varitek on him. He keeps up the vitriol and the anger, shouting slurs about anything and everything, so I go up behind him sneaky like and take the bottle arm and twist it up and behind his back. Suddenly he starts screaming in agony, telling me "leggo the $25 million arm!" Rather than letting him go, I guide him back to his Hummer, put him in the back, and hope to myself that he's gone by daybreak.

So you can see, I am no fan of Alex Rodriguez.

Indians sign Lee to three-year extension (AP)
Indians place Blake on DL, recall Garko (AP)
Yankees' minor leaguer fails drug test (AP)
With Liriano ailing, Twins call up Garza (AP)
Yankees break ground on stadium Aug. 16 (AP)
Judge: Fantasy leagues can use MLB names (AP)
Reds seek explanation on inured Majewski (AP)
Orioles recall Cabrera to start vs. Jays (AP)
Piazza well received in return to Shea (AP)
Braves LHP Ramirez headed for DL (AP)
Royals activate Sweeney from 60-day DL (AP)
Yankees activate Cano, put Cairo on DL (AP)
Girardi: No rift with Marlins owner (AP)
Matsui may rejoin Yankees for rehab (AP)
Sheets still in Brewers' rotation (AP)
Radke wins again, Twins beat Tigers 4-2 (AP)
Mets spoil Piazza's return to Shea (AP)
Freel powers Reds to rout of Cardinals (AP)
Kennedy's pinch-hit single lifts Angels (AP)
Hudson, Braves stifle Phillies 3-1 (AP)
Markakis, Cabrera lead O's by Blue Jays (AP)
Ortiz hits 41st homer, but Red Sox lose (AP)
Konerko, Dye lead ChiSox by Yanks in 11 (AP)
Maddux strong as Dodgers' streak hits 11 (AP)
A's win 6th in row on interference call (AP)
Sexson's slam in 10th gives Mariners win (AP)

It was quite a homecoming for Mike Piazza tonight, as the catcher returned to Shea Stadium for the first time since leaving the Mets during the off season. It must have been a bittersweet moment as New York's having quite the resurgence this year without him, and looks destined for their first division title since 1988. It's difficult to think of a better team in the National League. Though all is not lost: Piazza's new team in San Diego sits atop their division as well, albeit doing so a scant four games above .500.

Piazza reportedly received a standing ovation from the once home crowd, but his Padres went on to lose 3-2, with new NYM star David Wright knocking in two runs.

"It was just one of those amazing moments that I can't explain in sports. You just don't see that a lot. For them to give me that privilege and honor is something I can't explain. The people were amazing."

Good for Piazza, one of the better guys in the game, even if he can't throw out a base runner to save his life.

Elsewhere in the National League, the Reds are making good on their chances to win the Central from the Cardinals: with a 10-3 victory over St. Louis, Cincy moves to within 3.5 games of the division lead. Cardinal starter Jason Marquis lasted only 2.3 innings, allowing four runs across nine hits to get tagged with his third straight loss. Reds starter Eric Milton climbed one game above .500 with six innings of solid work, allowing one run across five hits and striking out three, bringing his record to 8-7 on the year. The two teams finish out the season series with five more games over the next two weeks. With the Reds in possession of that series by a 7-3 margin, and with the Cardinals only 13-12 since the All-Star Break, the thing is wide open.

Says Reds Reporter: This team makes me feel bipolar sometimes. One minute everything's gone wrong, the next anything is possible.

It's been eleven years since we've seen Ken Griffey Jr in the playoffs, and although he's only hitting .245 with 23 home runs - something that should be almost unacceptable to him on a personal level - it would be fun to witness.

Out in the American League, you think pitchers might want to stop intentionally walking Raul Ibanez to get to Richie Sexson. He hit his fourth grand slam of the season in the bottom of the 10th to notch a 5-1 victory over the Devil Rays. He's done this repeatedly all season: he could be in an 0-13 slump, but when they walk Raul to bring his ailing bat to the plate, it's pretty much automatic. We should invent a category for the PIBB, the Post Intentional Base on Balls. If RISP measures the elusive clutch ability, PIBB measures the way a player reacts to being insulted by the opposing team. Richie would be gold in this category, and maybe this category only.

Newsflash: Mariano Rivera blew a save tonight. With the Yankees leading the White Sox 5-4 in the bottom of the 9th, Paul Konerko took a pitch deep into the Chicago night to tie the game. Two innings later, Jermaine Dye singled in the winning run off Scott Proctor, giving the White Sox the win and a temporary 1/2 game lead in the AL wild card race, despite the team being just 9-14 since the All-Star break.

The Yankees might get Hideki Matsui back in the next few days, making their lineup even a little more ridiculous than it already was. Tonight they welcomed back injured second baseman Robinson Cano, who went 3-5 with a double.

Last item of the night: a federal judged ruled today that Major League Baseball does not possess intellectual property rights on the names and statistics of its players, and that the organization/cabal cannot charge massive licensing fees to companies that provide fantasy baseball games to players.

The names and playing records of major league baseball players as used in CBC's fantasy games are not copyrightable. Therefore, federal copyright law does not pre-empt the players' claimed right of publicity.

Good news for anyone who spends too much of the workday organizing the day's lineup card, although it's just one ruling and if there is one thing you can say about our society, it's that enough money always trumps law.

You take the weekend off and you miss a lot of interesting things. I missed Arizona picking up a veteran arm and presence in Livan Hernandez for two starting prospects in Garret Mook and Matt Chico.

Mook - what a name - is 4-8 with a 4.95 ERA in 23 starts for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies; Chico is 7-2 with a 2.22 ERA for the same team. Capitol Punishment is going to miss Livan in DC, but it doesn't seem like the guys over at AZ Snakepit really seem to appreciate the acquisition, even comparing the aging pitcher to Russ Ortiz. With Diamondback ace Brandon Webb currently day-to-day with elbow issues, it seems a good move for the team pick up some solid starting pitching if they plan to make a push in the West, where they sit 2.5 back of the Padres.

Speaking of the Nationals, Cincinnati GM Wayne Krivsky is calling shenanigans over the recent acquisition of ex-Washington pitcher Gary Majewski. Sent to the disabled list prior to being traded, apparently the Nats shot the guy up with a bunch of cortisone in his throwing shoulder just days before off-loading him to Cincinnatti, without bothering to tell anyone. Classic GM quote from Krivasky on the issue:

Hopefully when people are dealing with us, they feel like we're being straight up. I want people to feel like they're being dealt with honestly. For me, Wayne Krivsky, creditability is paramount.

Love it how he pulls a little Rickey Henderson, telling you exactly what is paramount to Wayne Kirvisky. Also love the "for me" interjection, just in case you weren't sure to whom he was referring. Man of mystery, professional GM.

Over the weekend I also missed the Mets nailing down two key parts of their franchise, with David Wright inking a six-year, $55 million deal and Jose Reyes being secured for four years at a bargain price of $23.25 million. Metsblog.com wonders - nay- fantasizes about an infield including those two alongside Mark Teixeira, who may need to be traded if Texas goes after Carlos Lee for a long-term deal.

Sadly too over the weekend, Francisco Liriano ran into a lot of trouble - the four runs and ten hits in four innings kind of trouble - facing the Tigers and now looks like he will go on the disabled list. Losing that arm is really going to put a crimp on the Twins' chances to humiliate the White Sox, something I'm interested in seeing happen. Minnesota's called up first-round pitching prospect Matt Garza to fill the vacancy.

What I didn't miss, because even on vacation I have to turn on the radio or the television and torture myself, is the Seattle Mariners losing three straight to the now-much-hated Oakland Athletics. The sweep pretty much cements Seattle's position in the West: not even close. Granted, they are only 6.5 back, but now having lost eleven straight to Oakland, it's rather clear to anyone watching that they lack the skill to overtake that team, nevermind the Angels and Rangers standing in between. Consider that the Ms have a slight reprieve in a three-game series versus Tampa Bay, and then go on to play the Carlos Lee-powered Rangers, the Freaking Athletics again, the Angels, the Yankees, and the Red Sox through the month of August. It's not over - technically - but it's over.

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