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AROUND THE HORN ROSS NEWHAN

Castillo Rides Streak to All-Star Status

June 23, 2002|ROSS NEWHAN

First the news, then the views ...

News: Luis Castillo passes Rogers Hornsby in setting a record for longest hitting streak by a second baseman.

Views: Castillo's streak comes too late to impress voters, but it should get him selected to the National League All-Star team by Arizona Manager Bob Brenly. Based on first-half performance, it would be hard to choose between Montreal's Jose Vidro, who began the weekend with a .327 average, seven homers and 50 runs batted in, and Florida's Castillo, who was hitting .400 during the streak and .338 overall with two home runs, 17 RBI and 24 stolen bases. However, Vidro is second and Castillo only seventh in the NL second base voting. The electorate, clearly voting on reputation and popularity, has Roberto Alomar, who is batting .267, leading in the latest tabulations. Might just as well be Hornsby.

News: In-stadium All-Star voting ends, but Internet balloting continues until Thursday.

Views: There's no reason to get upset anymore. Baseball likes to pump it as the Fan's Game, so let the fans choose who they want, even if voting often seems to have nothing to do with first-half performance. Alomar aside, the fans aren't doing a bad job as balloting winds down.

In the American League, it's hard to argue with Jason Giambi at first base, Alfonso Soriano at second, Shea Hillenbrand at third, Alex Rodriguez at short and Jorge Posada at catcher. Ichiro Suzuki, Manny Ramirez and Torii Hunter lead the outfield voting, and the fans basically have it right there as well except they seem not to have noticed that Ramirez last played on May 11. Johnny Damon should be teamed with Suzuki and Hunter.

The voters aren't doing as well in the National League. They have it right with Todd Helton at first base and Mike Piazza at catcher (although Paul Lo Duca and Damian Miller might argue), and they have two-thirds of the outfield correct with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, but Vidro should be the pick over Alomar at second, Mike Lowell over Scott Rolen at third, Jose Hernandez over Jimmy Rollins at short and, for the sake of quibbling, Lance Berkman over Vladimir Guerrero in the outfield.

News: Chan Ho Park starts for the Texas Rangers in Pittsburgh today.

Views: Park has turned into a $70-million bust, raising the possibility that he represented a risk away from Dodger Stadium, where he had a 42-24 career record with a 2.98 earned-run average. In eight starts with the Rangers, the first two separated by a stint on the disabled list for a hamstring strain, Park has pitched into the seventh inning only once and is 2-3 with a 9.40 ERA. He has allowed 44 hits in 37 1/3 innings, walking 19 with 30 strikeouts, and incurred assorted wounds to a psyche that was fragile down the stretch last year. Or, as Park told Texas reporters: "Sometimes, I think too much. If you think too much, you try to do too much, and that's what has happened to me." Said owner Tom Hicks, insisting Park is the last of his over-the-top signings and suggesting it's time he responds: "This is the first time he's been challenged in his career. I'm sure he doesn't want to disappoint [general manager] John Hart or me or the fans. He just has to relax and pitch."

News: The San Francisco Giants display some internal rifts.

Views: Well, there was Barry Bonds, tired of serving as target practice for opposing pitchers without his own pitchers providing protection in the form of retaliatory dustings, saying, "If our pitchers ain't going to do it I'll defend myself," (to which none of the San Francisco pitchers have yet replied either verbally or on the mound). And there was Manager Dusty Baker, in a poorly disguised shot at Jeff Kent, who bats behind Bonds, saying he was not surprised at how often Bonds is being walked intentionally but that he was surprised "how often" the strategy seems to work. Said Kent: "I'm not Barry Bonds and I can't compete with Barry Bonds ... [but] I think we've done all right dealing with the amount of times Barry's been walked. I [also] think it's pretty chicken ... of clubs across the league walking him so many times."

News: The San Diego Padres sign Ryan Klesko to a two-year, $16.5-million extension.

Views: It's hard to say where the Padres' Master Plan is in relation to having a contending team when they open their new park in 2004, but with $135 million of final financing put in place on May 24, General Manager Kevin Towers was able to finalize a contract with Klesko that had been basically agreed to in March. He is now working on a three-year extension with Mark Kotsay. Said Towers: "It didn't really make a lot of sense to be committing large dollars without any assurances that there was a definite go-ahead for the new park. That's kind of what we were waiting on."

News: Mark Grace becomes the 38th player to reach 500 doubles.

Views: Asked if there was a secret to having collected so many, such as turning singles into doubles, the Arizona first baseman said: "It's been more a case of turning triples into doubles. I hit them, and a parachute goes out."

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