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Inside Baseball

Down The Line

June 17, 2007|Bill Shaikin

Love me, hate me, vote for me?

If you believe that fans outside San Francisco and media across the country pile on with criticism of Barry Bonds, then you would expect him to be treated better by a jury of his peers.

We'll test that theory in coming weeks, and the exercise might not be academic. Bonds ranks fourth among National League outfielders in All-Star balloting, with the top three elected as starters. Carlos Beltran, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alfonso Soriano are the leaders.

If fans vote no on Bonds, players can vote yes. The players' vote determines most of the reserves, so his peers could be the ones to send him to the All-Star game. Bonds is hitting .280, leads the league in on-base percentage and ranks among league leaders with 14 home runs.

If Bonds is not selected by fans or players, he could go anyway, as the token representative of the last-place San Francisco Giants.

If the players select Giants catcher Bengie Molina and/or pitcher Matt Morris, the commissioner's office could hold its nose and allow NL Manager Tony La Russa to pick Bonds. La Russa urged his Cardinals to pursue Bonds as a free agent last winter, and by the All-Star game Bonds could be a swing or two from the all-time home run record.

And, after all, the game is in San Francisco, in the bay-front house that Barry built.

Said Jeff Borris, the agent for Bonds: "As a fan, I would feel cheated if the greatest player ever to play the game wasn't at the All-Star game."

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Congrats, thanks, time to move on

The Houston Astros come to town this week, with a 3,000-hit albatross around their collective shoulders.

It has been a painfully long march to that milestone for second baseman Craig Biggio, 41. The Astros groomed top prospect Chris Burke as the heir to Biggio, but he has been in a holding pattern for two years.

"Quite frankly, it's been hard," General Manager Tim Purpura said. "We had hoped center field would be an option for him, but that didn't work out."

Biggio is 11 hits from becoming the ninth player to get 3,000 with one team, joining Cal Ripken, George Brett, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount, Al Kaline, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski and Roberto Clemente.

But he's also hitting .237, with a .280 on-base percentage. Burke should get his chance soon, with Biggio projected to reach 3,000 on the Astros' next homestand.

"It's a balancing act," Purpura said, "with what he's done for this team and this city and what is best for the future of this team."

--

Don't look now, but here come the ...

... Colorado Rockies: They took two of three in Boston last week, handing Josh Beckett his first loss this season. Matt Holliday leads the league in batting average and leads NL outfielders in slugging percentage. They've won 17 of their last 23, so the NL West could be a four-team race after all.

... Philadelphia Phillies: The team Jimmy Rollins boasted was the one to beat has won 10 of 14 to join the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves in the NL East race. The Phillies lead the NL in runs, good thing since they have lost starter Freddy Garcia and closers Tom Gordon and Brett Myers to injury.

... Washington Nationals: Still bad, but not as bad as the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals or Cincinnati Reds. First baseman Dmitri Young is hitting .335, with shortstop Cristian Guzman at .324. The Nationals are 20-14 since May 10, and they could aspire to be a Cinderella team if only they played in the NL Central.

... New York Yankees: Yes, them again. They're 12-3 this month and, for all the angst surrounding them, only 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot. That Alex Rodriguez guy is back, with seven home runs in his last 13 games. Armageddon can wait.

-- Bill Shaikin

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