NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: Jonathan Papelbon spent most of his media session yesterday praising Mariano Rivera but also saying that, naturally, he'd like to close out the All-Star Game. (Boston Herald) ("Of course I want to close the game out. I wouldn't be Jonathan Papelbon if I didn't want to close the game out . . . If I were the manager, I'd use me.") He also acknowledged that "[there's] things within this game I have to understand . . . [and] one of the things I owe to this game [is] to let an elder statesman go ahead of me." Later he grabbed a Boston Globe reporter's tape recorder and, using it like a microphone, said: "This is Jonathan Papelbon, closer of the Boston Red Sox. Mariano Rivera will be closing the 2008 All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium. I'm making a statement right now, saying I don't want it, I want him to have it."
The New York Daily News -- among others -- interpreted all that as Paplebon "[declaring] that he deserves to be the American League's ninth-inning man at Yankee Stadium Tuesday," and took the opportunity to ignore Josh Hamilton (more on that below) and put out the back cover you see at the right. It also prompted Peter Abraham of the LoHud Yankees Blog (who called Papelbon "delusional"), Bill Madden of the Daily News and Joel Sherman of the New York Post to lecture Terry Francona (and chide Papelbon) about Rivera's divine right to pitch the ninth inning in the final All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.
I understand this is Yankees/Red Sox. I understand that everything Red Sock is going to be interpreted in the worst possible light in New York, just as everything Yankee is going to be interpreted in the worst possible light in Boston. So this was a batting-practice fastball for our friends 180 miles to the south. Papelbon is Clemens-like in his inability to string words together, and in the garble of whatever he said yesterday there were individual statements -- like "I'd use me" -- that were certainly damning. But it's clear the Boston media interpreted the entirety of Papelbon's comments in a completely different way than the New York media . . . and the New York interpretation was used to pour gasoline on the "us good/you bad" stereotype that both sides embrace.
What it means, of course, is that Papelbon will be savagely booed tonight a) when he's introduced before the game and b) whenever it is he comes in to pitch. And then, when the Yankees come to town in two weeks, the favor will be returned. Ten-fold.
And people wonder why the rest of the country can't stand either one of us.
THE LAST LAUGH: Papelbon is one of seven Red Sox -- not to mention the manager and coaching staff -- taking residence in the Yankee clubhouse yesterday and today. (New York Daily News) In fact, this is an All-Star Game dominated by the Sox and Cubs. (AP via projo.com)
Or at least it was until . . .
WOW: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports thinks what he did "couldn't have been real." Josh Hamilton's performance-for-the-ages wasn't so much the number of home runs he hit -- a record 28 in one round -- but how hard and how far he hit them. Normally I regard Home Run Derby in the same manner as ShysterBall's Craig Calcaterra, but I was mesmerized; it looked as if there was a chance he might actually hit the ball out of Yankee Stadium. (As it was he hit the back wall of the right-field bleachers, something I've never seen before.) Mix in all the human-interest elements of the Hamilton package (Boston Globe) and, well, it happened right before your very eyes: Legend born.
Then, of course, thanks to MLB's cockeyed rules, he didn't even win the thing. (ShysterBall) Justin Morneau did. No matter. As Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan says, Hamilton saved the Home Run Derby. And gave us a memory we'll never forget.
I ME MINE: ESPN.com's Jayson Stark notes Alex Rodriguez' refusal to participate in the Home Run Derby -- not to mention his refusal to be part of the Call Your Shot promotion, which forced MLB to turn to David Ortiz (much to the Yankees' dismay) -- and asks: "Don't they have a responsibility to their sport that's bigger than themselves? Don't they have a responsibility to their team, in seasons like this and settings like this, to put their own personal schtick aside?"
OOPS: Upon being booed when he was introduced last night, Phillies All-Star Chase Utley uttered the two little words that everyone has uttered at one time or another to a New York sports fan. Only trouble was, the microphones caught it and the Internet distributed it. So now he's saying he's sorry. (Philadelphia Daily News)
GOOD RIDDANCE: The thrill of cavorting on the same field that once was home to Babe, Joe D. and the Mick is lost on most modern players, who -- because of the joint's striking lack of creature comforts -- won't be sorry to see the wrecking ball crash into Yankee Stadium. (New York Times)
NOW, THAT OTHER PLACE . . . Chipper Jones says he'll miss Shea Stadium when it's gone. (New York Daily News)
JUST THE WARMUP: Bothered by the messy breakup of Brett Favre and the Packers? The Bergen Record's Ian O'Connor says that's nothing compared to what's coming between Derek Jeter and the Yankees.
AMONG THE MISSING: Joe Torre isn't at Yankee Stadium for this All-Star Game and he doesn't want to be. (New York Daily News)
JUST ONE OF THE GUYS: That's how one of the Rangers' All-Stars, Milton Bradley, wants to be regarded these days. (Dallas Morning News) He also says he doesn't know where his relationship with one of his ex-managers, Eric Wedge of the Indians, went wrong. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
RIDICULOUS: Many of the All-Stars received bonuses for making the team and Jim Donaldson thinks that's absurd in light of the salaries they already command.
A LOOK BACK: Steven Krasner examines what went right and what went wrong for the Red Sox in the first half of the season.
GONE . . . BUT NOT FOR LONG: In a pre-injury interview with Joe Haggerty on Haggerty's Hacks With Haggs blog, Julio Lugo says he's spent his career proving doubters wrong. How that applies to his current situation should be obvious.
NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO: Remember the Braves fan who wanted to see a Kevin Youkilis-for-Mark Teixeira trade because "we'd be robbing [the Red Sox] blind"? He must be disappointed this morning, as Theo Epstein threw cold water on an ESPN report of a Youkilis and Craig Hansen-for-Teixeira discussion. (Boston Globe)
THIRD RATE: The Sox currently sit behind the Cubs and Angels in FoxSports.com's latest Power Rankings.
THEY'RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE: Neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees expect the Rays to drop out of the A.L. East race. (St. Petersburg Times)
YOU DON'T HAVE TO HIT ME OVER THE HEAD 33 TIMES BEFORE I GET THE MESSAGE: Barry Bonds' agent says he's "not optimistic" his client will get a big-league job this year, and he thinks that's "pathetic". (New York Daily News)
SPEAKING OF MESSAGES . . . Joe Posnanski says the agent's claim that he offered Bonds' services to all 30 big-league teams is not true because the Royals were never contacted.
LOCAL BOYS: Rocco Baldelli is headed to Montgomery to begin a rehab assignment with a team that's actually nicknamed "the Biscuits." (Montgomery Advertiser) I guess "Croussants" and "Turnovers" were taken . . .
ENOUGH ALREADY: Roy Halladay, saying he wants to play for a winner before he hangs them up, sounds like he'd like to move on from Toronto. (Toronto Sun)
THANK YOU: All-Star Brad Lidge will forever be grateful to the opposing hitter who told him he was tipping his pitches last year, enabling him to get his career back on track. (Philadephia Daily News)
CHANNELING MEL PARNELL AND BOB MONTGOMERY: The Toronto Star lists some assaults on the English language by Blue Jays broadcaster Rance Mulliniks.
WHO'LL BLINK FIRST? Joel Sherman, writing for FoxSports.com, says the current trading landscape is "a game of chicken [between buyers and sellers] that could go right to the deadline."
THE LORD HELPS THOSE WHO HELP THEMSELVES: It's a seller's market out there, so Omar Minaya -- saying they "can't keep doing four-for-one deals" -- is hinting that the Mets may turn to their farm system for a midseason boost this year. (New York Post)
WHISPERS: The Red Sox, Yankees and Mets are among a gaggle of teams keeping an eye on Freddy Garcia (New York Post) . . . The Twins have contacted the Mariners about Adrian Beltre (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) . . . We're using the link to SI.com's rumors page because the San Diego Union-Tribune link is dead, but the U-T is reporting the Cubs have inquired about Khalil Greene's availability; however, the Padres are inclined to hold onto Greene at the moment because his trade value has been destroyed by the poor season he's having . . . Greg Maddux says he'd welcome a trade back to Atlanta, but that doesn't seem likely. (mlb.com)
HERE AND THERE: The Yankees' Phil Hughes, recovering from a rib injury, threw his second bullpen session yesterday (Canadian Press) . . . J.J. Putz, recovering from elbow problems, will make a rehab appearance tonight in Peoria (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) . . . Magglio Ordonez says he's close to returning to the Tigers (Detroit News) . . . The Cardinals say they plan to keep Ryan Franklin in the closer's role, with Jason Isringhausen mixed into some save situations as the need arises (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) . . . It looks like Brett Myers will be back in the Phillies' rotation July 23. (philly.com) Cliff Lee, incidentally, was in Myers' shoes last year and has empathy for the Phils' right-hander (Philadelphia Daily News) . . . While the Mets have been describing his injury as a bruised shoulder, Angel Pagan says he has a torn labrum, and the team knows it (New York Daily News) . . . Speaking of the Mets, they don't seem to be in any rush to get Luis Castillo back in the lineup (New York Daily News) . . . Fausto Carmona had a good rehab start in Double-A. (ohio.com)
OLD FRIENDS: Wily Mo Pena needs surgery for a small tear in his left shoulder, which the Washington Times says "could put an abrupt end to his dismal season" . . . Johnny Damon's shoulder is still too sore for him to hit (AP via projo.com) . . . Jeff Suppan says he's feeling better and should be able to return to the Brewers' rotation by July 22. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
AND FINALLY . . . The news of the day, courtesy of the Canadian Press:
Terry Francona tried not to look when David Ortiz -- shown at right during a batting exhibition for charity in New York earlier in the day -- stepped into the batting cage for some impromptu practice before the Home Run Derby, turning his back to deal with a throng of reporters.
He missed quite a show.
The injured designated hitter hit four straight over Yankee Stadium's short right-field wall, then stepped out of the batter's box to let somebody else have a turn. When he stepped back to the plate moments later, Ortiz sent four more out of the park before hitting one that dropped about three feet short of the 408-foot sign in centre.
Smiling like a child, Ortiz sprinted from the cage to the clubhouse without a pause.
-- ART MARTONE