NL notes: Two sides of one-sidedness
AL's winning streak creates buzz, but it has a tipping point
PITTSBURGH -- Superiority can be good. Competitive balance is better.That was Bob DuPuy's reaction when Major League Baseball's president and chief operating officer was asked about the recent disparity between the two leagues. The American League took an eight-year winning streak -- and a nine-year unbeaten streak -- into Tuesday night's 77th All-Star Game at PNC Park. While the National Leaguers were taking batting practice prior to the game, DuPuy was asked about his rooting interests. The AL, to prolong a domination that wags tongues? Or the NL, to return some of its fading glory? "Having a long winning streak does generate interest," DuPuy said, "but you don't want it to get to the point where it reflects an imbalance between the leagues. We don't want it to seem like the National League can't compete. "The long streak does generate a lot of Hot Stove League talk. But I think balance is a good thing. Obviously, there are quality players in both leagues. Historically, both have taken turns as the dominant league." From 1963 through 1985, the NL won 21 of 23 All-Star Games, including 11 straight. During the same stretch, however, the NL's edge in World Series was a narrow 12-11. Taking sides: In that earlier era of roster stability, league identity, and thus pride, was stronger. Yet the AL's current stronghold comes off as little more than accidental when one considers the mobility of current players. Twelve players -- about one-third of the NL roster -- are former American Leaguers. This includes starters Edgar Renteria, Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano. Eight AL All-Stars have previously played in the NL. Such transitions obviously refute the notion that the AL simply develops offensive-type players better suited to the modern game. The AL's supremacy hadn't been limited to isolated Midsummer nights. Besides sweeping the last two World Series, AL teams recently concluded the most lopsided round of Interleague Play ever, going 153-99.
Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley isn't sure how indicative that spell is. He doesn't know about other teams, but he said his Phillies were simply caught with their game down during their 5-13 Interleague run."We were playing bad baseball," said the NL's starting second baseman. "A coincidence? I don't know." Guests in the house: As he looked around the locker room, did Pirates right fielder Jason Bay feel like telling the guys around him to keep their feet off the furniture? Usually surrounded by his Pittsburgh teammates, Bay was amid the NL All-Stars subletting the room. "It's definitely weird to look around and see them," Bay said. "But it's a nice room, and I'm glad all the other guys can enjoy it." NL manager Phil Garner of the Astros could not be accused of lacking a touch for theatrics: In a lineup including Albert Pujols (29 homers) and Beltran (25), his cleanup hitter was hometown fave Bay (21). It was also Garner's way of tipping his cap to Bay, who has been destroying Astros pitching this season, with four homers and 10 RBIs in six games. Flash forward: A year ago, Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard was a relative unknown, with less than 100 Major League at-bats on his resume. Since, he has become the NL Rookie of the Year, the Phillies traded away the potential 2006 AL Most Valuable Player (Jim Thome) to clear room for him and now he is the reigning Home Run Derby champ. A couple of hours before being introduced before his first All-Star Game, the first baseman was shaking his head over the whole deal. "This whole experience has been surreal," he said. "It shows you how far you've come. It puts you among the upper echelon of players. I don't deserve to be considered in that echelon, but still you have to keep reaching." Protection: New York Mets lefty Tom Glavine, comparing his 10th All-Star selection to his first in 1991, had said, "Now it's less about me and more about coming here with my kids and having fun." Those weren't just words. Glavine, though removed from the active roster after he pitched 6 1/3 innings on Sunday, was surrounded by his two young boys in the clubhouse. Later, with batting practice already in progress, he trotted on the field with Peyton Thomas, his 7-year-old. Every time a line drive headed in their direction, Glavine reflexively flinched and darted in front of his son -- just in case. NL nuggets: A door to be used in a future MLB Habitat for Humanity project was one of the items autographed by members of the NL All-Star team. ... Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein, the replacement for elected starter Jose Reyes (sliced finger) of the Mets, landed at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Airport at 1 p.m. ET, but made it to the park in time for BP. ... Most popular tangible souvenir among All-Stars to take home: league jerseys signed by all their teammates for the day. ... Two current Pirates (Bay, Freddy Sanchez) but four ex-Bucs (Texas' Gary Matthews Jr., San Francisco's Jason Schmidt, Kansas City's Mark Redman and Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo) are All-Stars.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.