1.Bottom of the Barrel: It might not be the Pittsburgh Pirates anymore. In fact, the Chicago Cubs could be considered the worst team in the majors. They haven’t been able to buy a win, literally. Despite a payroll that borders on $100 million, they have a 31-54 record on the year. And their offense, which is last in the league in homeruns, OPS, and runs scored, provided another dismal performance on Thursday. Facing Chris Capuano and the Brewers, the Cubs were held to just 6 hits and no runs on the day. Capuano, who finished second in the NL Final Man voting, pitched like he was an All Star. He is now 10-4 on the year with a 3.21 ERA and 112 strikeouts. Meanwhile, the Cubs now only have a record one game better than the Royals’. Now that’s what we call bad.
2. Nomar and AJ win Final Vote: The voting for the final two All Stars is in. Nomar Garciaparra of the Dodgers and AJ Pierzynski of the White Sox were the last two players to make the cut. Garciaparra was clearly deserving as he is second in the NL in batting average. But with Pierzynski, the only reason he got voted in was because of the White Sox’s substantial fan base. The other AL nominees–Ramon Hernandez, Travis Hafner, Francisco Liriano, and Justin Verlander–probably would have made better picks. Anyway, we personally find all this talk of All Star snubs and players that shouldn’t be on the team quite ridiculous. Does anyone remember that eventual Cy Young winner Johan Santana wasn’t on the AL team in 2004? Few do now that he is a perennial All Star. So we expect Liriano, Verlander, Hafner, and Hernandez will have plenty of future opportunities to make the team. As for Pierzynski, he probably won’t get much playing time anyway with Joe Mauer also at backup catcher.
3. Derby time: The Home Run Derby participants have been finalized, and this will be the first derby in two years without any gimmicks. Last year, every player was from a different country as part of an effort to promote the World Baseball Classic. In 2004, every active member of the 500 Home Run club participated. But this year, we will go back to the tried-and-true selection process of, well, just about anybody who can hit the long ball. For the NL, David Wright of the Mets, Ryan Howard of the Phillies, and Miguel Cabrera of Florida have confirmed their participation. Albert Pujols, who is tied for the NL lead with Howard at 28 homers, withdrew from the event yesterday due to injury risk. He will be replaced by two-time Derby vet Lance Berkman, who came in second in 2004. the AL will feature 2004 winner Miguel Tejada, David Ortiz (last year’s runner-up), Troy Glaus, and Jermaine Dye. It should be one of the more fun competitions in sports as usual, and Full Count will be there live from Pittsburgh to tell you about it.
4. Ready for the Derby: David Ortiz seemed plenty ready for the Derby in his game yesterday. Facing the Devil Rays, the slugger jacked two homeruns, giving him 29 on the season. Ortiz hit a grand slam in the ninth to seal the deal on the Red Sox’s 12-5 victory. His 6 RBIs gave him 82 on the season, the major-league high by a wide margin. The win helped the Red Sox avoid a four-game sweep in Tampa. They lead the AL East by 3 games.
5. Thome performs too: Jim Thome exactly equaled David Ortiz’s impressive line in a bizarre statistical occurrence. Thome jacked two homers, six RBI, and a grand slam for the White Sox against the Orioles. According to Elias Says, that is the first time two players have had that stat line on the same day since July 28, 2003 (Marcus Giles and Rafael Palmeiro). Thome’s two jacks tied him for the major-league lead at 29 with Ortiz. Fellow All-Stars Jermaine Dye and AJ Pierzynski also went deep for Chicago, who won 11-8. By the way, White Sox starter Javier Vasquez’s run support is becoming one of the more interesting developments of the year. The White Sox have averaged 9.03 runs in his starts, a full run more over everyone else. That has given him an 8-4 record despite a 5.15 ERA.