July 12, 2004
Double All-Star Carlos Beltran:
With all of 57 NL at-bats (.263), first player to switch All-Star teams in the same year, and yet another All-Star Game marketing coup for MLB.
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

The only thing more surprising than the news that the 500 Club's newest member, Ken Griffey, would miss the Home Run Derby (8 pm ET, ESPN) with yet another hamstring problem would be if his replacement/Houston hometown hero Lance Berkman could pull the upset and topple prohibitive favorite Barry Bonds.

Bonds alone makes the event must-see. Sosa adds intrigue, because he's always a threat to send out a moon shot like you've never seen. Raffy Palmeiro provides even more "500" flavor, but I can't wait for the guest TV commentary from retired "500 Club" members. Maybe they'll even defend their Club from those who say the 500-HR milestone is "The New 400."

There's a decided "old-school" flavor tonight, but the Home Run Derby remains -- by the length of a towering shot over the wall -- the best of all sports' All-Star exhibition contests.

Shaq Trade
Shaq to Miami is great ...

For O'Neal himself: Could average 35 ppg.

For the NBA: Shifts marquee name to East.

For realignment: "Southleast" Division? No more.

For Dwyane Wade: Unlike Kobe, happy to defer to Diesel.

For Kobe: Even more leverage vs. suitors.

For rumor-mongering: Mailman to Miami? Riley to un-retire? MJ to buy Heat? Franchise moving to Vegas?

Wood Returns
In his first start since May 11, Wood is solid (5 IP, 1R, 3H, 5K) -- and the Cubs solidify their status

Maurice Greene: Wins 100m, plus he's hugely entertaining
Freddy Garcia: Shining in Chicago; beats old team Seattle
El Duque: Ageless Hernandez shines in Yankee spot start
Phillies: Tenuous grasp on 1st; looking to trade Millwood?
D-Rays: Weekend sweep in NY (still a commendable 1st half) "I Love the 90s": Really ... so soon? Are we all that old?
as favorites to win the NL wild card (Winning the division? Who cares? There's a new mantra in town: Just make the playoffs.)

More from Chicago: Spent the weekend there, and the biggest story is the 25th anniversary of Disco Demolition, complete with must-see PBS documentary tonight.

Schmidt: 11 Straight
Marketing has always trumped meritocracy at the MLB All-Star Game. In any other year -- and any other host city -- Jason Schmidt (who won his 11th decision in a row Sunday) would deserve to be the starter. Only the pitching calendar and home-turf advantage gives MLB a legit excuse to use Houston's own Roger Clemens instead.

Braves Surging
The NL's most impressive first-half has come from ... the Braves?!?! Written off just a few

weeks ago, Atlanta is just a game out of first in the NL East after taking 2 of 3 in Philly this weekend. They are MLB's zombies; they can't be killed.

The Tony Stewart dilemma: The same antics that make casual fans want to tune in, like Sunday's nudge that caused Kasey Kahne to crash and resulted in a fight between the two pit crews, makes other drivers want to punch Stewart in the face. NASCAR drivers should be smart enough to know that the double-standard, while frustrating, is a necessary evil.

Marion Jones and
Tim Montgomery:

Track's power couple fizzles at the Olympic trials -- MJ 5th in the women's 100; Montgomery 7th -- and 'roid rumors still dogging them.
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2: Most outrageous characters
NFL: Offseason overviews
Stark: MLB Rumblings & Grumblings
Updated HR Derby Picks
Lance Berkman
Darkhorse: Late sub/Houston's own
Barry Bonds
Does he really care though?
Hank Blalock
Slept on, like his Texas team
Jim Thome
NL is deep, will go deep
Sammy Sosa
Just a couple moon shots, please

It's the "NBA Summer Activity" Edition:

Gary Payton wants out of L.A.? The Lakers should oblige him as fast as possible ...

Kenyon Martin to Denver would make the Nuggets the West's second-best team (behind the Spurs) ...

Biggest bargain yet? Pistons getting McDyess at 4yr/$23mil -- if he's healthy. Huge "if" ...

If Pacers-Hawks trade goes through, Al Harrington will blossom into an NBA All-Star in Atlanta ...

Next June, we'll look back and understand that the Spurs signing Brent Barry was the most valuable move made ...

Fair-weather in Miami: Think Pat Riley might find motivation to come back and coach the Heat after quitting on them last season? ...

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