Young players prove MLB's present, future are strong

Updated: July 15, 2009

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John Rieger/US PRESSWIRE

Curtis Granderson fared well in his first All-Star Game, hitting a triple and scoring the winning run.

There are those who believe that baseball records are religious artifacts, which is part of the reason that performance-enhancing drugs are so much more a story in baseball than in football or golf.

On Tuesday, we were asked about the steroids scandals and their impact on baseball's All-Star Game -- a question never asked about the historic legacy of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, the new Busch Stadium likely wouldn't have been built without Mark McGwire. But of the nearly 70 players who were on and off the All-Star rosters, only one was mentioned in the Mitchell Report, and he is a relief pitcher. No others have been attached to any legitimate media reports.

Of the top 10 active home run hitters, none were in St. Louis.

The era has passed. Bud Selig and his folks are trying, and while they will never win the war against chemists any more than any other commissioner has or will, this All-Star Game was different. Carl Crawford was the MVP, for his legs and athleticism, without an RBI. Adam Jones, Curtis Granderson and Chase Utley were the stars, for their legs and defense and athleticism.

Let's stop talking about the past and watch the present. This All-Star Game was a great showcase because it showcased the man who represents his city more than anyone in the sport, Albert Pujols. As we watched the play Utley made in the fifth inning in the hole, throwing through Crawford for a force play, and Granderson hustling in the eighth to risk an out to set up the winning run, we saw that these players compete because they care.

This All-Star Game was not about the past; it was about the future commitment of the sport that changed America with Jackie Robinson. With its "All-Stars Among Us" and an attachment to non-profit heroes who devote their lives to the real America, MLB and Selig honored Granderson, Torii Hunter, Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Jimmy Rollins, Kevin Youkilis and hundreds of others who are trying to make society better.

Never have I felt better about baseball than I did watching the pregame show and knowing that Granderson and Jones and others are the next generation. There was no residue from the Mitchell Report. This was Dr. Charles Ogletree's All-Star Game. And if you do not know that name, understand he is my hero and friend, the Harvard Law School mentor to thousands of great persons including Barack and Michelle Obama and the spirit to which Bud Selig and baseball offered up the 2009 All-Star Game.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: July 14 | July 13 | July 12 | July 9 | July 8

COMPLETE WEB GEMS SCOREBOARD

Through the first half of the season, Carlos Gomez, Ryan Sweeney and Jack Wilson lead all players with three No. 1 Web Gems.

PLAYER WEB GEMS PLAYER WEB GEMS
Brandon Inge, DET, 3B 9 Mike Cameron, MIL, CF 3
David Wright, NYM, 3B 8 Chris Dickerson, CIN, OF 3
Carlos Gomez, MIN, CF 7 Stephen Drew, ARI, SS 3
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS 7 Jermaine Dye, CHW, RF 3
Orlando Hudson, LAD, 2B 6 Yunel Escobar, ATL, SS 3
Matt Kemp, LAD, CF 6 Prince Fielder, MIL, 1B 3
Jack Wilson, PIT, SS 6 Chris Getz, CHW, 2B 3
Robert Andino, BAL, SS 5 Franklin Gutierrez, SEA, CF 3
Michael Bourn, HOU, CF 5 Jerry Hairston Jr., CIN, INF 3
Chone Figgins, LAA, 3B 5 Bill Hall, MIL, 3B 3
Nyjer Morgan, PIT/WAS, LF 5 J.J. Hardy, MIL, SS 3
Scott Rolen, TOR, 3B 5 Ryan Howard, PHI, 1B 3
Ryan Sweeney, OAK, CF 5 Austin Kearns, WAS, RF 3
Jason Bay, BOS, LF 4 Melvin Mora, BAL, 3B 3
Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS, CF 4 Carlos Pena, TAM, 1B 3
Cristian Guzman, WAS, SS 4 Brandon Phillips, CIN, 2B 3
Torii Hunter, LAA, CF 4 Alexei Ramirez, CHW, SS 3
Nick Punto, MIN, SS 4 Mark Reynolds, ARI, 3B 3
B.J. Upton, TAM, CF 4 Jimmy Rollins, PHI, SS 3
Jayson Werth, PHI, RF 4 Cody Ross, FLA, OF 3
Adam Jones, BAL, CF 4 Aaron Rowand, SFO, CF 3
Elvis Andrus, TEX, SS 3 Brendan Ryan, STL, SS 3
Rick Ankiel, STL, CF 3 Freddy Sanchez, PIT, 3B 3
Adrian Beltre, SEA, 3B 3 Mark Teixeira, NYY, 1B 3
Jay Bruce, CIN, RF 3 Miguel Tejada, HOU, SS 3
Marlon Byrd, TEX, CF 3 Kevin Youkilis, BOS, 1B 3
Orlando Cabrera, OAK, SS 3 Ben Zobrist, TAM, 2B/RF 3

MOST WEB GEMS BY TEAM

The Cincinnati Reds have had seven No. 1 Web Gems, the most of any team.

TEAM WG TEAM WG TEAM WG
Phillies 23 Rangers 17 Braves 12
Pirates 21 Angels 16 Marlins 12
Nationals 20 Rays 16 Astros 12
Mets 20 Orioles 14 Indians 12
Reds 19 Cardinals 13 Blue Jays 12
Red Sox 19 Athletics 13 Mariners 11
Twins 18 Giants 13 Royals 10
Dodgers 18 Yankees 13 Rockies 10
White Sox 17 Tigers 13 Padres 9
Brewers 17 Cubs 13 Diamondbacks 9

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BBTN ON THE AIR: THURSDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Eduardo Perez,
Tim Kurkjian, Buck Showalter
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: Eduardo Perez,
Tim Kurkjian, Buck Showalter

BBTN MINUTE: SECOND-HALF LOOK AHEAD

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers. Manny Ramirez makes his first appearance at Dodger Stadium on Thursday since returning from his 50-game suspension. So here are the best home offensive numbers since Manny played his first game as a Dodger last August.

Highest BA in Home Ballpark
Since Aug. 1, 2008 (minimum 100 PA)
AVG RBI/G
Manny Ramirez .387 1.14
Albert Pujols .385 1.09
Joe Mauer .381 0.87
Pablo Sandoval .368 0.75
Dustin Pedroia .364 0.59

ON DECK: THURSDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Phillies at Marlins, 7:10 p.m. ET

The NL East-leading Phillies entered the break as baseball's hottest team, winning five straight and nine out of 10. They'll open against the second-place Marlins, who are four games back. Jamie Moyer, who's won his last four starts, takes the mound for the Phillies against the Marlins' Chris Volstad, who threw the first complete-game shutout of his career, a five-hitter against the Giants, in his last start.

Angels at A's, 10:05 p.m. ET

The Angels closed out the first half with six wins in their last eight games to take a 1½-game lead in the AL West. Now they need Ervin Santana to come along for the ride. At 1-5 with a 7.81 ERA, the right-hander has been nothing like the pitcher he was last year, when he won 16 games. But he's getting the ball to open the second half against the A's.

Astros at Dodgers, 10:10 p.m. ET

In the nine games since his return, Manny Ramirez has hit .379 (11-for-29) with three homers and nine RBIs, and the Dodgers have gone 6-3. Yet none of those games was played at Dodger Stadium. But he'll be back in Mannywood tonight, facing Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who tossed a five-hit shutout against Pittsburgh in his last start, striking out 11.

For the rest of Thursday's schedule, click here.

NUMBERS TO KNOW: HAWPE AT TOP OF HIS GAME

Brad Hawpe Colorado Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe was robbed of a home run by Carl Crawford during Tuesday night's All-Star Game -- one of the few things that has gone wrong for him this season.

Hawpe is hitting .320 with 14 home runs and a .973 OPS so far this year and is on pace to have his best season as a major leaguer. The secret to Hawpe's success has been control of the strike zone. Opposing pitchers have struggled to find the right zones to successfully retire him. Hawpe is hitting above the league average in six of the nine areas of the strike zone.

Hawpe and the Rockies kick off the second half of the season against righty Chad Gaudin and the Padres on Thursday night. Ten of Hawpe's 14 home runs this season have come against right-handed pitchers, and his .337 BA against righties is 71 points higher than the NL average for left-handed batters versus right-handed pitchers.

Hawpe's 2009 BA by zone
Up Middle Down
In .300 .348 .304
Middle .167 .346 .514
Away .391 .380 .151
Note: Bold zones are above league average.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF THURSDAY'S GAMES

Fantasy AJ Mass examines the eight games on Thursday's slate.

Mass ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound, and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Thursday. Daily Notes