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These guys aren't half bad

Page 2 of 4 -- Manager of the year? Lou Piniella of the Devil Rays would appear to be a shoo-in, though Buck Showalter should be recognized for his work with the surprising Rangers. If Texas pulls off the shocker and wins the AL West, Showalter gets the edge. And in the NL, how about Ned Yost, whose lowly Brewers are a plus-.500 club and making life miserable for the favorites in the Central?

Best offseason acquisition? Schilling to the Sox, Guerrero to the Angels, and Rodriguez to the Tigers are the three biggies, although in the low-rent division, Texas getting 12-game winner Kenny Rogers for a bargain has made a big difference. Houston's bonus pickup of Clemens tops anything else in the NL, though the other half of the Rocket deal, lefthander Andy Pettitte, has been hurt all season. Most disappointing moves? How about the sumos, Sidney Ponson of the Orioles and Bartolo Colon of the Angels, who rank 95th and 96th among AL qualifiers for the ERA title? That's next to last and last.

Mike Cameron's .228 average has been a major disappointment for the Mets, though the season-ending shoulder injury sustained by Richie Sexson doomed Arizona.

Land of the dolls

Give Grady Little credit for a sense of humor, and more than an ounce of compassion. When the independent Brockton Rox planned a promotion this spring in which they intended to give out Grady Little "bobble-arm" dolls, they backed off the idea when a few people balked, including friends of the former Red Sox manager. The doll shows Little tapping his bobbing left arm, as if calling for a lefthanded reliever, which, of course, is what Little did not do when he visited Pedro Martinez on the mound in Game 7 of last year's American League Championship Series. The base of the doll, besides listing Little's number of wins in two years as manager, also gives the date and time of that fateful nondecision. But the Rox announced that with Little's consent, it is putting the dolls on sale today for $38.36 apiece (nine-doll maximum order), with half the proceeds going to Little's charity of choice, the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, which assists former scouts in need. Why the odd sales price? Half of $38.36 is $19.18. The dolls can be purchased at the gift shop at Brockton's Campanelli Stadium or ordered by calling 508-559-7000 or on the team's website (www.brocktonrox.com).

Smoked shoulder

In a typical Jeff Bagwell season, the Astros first baseman could have been expected to be among the participants in Tuesday night's All-Star Game, especially with it being played on his home field, Minute Maid Park. But at 36, the four-time All-Star and 1994 National League most valuable player has fallen upon hard times, as his surgically repaired right shoulder makes it increasingly difficult to perform at the level to which he is accustomed.   Continued...

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