SAN FRANCISCO -- Picked-up pieces from All-Star week in the postcard-perfect Bay Area:
If we can agree that Fenway is the best old ballpark, can we make a case for AT&T Park as the best of the newbies? The setting is spectacular. It's an easy walk from anywhere downtown. It's got McCovey Cove (named by sportswriter Mark Purdy), beautiful brickwork, and uncontrived asymmetry on the playing surface. When you sit in the lower bowl behind home plate, it feels a little like a new/old minor league ballpark. There is much to be said for the charm of old Fenway, but anyone who could duplicate AT&T on the Boston waterfront would be a Hub hero.
Jorge Posada looked like he wanted that ninth inning to end as much as Jim Leyland. Francisco Rodriguez bounced a lot of pitches in front of the Yankees catcher.
Ichiro Suzuki is the most exciting player in baseball. Decades from now, we'll be telling our grandchildren about his mad dash around the bases in San Francisco. It's instant All-Star lore, like Ted's home run off Rip Sewell's eephus pitch and Pete Rose's home-plate crash into Ray Fosse.
Tony La Russa will have some explaining to do back home in St. Louis after leaving Albert Pujols on the bench when the National League rallied in the ninth. Really now, Orlando Hudson?
Best guess on the next professional home for Alex Rodriguez: Anaheim.
There was some local howling about Barry Bonds getting only two at-bats. Barry's replacement in left field, Alfonso Soriano, got up three times. Flossy Met Jose Reyes went to the plate four times (cracking three hits, and narrowly missing a fourth). Carlos Beltran also batted three times.
Bonds plays in Milwaukee July 20-22. Nice symmetry there. It's the longtime professional home of Hank Aaron and the place Bud Selig calls home. The commish is trusting the Giants to do the right thing if Barry's on the road with a chance to break Aaron's record. "There are pennant races going on, and I would hope that that is the overriding factor," said Selig.
Other Selig notes: He said there is still a possibility of going to seven games for the Division Series. The World Series has been pushed back this year to maximize television ratings (imagine Detroit or Boston for Game 7 Nov. 1). He continued to insist his sport is working diligently to fight illegal performance enhancement. "Do I have frustration about human growth hormone? Yes," Selig said. "But our doctors and trainers feel the amphetamine thing [ban] has been incredibly productive . . . We think we have really achieved a lot . . . The Olympics are considered to be the gold standard, and our doctors and trainers and [doping experts], Dr. [Gary] Green and Dr. [Don] Catlin, believe our program is absolutely consistent with theirs."
Leyland said he did not enjoy a minute of the ballgame and implored officials to let both teams use the designated hitter in every All-Star Game. Makes sense.
We're still waiting for Paula Cole to start singing "God Bless America."
The Red Sox are in the playoffs, but there is plenty to worry about, starting with Big Papi's injury, Manny's decline, and the vague status of that Gammons-bashing blogmaster, Curt Schilling (careful, Schill, the estimable Gammons might be as popular as the Rem Dawg). What the Sox could really use is a second-half explosion from the underachieving J.D. Drew. It would make life so much easier for the men batting in front of him. As for Schilling, those of us who never wore the big league uniform (that would be you, Theo) have no business assessing his status, but he's been on the shelf for a while and it's unclear when he'll be back or how much he'll have left. What is painfully clear in the wake of last weekend is the degree of difficulty in winning the American League playoffs. The Tigers look like the best team in baseball, the Indians are better than you think, and the Angels are not the same team the Sox slaughtered in April. Should be fun.
It might interest some of you to know that Sly and the Family Stone performed in San Jose over the weekend and Sly got worse reviews than Julio Lugo. Joel Selvin of the San Francisco Chronicle called it "a feeble 15-minute appearance by the great rock recluse," then wrote, "Sly himself was almost not there. A vocalist who was once the missing link between Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder, this time he was hardly audible." Ouch. And folks think Boston baseball scribes are vicious.
Too bad Carlos Peña didn't work out in Boston. The Sox are not likely to re-sign Mike Lowell and will be looking for a first baseman when/if Kevin Youkilis moves back to third.
Count me among those who won't mind if the Red Sox back off the NASCAR double promotion.
More than 41 million fans have attended major league games this year. The average game draws more than 31,000.
ESPN's Tim Kurkjian was playing "Name the team with the best five retired, living alums" and put the Orioles (Frank and Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, and Jim Palmer) and Giants (Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, Orlando Cepeda) near the top. Red Sox? How about Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Bobby Doerr, Wade Boggs, and Jim Rice?
Boggs was on hand for the celebrity softball game and looks like he could still hit .300. He said he would love to have participated in a Home Run Derby. "Those are easy," said the Chicken Man. Like the NBA's slam dunk contest, Home Run Derby has gotten old and tedious.
Boggs was one of many members of the baseball family who wanted to send best wishes to the family of the late Larry Whiteside. Sides had a lot of friends in the game. "I miss him very much," said Selig.
Yankee Stadium next summer. Part of the long goodbye to The House That Ruth Built.
Was it really necessary for Willie Mays to wear a credential around his neck? I mean, what security guard was going to stop and search the Say Hey Kid? Reminded me of a favorite Ted Williams moment from the 1990s. In the early days of the Ted Williams Tunnel -- when it was restricted to cabs and commercial vehicles -- I told Ted that one of my goals was to pick him up at Logan and illegally drive through the tunnel with Ted riding shotgun. Imagine getting pulled over by a cop and saying, "I know I'm not allowed to be in the tunnel, officer, but this is Ted Williams riding in my front seat." "Ahh, they probably wouldn't even know who the hell I am anymore," Ted scoffed. Doubt it. And just like Ted, Willie Mays needs no credential to walk around the Giants' home ballpark.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.