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The teams meet the media

NEW YORK -- Out of the Manhattan Ballroom and upstairs to the Empire Ballroom in the Grand Hyatt. A sea of reporters and cameras stretched the length of the monstrous hallway before finally being ushered in for the American Leauge session, which just ended. Here are some quick impressions:

Arod---Manny Ramirez was the only no-show (as usual). Some wondered if Alex Rodriguez would be on hand given all the Madonna talk but A-Rod showed (right) and answered every question -- about baseball. There were two Yankee and MLB officials behind his podium, clearly making sure the topic stayed straight. The only media mob close to what I saw around A-Rod was last year's cluster around No. 25 in San Francisco. A-Rod, of course, attracted all the extras you don't normally see here like Inside Edition, CNN and the like. And the mob was about 20 deep but I didn't hear any bizarre questions or answers.

---Derek Jeter on Yankee Stadium's last All-Star hurrah: "It should steal the attention. The stadium should be the story. It deserves this attention, this going-away party."

---Lots of talk about the odd bedfellows Red Sox and Yankees players will make with the rogues from Boston getting inside the sacred home clubhouse.

A-Rod: "Sharing my locker room with the Red sox will be weird."

Derek Jeter: "They'll be fine -- we stuck them all in the corners."

Jason Varitek: "I'm worried they might put my chair outside."

Dustin Pedroia: "That's going to be weird. We know one way down the hall. One way to the field -- to go out and get booed. Now we're in the other dugout and we're going to be cheered? Hmmm."

---Joe Girardi was smiling at his podium and even had his young children helping hold reporters' microphones.

---Grady Sizemore insists he's not trying to hit home runs this year in the wake of injuries to Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez. And he's not worried about his swing getting affected by tonight's Home Run Derby. As for BP pitcher Jeff Datz, the former Bisons manager, Sizemore said, "I'm telling him to throw BP just like he always does -- but I don't want him to get mad if I stand there and take a few extra pitches while I'm taking it all in."

---Mariano Rivera said he's fine with not starting the game, as large segments of the New York media were pushing for. And Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon said he's fine if his own manager, Terry Francona, uses Rivera to close it out rather than go to his own man. "Hey, [Rivera] is like the Godfather of closer, no pun intended since we're in New York," Papelbon joked.

---Lots of reporters crowded around Josh Hamilton's table to get the story of the former No. 1 pick's battle back from drugs and alcohol abuse. Lots of Latin media crowded with Rivera and David Ortiz.

I'm not figuring on anywhere near the drama or interest in the National League session, which begins at 1:40. But I'll put an update here on anything that might pop up.

UPDATE: As I suspected, there wasn't nearly the crowd for the NL media hour. Cubs manager Lou Piniella regaled the masses with his memories of Yankee Stadium and lots of talk about his first-place club. It was "Cubs Row" with eight players in the room from Chicago. Kosuke Fukudome got most of the attention from the Japanese media with an even bigger crowd than Ichiro got. Not too many other mob scenes. I was able to chat up Cubs closer Kerry Wood and ex-Bison Ryan Ludwick of the Cardinals quite a bit without 20 boom mics flying in over my head, so that was different.

---Mike Harrington

(Photo: Associated Press)

Live updates: All-Star press conference

NEW YORK -- The starters and lineups are going to be announced in a few minutes for Tuesday night's All-Star Game and we're attempting to go live (hoping for no connection snafus) from the palatial Manhattan Ballroom in the Grand Hyatt to give you all the info. The managers and starting pitchers are the first ones scheduled on the podium. is already reporting that Milwaukee's Ben Sheets will start for the NL because both Tim Lincecum and Brandon Webb threw Sunday. I'm thinking ex-Bison Cliff Lee of the Indians will get the AL nod although you could easily make a case for Toronto's Roy Halladay or Los Angeles' Joe Saunders.

11:05 a.m.: Still waiting for the press conference to begin. NL manager Clint Hurdle just entered the room to speak with some Make-A-Wish foundation kids sitting in the front row.

11:11 a.m: Just realized is streaming this affair live. It still hasn't started.

11:15 a.m.: The principals have entered and are at the podium. And they include Sheets and Lee. So they're the starters and there's your first big piece of info.

11:18 a.m: The AL lineup is posted. It goes like this: Ichiro-rf; Jeter-ss; Hamilton-cf; Rodriguez-3b; Ramirez-lf; Bradley-dh; Youkilis-1b; Mauer-c; Pedroia-2b

11:21 a.m: Lee -- "I'm kind of awestruck by it. Hopefully I can continue to pitch the way I have."

11:23 a.m.: Sheets just said he's never been to Yankee Stadium.

11:24 a.m.: The NL lineup -- HRamirez, ss; Utley, 2b; Berkman, 1b; Pujols, dh; Jones, 3b; Holliday, rf; Braun, lf; Fukudome, cf; Soto, c

11:26 a.m.: First question was to Francona about why not starting Mariano Rivera. "He may be the greatest reliever of all-time but he's not a starter. I thought it would be unfair to the starting pitchers and you're putting a guy at risk possibly doing something he's not done."

11:29 a.m: Sheets dominated the Rockies last week and made an impression on Hurdle. "The fact he struck out 11 of us in five innings caught my eye," Hurdle said.

11:33 a.m.: Francona on Yankee Stadium -- "Something will happen in this game that people will probably talk about for a long time."

11:35 a.m.: Hurdle on the NL lineup -- "You hear about OPS. i'm a big fan of G-U-T-S. It's the best lineup I've ever written down on a paper. We'll see where it takes us."

11:37 a.m.: Lee on going back to Buffalo last season -- "Sometimes going through some failure makes you a better player in the long run. It gave me a little motivation in the offseason to work harder and do what I could not to get injured in spring training and prove how I have pitched in the past and it's worked out."

11:40 a.m.: Sheets keeps calling his manager "Mr. Hurdle".

11:41 a.m.: Sheets on his first trip to Yankee Stadium: "I don't know much about the stadium because I've never been there ... I'm going to take the opportunity to see everything. What do they call them? The monuments? I'm definitely going to do a sight-seeing tour today and enjoy every minute of it."

---Mike Harrington

Welcome to All-Star Monday

Asg_logo_2NEW YORK -- The game isn't until Tuesday night but there's a full plate of activities scheduled today leading up to the Midsummer Classic. We promise to try our best to keep you updated, starting with the 11 a.m. press conference in the Grand Hyatt's Manhattan Ballroom that will feature the managers and the announcements of the starting pitchers and batting orders.

(We promised updates last year too but MLB stunned the assembled media by putting us in a lavish ballroom at San Francisco's Westin St. Francis that didn't have wireless access. I'm hoping we don't get a repeat of that snafu today.)

Then it's on to the Super Bowl-style media gatherings for each league in the Empire State Ballroom. the American League goes from 12-12:50 and the National Leaguers have their say from 1:40-2:30. In between there will be a press conference on tonight's home run derby.

The derby itself kicks off at 8 p.m. Hopefully it won't be the yawner that last year's was in Frisco after all the left-handers were eliminated and McCovey Cove became a non-factor. It should be a little interesting to see ex-Bison Grady Sizemore take a shot at Yankee Stadium's short right-field porch, with Cleveland bench coach and former Buffalo manager Jeff Datz serving as his pitcher.

---Mike Harrington

Future-istic look

NEW YORK -- An uneventful flight, crazy cab ride and sweltering subway jaunt later, we've made it to Yankee Stadium for the start of All-Star week. Today I'm watching the Futures Game, featuring just-traded-to-Cleveland stud prospect Matt LaPorta. He's played mostly outfield in the Milwaukee chain and thus far at Double-A Akron but he's starting at first base today for the United States team. Some scouts tell me he projects better there than in the outfield (bad news down the line for Ryan Garko).

His name has been all over the papers for a week but LaPorta apparently didn't make a dent to the folks at the Yankee Stadium mic. During player introductions, the scoreboard said "Matthew" and he was introduced as "Mateo" Say what? The camera was on LaPorta and even he shook his head and laughed.

Dscn0421A note on the new Yankee Stadium: It's far advanced from when I saw it in January while here for a Sabres game. It's downright huge and the one thing I didn't notice until today is that it's right up against the subway line (left, click for bigger image). You see the current ballpark from across two lines and a platform. Not so with the new one. I'm thinking that come next year the noise and vibration will be quite a bit more from the trains than it is now.

---Mike Harrington

One busy Sunday

It was a sad Saturday in Toronto as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays, 9-4, but learned shortly after the game that beloved former player and current broadcaster Bobby Murcer passed away after a bout with brain cancer. Check out Bucky Gleason's column in Sunday's paper for all the emotion from the Yankees' clubhouse.

Meanwhile, Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez has the most saves ever at the All-Star break and is well on his way to breaking Bobby Thigpen's all-time record of 57 set 18 years ago. K-Rod is also heading for an all-time payday among closers and you can read what he thinks about the potential for his next contract in Sunday's Inside Baseball column.

I'm off to New York for the All-Star Game and I'm expecting to be at Sunday's Futures Game to try to chat to outfielder Matt LaPorta, the Brewers' phenom who was the centerpiece of last week's trade of CC (no periods) Sabathia from Cleveland. LaPorta is currently at Double-A Akron but will almost certainly be with the Bisons at some point in August if he isn't selected for the U.S. Olympic team. If all goes as planned, you should be able to hear from LaPorta in Monday's editions.

The Bisons, meanwhile, wrap up their ungodly series against Louisville today at 1 and we'll have full coverage of that as well. Nice to see they figured out how to score a run Saturday night after back-to-back shutout losses.

---Mike Harrington

Mark your All-Star ballot

We're quickly closing in on the All-Star Game July 15 in Yankee Stadium and the starting lineups and rosters for the game will be announced Sunday at 2 on TBS. In Sunday's Inside Baseball column, I check off my ballot for the American League and National League starters. Here's who I chose:

INFIELD -- American League: Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. National League: Lance Berkman, Chase Utley, Ryan Theriot and Chipper Jones.

OUTFIELD -- AL: Carlos Quentin, Grady Sizemore and Josh Hamilton. NL:  Matt Holliday, Ryan Braun and Aaron Rowand.

CATCHERS -- AL: Joe Mauer. NL: Russell Martin.

I'll have more analysis on the picks in the column and some possible alternative choices,  especially in the crowded outfields. Give your thumbs-up to my picks or voice your disagreements in the comments section.

Also Sunday, read my chat with first-year Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, the former Indians farm director, on his quest to rebuild the Bucs. We'll also have complete coverage of the Bisons' game in Rochester.

---Mike Harrington

Around the horn

When you go to the All-Star Game, you don't get your midseason break when everyone else does. So after a few days of R&R -- badly needed after enduring the winds of AT&T Park -- I've got a few points stored up:

Bonds ---Let's start with our pal Barry. Hey, thanks for staging your circus of a press conference in Frisco and getting me on the cover of USA Today in the midst of your media scrum. Now about that home run chase? Are you going to put us all out of our misery sometime this season? Barry's monthly averages: April -- .356-8-17; May -- .194-4-8; June -- .364-4-13; July -- .107-1-4.

He's 0 for his last 21 and homerless since July 3. Still stuck on 751, at least Barry has saved Bud Selig the indignity of having the record broken this weekend in his beloved Milwaukee home. Those Cubs fans have sure gotten their money's worth from him so far, seeing one at-bat in three days. Giants manager Bruce Bochy says Bonds is playing in Thursday's series finale but is no longer playing at all in day games after night games. That almost assures it's going to take No. 25 into August to get the five more home runs he needs to eclipse Hank Aaron. Yawn.

---I've enjoyed the free preview of MLB Extra Innings that cable companies nationwide like Time Warner have been giving this week. Would have been even better to see the Indians-White Sox games, including Tuesday's dramatic, extra-inning thriller that Ryan Garko tied in the ninth with a two-run pinch homer and won in the 11th with an RBI single. Anyone taken my advice from San Francisco and written ol' Bud with a piece of your mind on the Tribe's ridiculous blackout of the home of its Triple-A team? I'm heading to the Jake for next week's games against the Red Sox and maybe I can get someone high up on Chief Wahoo's food chain to finally give me a real answer on this topic.

---ESPN has gotten so full of itself that every single reporter in San Francisco had a good bellylaugh about the fact the network got its "Baseball Tonight" set banished for breaking the TBS embargo on All-Star selections. Speaking of the self-proclaimed worldwide leader, am I the only one sick of SportsCenter's "Who's Now" garbage?

---Bfloblog gave this corner some props Wednesday and we return the favor to our friends in the blogosphere who are a must-read every day. Sure, Kevin & Co. have some quibbles with the mothership at One News Plaza but that's no prob in these eyes. Opinions always keep everyone's passion flowing.

---The Bisons return home for the first time in 12 days when they play Syracuse Friday at 7:35 in the opener of a nine-game homestand (there's a makeup doubleheader Saturday at 5:05). Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is hot, going 7-1 in its last eight games, to knock the Bisons out of first place in the IL North for the first time since May 5. Buffalo suffered its season-high fifth straight loss with Wednesday's 12-inning heartbreaker at Charlotte and the Herd is suddenly 1 1/2 games out.

---Mike Harrington

All-Star postmortems

SAN FRANCISCO -- It took a while to emerge from the chaos that is the bottom level of AT&T Park. Beautiful place for fans, lousy for the media. Press quarters are brutally cramped and they didn't build a lower service level for the clubhouses. The bottom level of seats is on the same plane as the clubhouse so fans, players and media mingle in a huge traffic jam after a game. It's a disaster.

While standing still in the basement, I saw Wheel of Fortune's Pat Sajak walk by. No Vanna. Willie McCovey was being driven out in a golf cart that blocked the entire hallway when Jim Leyland stopped it to say hello. The Japanese media waiting for Ichiro caused another jam.

Leyland got off a couple good wisecracks during his press conference when asked about his relationship with Barry Bonds. Here's one: "He invited me to his party last night but I didn't get the invitation until late so I think he's BSing (he said the whole thing by the way. I'm just abbreviating for a family blog). I don't think he invited me at all."

Leyland also said he'd like to see the DH put into the All-Star Game so there isn't the need for so much double-switching. Good idea.

Tony La Russa has some issues on the homefront because Albert Pujols was chafed he didn't get in the game. "I was ready all night," Pujols said. La Russa claimed he was holding his slugger in case the game went extra innings. Hmmm. Was he sending a message to Pujols about his subpar season?

Things got pretty hairy in the ninth inning for the AL. Players on both teams were at the top step of the dugout and the fans were on their feet. It didn't feel like an exhibition at that point.

The Mays ceremony and Ichiro's inside-the-parker will certainly be remembered for a long time. What were your impressions of this one?

---Mike Harrington

AL holds on to win again, 5-4

SAN FRANCISCO -- The American League has won another All-Star Game, posting a 5-4 win tonight in AT&T Park. Cleveland catcher and ex-Buffalo Bison Victor Martinez provided the key insurance runs with a two-run pinch homer to left off Mets closer Billy Wagner in the top of the eighth. Alfonso Soriano's two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth of Seattle closer J.J. Putz made it close.

The AL got nervous when Putz walked J.J. Hardy and Francisco Rodriguez issued free passes to Derrek Lee (on a disputed full-count check swing) and Orlando Hudson. K-Rod got Aaron Roward to fly to right for the final out.

The AL is 10-0-1 in the last 11 meetings and has won all five since home-field advantage in the World Series became a reward for the winner in 2003.

Off to the clubhouses.

---Mike Harrington

Get up and stretch

It's 3-2 American League at the seventh-inning stretch and I've got to make an escape to a workroom: It's starting to rain and I'm not under cover.

Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford belted a two-out solo homer in the top of the sixth on a full-count pitch from Milwaukee's Francisco Cordero to make it 3-1.  The National League got that run back in the bottom of the sixth, and it looked for a split-second like we might have two inside-the-parkers in two innings after none in the first 77 games in all-star history!

New York's Carlos Beltran belted a rocket to right and the carom again tormented an outfielder with Vlad Guerrero looking silly. It was closer to him than Suzuki's ball was to Griffey and Guerrero was able to hold Beltran at third. Griffey drove him in with a line drive sacrifice fly.

---Mike Harrington

Some history for Ichiro

Ichiro SAN FRANCISCO -- Ichiro Suzuki's third hit of the game was a memorable one -- the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star history. He's never even had one in the regular season or postseason for the Mariners!

Suzuki's line drive to deep right with one out in the top of the fifth off San Diego's Chris Young was butchered by Ken Griffey Jr., who watched it strike a banner on the fence in the alley and carom away from him toward the line in right. You can see the video of the bizarre play here.

Ichiro burst around the bases and scored standing up to give the AL a 2-1 lead through five. It scored Baltimore's Brian Roberts, rear, who led off with a walk.

Ichiro is 3 for 3 and has been replaced by Torii Hunter. And with rumors abounding that he's about to sign a $100 million extension, that's a pretty good day. Give him the slight MVP lead over Reyes, who is also 3 for 3 after his fifth-inning single.

---Mike Harrington

Barry: back-back-back...caught -- and he's done

SAN FRANCISCO -- The fans jumped to their feet and let out quite a yelp when Barry Bonds sent a laser to left off Boston's Josh Beckett in the bottom of the third but the ball was caught a couple steps in front of the fence by Detroit's Magglio Ordonez.

Bonds has left Jose Reyes on base twice; Reyes was at second after an odd double as his cue shot skipped off the lip of the dirt and scooted by a stunned Alex Rodriguez. He was left at third when Ken Griffey Jr. struck out and Bonds has been replaced in left field for the top of the fourth by Alfonso Soriano.

Reyes and Ichiro are both 2 for 2 thus far. Reyes is in the MVP lead with his steal and the game's only run. NL still on top, 1-0, through three.

---Mike Harrington

Does it come with some breath mints?

Fries SAN FRANCISCO -- I couldn't take it anymore. Sit in the stands here at AT&T Park and you don't smell grilled hot dogs or brats like you do in most ballparks. The aroma that wafts all over the place is garlic. Yes, garlic. Gilroy garlic fries are as much a part of this town as chicken wings are in Buffalo or toasted ravioli are in St. Louis.

There's a concession stand right behind the auxiliary media section and I just paid a visit. I pity all of you as I sit here with my garlic fries & cheese/chicken finger combo. Only set me back $9.50. Fair enough. I hear it's pretty warm back home so I can sweat some of this off tomorrow.

Oh yeah, the game. It's still a 1-0 National League lead through two.

---Mike Harrington

Barry flies out but NL takes lead

SAN FRANCISCO -- The National League has a 1-0 lead after the first inning on Ken Griffey Jr.'s two-out RBI single to center. Barry Bonds' first at-bat ended with a high fly ball to shallow right that was easily cradled by Vladimir Guerrero. Jose Reyes led off the bottom of the first with a single and stole second but AL manager Jim Leyland still pitched to Bonds with first base open. Kudos to him. He told us yesterday that there's no way he ever walks Bonds in this game (but it counts -- right, Fox?). He kept his word.

Carlos Beltran followed with a long foul that landed in the stands over the wall deep in right and then struck out. Griffey then knocked home Reyes.

In the top of the first, Derek Jeter hit into a double play after Ichiro Suzuki singled. NL first baseman Prince Fielder then assured his place in the blooper reels by flubbing Chase Utley's throw on David Ortiz's routine grounder to second. Ortiz was barely halfway down the line when Fielder made his Little League gaffe. Mets third baseman David Wright followed with an anti-Fielder, diving to his left to grab A-Rod's hot shot and throwing to second for the force.

---Mike Harrington

Say Hey, it's time to play

Willie_ii SAN FRANCISCO -- Sure, it was a little hokey and sappy. But MLB's tribute to Willie Mays, easily the highlight of the pregame ceremonies, was still pretty cool after all the Barry buildup.  Players from both teams strode out to center field and greeted Mays as he walked in to the loudest ovation of the night, a cheer that far exceeded the one Bonds got when he was introduced.

Mays threw the ceremonial first pitch -- in center field -- to Mets shortstop Jose Reyes and was then paraded around the park in a 1958 Cadillac. He shook hands with the umpires and even flipped a few baseballs into the crowd. So he couldn't get any over the screen. Cut the man some slack -- he's 76! Even liked how the Canadian and U.S. flags on the field got flipped over to pictures of Mays as he made his way through the players accompanied by Bonds and Derek Jeter. It was kind of like everyone meeting Ted Williams on the mound in Boston in 1999.

As for Bonds' intro, he got a 45-second ovation and bowed to all corners of the park. Seemed like the fans wanted to keep going but Fox's Joe Buck, clearly following orders, moved on to the rest of the NL lineup. Hmmm.

MLB lined up the players on the infield rather than the baselines, which has been tradition, so the starters could go up the red carpet through some pyrotechnics. Dodger players got roundly booed. So did Angels reps John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez (Giants fans are still smarting from the 2002 World Series). What was Indians catcher Victor Martinez doing with his kid in his arms? Ridiculous.

What happened to my 8:42 start? Hey, Fox: Can we start this game finally? Please?

---Mike Harrington

Ceremonies about to begin

SAN FRANCISCO -- There's a little under an hour to go before the first pitch of the 78th All-Star Game (thanks to Fox for that deadline-busting 8:42 p.m. start) and we're getting set for pregame ceremonies here at AT&T Park. A tribute to Giants legend Willie Mays is planned, with Mays and current Giants hero Barry Bonds certainly going to get the biggest ovations from the crowd. The stands are already just about packed.

It was bright and sunny for yesterday's Home Run Derby but this is a mostly cloudy afternoon in the Bay Area. There is less wind than yesterday and the temperature is in the high 60s. Yet to don any jackets or sweaters but, six rows from the top of the upper deck, you gotta be prepared!

Follow the game in the Inside Pitch blog. The goal is to give you some new snippets every 10 minutes or so. Remember: Hit refresh often and click "Main" at the top left of the blog to see all the posts scrolled rather than just the current one. And cut me some slack if the blog goes dark at the end of the game for a while while I run downstairs for postgame interviews and put together the story for tomorrow's paper.

Now, a refresher on tonight's starting lineups:

AL                                            NL

Ichiro Suzuki, cf                      Jose Reyes, ss

Derek Jeter, ss                       some guy named Bonds, lf

David Ortiz, 1b                       Carlos Beltran, cf

Alex Rodriguez, 3b                 Ken Griffey Jr., rf

Vladimir Guerrero, rf              David Wright, 3b

Magglio Ordonez, lf                Prince Fielder, 1b

Ivan Rodriguez, c                   Russell Martin, c

Placido Polanco, 2b                Chase Utley, 2b

Dan Haren, p                         Jake Peavy, p

---Mike Harrington

Tribe/Bisons fans: Write your letters to Bud

SAN FRANCISCO -- Commissioner Bud Selig had his annual luncheon chat today with members of the Baseball Writers Association of America and it covered all the expected topics: He's made no decision about attending Barry Bonds' home run watch, he's thrilled with attendance and with the idea of starting the World Series on a Wednesday rather than Saturday, he wishes there was a test for human growth hormone.

But I was piqued when Selig was asked about what he admittedly called MLB's "vexing" blackout rules. The No. 1 email complaint I get is from Buffalo fans who can't watch the Cleveland Indians on ESPN, or the Extra Innings package because the Tribe claims us in their blackout zone even though we're three hours away. The Yankees, Mets and Pirates do likewise but we can see the first two and nobody cares about the pathetic Bucs.

But people want to see their ex-Bisons in Cleveland and the Indians won't let them. That's crazy. Here's what Selig said about what he perceives is progress on the blackout situation:

"It's never perfect but I will tell you my mail has decreased tremendously on that score. When I do get an occasional letter, I send it to my broadcast people and say, "Call them.'' Common sense applies when people say they're not getting something they want that really doesn't affect the home club or any other club. Then you try to change it. I think we've made progress. We've talked about the areas that were particularly vexing. We've had very few complaints now. Last year we had quite a few."

There you have it. You want to see the Indians, I'd say write a letter to Selig at the MLB offices, 245 Park Avenue, New York, NY, 10167. Tell him you think it's ridiculous the Tribe (and the Pirates) are allowed to black us out when their regional sports networks are not available here. I'd love to hear if you get a response.

---Mike Harrington

How do we fix a drab Derby?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tony Bennett is softly crooning "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" over the PA here as the fans file out of AT&T Park after a rather drab Home Run Derby. It feels like we left three hours in the city by the bay and got few rewards.

I'm betting most of you think deciding homefield advantage in the World Series through the All-Star Game is ridiculous. But what do you think of the derby? Has it gotten stale? Would it have been better had Barry Bonds at least agreed to take one round as an exhibition if he didn't want to do the whole thing?

After all the hype about McCovey Cove -- hey, I was just as guilty as the next guy -- was this just a three-hour waste of time? Not one splashdown!

That's all for tonight. No, I didn't get invited to Barry and Jay-Z's swank party. But I got my ticket for the official MLB soiree on Pier 32 down the street from the ballpark!

---Mike Harrington

Vlad wins it

Vlad_4 SAN FRANCISCO -- Vladimir Guerrero of the Los Angeles Angels, who batted capless through much of the competition, won tonight's Home Run Derby by beating Toronto's Alex Rios in the finals, 3-2.

Rios, who had 17 home runs in his first two rounds, went first and cleared the fence just twice. Guerrero tied him with two homers of his own and used just four of his allotted 10 outs in the process. After three more outs, Guerrero pounded the winner into the bleachers in left field. 

---Mike Harrington

The finals: Rios vs. Guerrero

SAN FRANCISCO -- Alex Rios (17 home runs) and Vladimir Guerrero (14) will be competing in the finals of the Home Run Derby shortly while Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols were eliminated with 13 through two rounds.

Guerrero had a spectacular semifinal round with nine home runs. One went into the left-field parking lot (tabbed at 469 feet), there was a 474-footer over the left-field bleachers and his last blast was a 503-footer to left that nearly hit the glove sculpture to the right of the Coke bottle, an area never reached during a game.

Pujols hit nine home runs in his semifinal round to finish with 13. He hit one foul ball into the left-field upper deck a few rows below me. Jon Miller said he's never seen a ball hit in that area.

Previous totals are out. It's Rios vs. Guerrero with numbers from this round only counting toward the title. The trophy was just paraded out to home plate by ex-Giants Kevin Mitchell and Will Clark. Oh, the drama. MLB has got to rethink this thing at some point.

---Mike Harrington

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |