Tom Verducci's View

June 29, 2003

STAR SYSTEM

Major league players agreed to put World Series home field
advantage on the line at the All-Star Game only if they had a say
in picking the teams. The ballots go out this week. Players
(along with managers and coaches) will vote only for players in
their own league.

NL players will pick eight position players to supplement the
fans' starting eight, and the AL will add nine, including a
designated hitter. Players also will elect eight pitchers in each
league. Unlike with the fan balloting, however, baseball will not
release vote totals from the players. Why? Keeping the results
secret prevents the embarrassment of unreturned ballots and gives
baseball leeway in cases in which the players' picks match the
fans' picks. At those positions the commissioner's office can
ignore the runner-up to satisfy its archaic rule that every team
be represented.

Under this system, managers have little wiggle room. AL manager
Mike Scioscia, for instance, has only five picks, and four must
be pitchers. This year's selection process is improved, but it
would be even better if the players' vote totals were revealed
and if only the game's host team were guaranteed a representative.

TECHNICAL ADJUSTMENT

Something odd happened to Atlanta's Greg Maddux (left) in his
June 15 start at Seattle. "I got a call [for a strike] that I
thought might have been a ball, the kind where you go, 'Oh,'"
Maddux said. "Think about that. The middle of June, and it was
the first time it happened all year."

Control pitchers such as Maddux, who rely on getting calls on
pitches just off the black, suffer most from the QuesTec
crackdown, the high-tech effort to have umpires call the true
width of the plate, no more, no less. (Maddux struck out 11
Mariners at Safeco Field, a non-QuesTec ballpark.) As Tom Glavine
did a couple of years ago with another well-publicized strike
zone reformation, Maddux grew frustrated in the early part of the
season. "It doesn't bother me now," he says. "I'm just going out
there and pitching." With a win over Baltimore last Friday night,
Maddux was 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA in his last six starts.

SHORT HOPS

Seattle designated hitter Edgar Martinez is reconsidering his
plan to retire at the end of this season. Hitting .300 will do
that for you. "I want to leave it open now," he says. "I'm having
a good season and feeling well, so now I want to wait to see what
happens." ... After floating the idea of having players wear
generic league uniforms for the All-Star Game (to make a few
bucks by selling replicas), baseball heard the near-unanimous
dislike for it from players and the media and dropped the
proposal.... More proof of how rare Roger Clemens is even among
300-game winners: He has pitched well enough this season to be an
All-Star. Of the nine previous pitchers to win their 300th game
since the inaugural All-Star Game in 1933, only one, Warren
Spahn, was selected for the game after reaching the milestone....
Braves manager Bobby Cox, after watching Ichiro Suzuki for three
games, called the Seattle rightfielder "the best ever" at the
position. Better than Roberto Clemente? "The best, and I know
he's the fastest," Cox said.... Twins G.M. Terry Ryan scoffed at
reports that struggling righthander Brad Radke, still throwing 91
mph, is getting hit because he's lost pop off his fastball. "His
problem has been leaving too many balls up and over the plate,"
Ryan said.

PURE ESSENTIALS

What Oakland pitcher Tim Hudson takes on every trip:

1. Poker chips. "I carry the chips. The other guys can bring the
money."
2. Baseball publications.
3. Guitar. "I just got one. Barry [Zito] is teaching me how to
play."

Read Tom Verducci's Inside Baseball column every week at
si.com/baseball.

COLOR PHOTO: TOM HAUCK/ICON SMI (SCIOSCIA) Scioscia will have few choices. COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO (MADDUX)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)