By Jason Shoot
Suffering from a case of the brown-bottle flu tends to make workdays more difficult than usual.
But showing up to work with the brown-bottle flu and seeing the New York Yankees dominating the headlines of the baseball world makes life almost unbearable.
Yankees manager Joe Torre, who will be managing the American League squad at the All-Star Game on account of his team of billionaires buying, oops, winning last year's World Series, picked seven of his own players to join him on his trip to Safeco Field in Seattle for the Midsummer Classic on July 10.
I am certain there are times when picking seven players from one team seems fair. For instance, selecting seven players from the Yankees team that won 114 games a couple years ago seems fair to me.
But let's face it this year's Yankees team is good but not great. Sure, they're in first place in the AL East with a 49-33 record, but only by a mere half-game over the injury-riddled Boston Red Sox.
New York isn't intimidating anymore, and I feel safe guaranteeing you readers the Yankees will not win the World Series this year. In fact, I doubt they'll make it out of the first round of the postseason.
The Seattle Mariners, meanwhile, are 61-22 and on pace to set the all-time record for victories in a season, are hosting the All-Star Game and ended up with just six players in the event.
Torre should have taken a hint from fans, who did not vote one Yankee onto the AL team.
I don't have a problem with Torre selecting shortstop Derek Jeter, pitcher Roger Clemens, outfielder Bernie Williams and catcher Jorge Pasada. Each of those players has put up All-Star-type numbers and have been justly rewarded.
The selections of pitcher Andy Pettitte, closer Mariano Rivera and setup man Mike Stanton, however, is enough to make all the spiced rum consumed the past couple days sit in my stomach about as well as a gallon of antifreeze.
Pettitte is 8-4 and has a 2.95 earned run average, both solid numbers. But looking at the pitching leaders in the American League reveals no fewer than 10 pitchers who have a better win-loss record than he does.
Isn't that what professional baseball is all about wins and losses?
Seattle's Aaron Sele, the Mariners' most steady pitcher this season up until two weeks ago, is on pace to finish the season 17-1 with a 3.64 ERA. Torre left him off the roster and instead selected Mariners teammate Freddy Garcia, who is 9-1 with a 3.43 ERA.
Picking Garcia was the right move, but leaving Sele off in favor of Pettitte was downright boneheaded. I don't understand how the No. 1 pitcher for the No. 1 team in baseball can be left off the AL roster.
Garcia and Sele don't exactly evoke images of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, but a combined mark of 18-2 is hard to ignore. Both players should have been selected, but instead Torre picked Clemens and Pettitte, who are a combined 20-5 a league-best 12 wins by Clemens alone.
Torre made a good move in selecting a middle reliever to the team. Middle relievers and setup men usually get lost in the shuffle because their numbers aren't exactly mindblowing.
Stanton is 6-2 this year with an impressive 1.91 ERA. He has been a life-saver for the Yanks on numerous occasions and deserves consideration for an All-Star nod. But that's it, only consideration.
Seattle's Jeff Nelson has anchored the best bullpen in the world the entire first half of the season. He is 3-1 with four saves and a 2.29 ERA. His most glaring statistic is opponents' .125 batting average against him.
Stanton is allowing opponents to bat .253 against him, double Nelson's number. Could Torre still be harboring bad feelings about Nelson ditching the Yanks in favor of the Pacific Northwest during this past offseason? Hmm.
Finally, we get to Rivera, who has been the majors' most consistent closer for several years. He's second in the AL in saves with 27, and typically I would have no problem with his selection to the All-Star team.
Rivera has successfully converted 26 of 29 save opportunities (89.6 percent). Anaheim's Troy Percival has one-upped Rivera, though, converting 19 of 20 opportunities (95 percent).
Percival's WHIP (walks and hits combined per inning) is just .667. To put that in better perspective, Boston's Pedro Martinez is at .907, Atlanta's Greg Maddux is at 1.033 and Arizona's Randy Johnson is at 1.058.
Rivera's WHIP is a very respectable .820, not far behind Percival. But facts are facts, batters are hitting Rivera more, and he isn't saving games like Percival has.
Granted, Percival has fewer saves and fewer opportunities but let's be real here. He'd certainly have more if he played for a decent, competitive ballclub, and Anaheim is far from that.
Only Torre and people close to him know the reasoning behind his selections, and many people will find his picks very questionable.
Questionable, if not utterly ridiculous.