The Mets and Yankees went into the All-Star break in completely different fashions. Earlier in the week, the Mets lost two out of three to the Reds, which was payback for the 1973 playoff upset of the Big Red Machine. And just for old time's sake, Cincinnati even sent Pete Rose Jr. to take out Bud Harrelson with a hard slide while the former Met was out doing some yard work. And the Mets barely put up a fight against the division-leading Braves, with only Johan Santana's two gems this week saving them from complete disaster. Meanwhile, the Yanks are on cruise control, sweeping the A's, and letting the Mariners know how much they like Seattle's negotiating tactics in the Cliff Lee situation, by taking three out of four from them. But now, more importantly, on to the Player of the Week (and yes, John Flaherty got some late consideration for catching that foul ball yesterday, and Bob Lorenz gets a tip of the hat for coming up with a quick-thinking Brady Bunch reference).
Bob Sheppard: The longtime Yankee PA announcer is not a player, but he still deserves to be named the Player of the Week. Sheppard died yesterday, at the age of 99. He deserves this honor just for almost living to be 100. From 1951 to 2007, he was the classy, classic voice from above for Yankee games. He spanned the Joe DiMaggio era all the way to Derek Jeter. He was also the PA announcer for the New York Giants from 1956 to 2005. Reggie Jackson dubbed him The Voice of God, and surely that's no misnomer. Mickey Mantle said he felt goose bumps every time Sheppard announced his name. He was a gentleman's gentleman. Wouldn't your life be so much better if he could announce all your milestones? Birth, graduations, marriage? "Now living . . . at 10 pounds, six ounces . . . Jeff Freier . . . 10 pounds, six ounces." If only.
Johan Santana: When the Mets lefty finished his three-hit shutout, which also included his first career home run, I felt the same way Jim Lampley did in Blades of Glory when, after witnessing a successful Iron Lotus, when he profoundly and succinctly summed up what he had just seen: "Scott, I think I just wet my pants." After suffering through a four-game slump, Santana has turned things around. In his gem on Tuesday he was like the Little Leaguer who did everything himself - pitch, hit a home run, field -- maybe he should start batting cleanup. And he threw seven shutout innings yesterday to up his record to 7-5, and lower his ERA to 2.98 and WHIP to 1.20. CC Sabathia has begun his patented scorching second half, and now maybe Santana has done the same.
Nick Swisher: The Send Swish campaign worked, as he has been sent (to Anaheim). And he'll compete in the Home Run Derby, too. His slogan ranks right up there with Nixon's The One, I Like Ike and Hoover's the Shizizzle. Swisher wasn't shy about asking people to vote for him, either, which could be seen as refreshingly candid or embarrassingly self-serving, depending on your point of view. But anyway, for the week, the fun-loving right fielder hit .344, with four doubles, two home runs and scored six runs. He's having a career year, hitting .298, with 15 homers and 49 RBI. Even his batting average is way above his career mark of .251 (but he's always been an on-base machine, of course), though low batting averages must run in the family, as his father, Steve, finished with a lifetime average of .216. The former catcher did make one All-Star team just like his son, though, in 1976. He didn't ask people to vote for him through his Twitter account, though. He did it the old-fashioned way -- by having Sparky Anderson pick him.
Mark Teixeira: The Gold Glove-winning first baseman has that whole boy next door, squeaky clean image thing going on, but if the boy next door signs a multimillion-dollar contract and only hits .240 with sporadic production, boy next door or not, he's going to get booed. But thankfully for Teixeira, it's one home run after another for him nowadays, as he's finally becoming the Teixeira that Yankee fans have come to know and love. This week, he batted .370, banged out four dingers and drove in eight.
Angel Pagan: The Mets' center fielder has filled in for Carlos Beltran better than anyone could have expected. For the week, he hit .461, with two homers, a double and a triple. With Beltran coming back soon, it only makes sense to keep playing Pagan regularly, which would mean patrolling right field. Francoeur has that great arm and winning smile, but Pagan is just a better player than Frenchy is, so he's making what could have been a difficult decision a no-brainer.
Who Needs Cliff Lee: For one week at least, every member of the Yankees rotation pitched like an ace. Andy Pettitte: eight innings, one run, nine Ks; A.J. Burnett: seven innings, two runs; CC Sabathia: 14 and 2/3 innings, two runs in two games; Phil Hughes: seven innings, one run; Javier Vazquez: 14 innings and one run in two games.
David Lee: Let's give a little love to fan-favorite Lee. He spent five torturous seasons with the Knicks, in five of the worst years in franchise history, but always worked his tail off. Even without that guy who now plays in Miami, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Knicks, but Lee won't be around to see it. He made his first All-Star team last year, as he continued to improve and work on his game season after season. He was the one shining light in a puddle of dung at the Garden. He'll be missed.
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