The big news this week was, of course, the passing of George Steinbrenner on the day of the All-Star Game. And with the Midsummer Classic being played, there were only a handful of games in which to choose the Player of the Week/Runners Up. The Yankees resumed their season at home, taking two out of three from the Rays, and opened up on Friday with moving tributes to the Boss and Bob Sheppard. Meanwhile, the Mets began their second half of the season in San Francisco, which gave Keith Hernandez many opportunities to bring up Juan Marichal, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Jim Ray Hart. And since there wasn't any need to count Mets runs, with their offense in a sound sleep for most of the weekend, I was ready to keep track of every Giant from the 1960s that Keith mentioned, but he was unusually restrained from his back-in-the-day nostalgia this time around. Now on to the Player of the Week, who for the second week in a row isn't actually a player.
George Steinbrenner: Who else? Last week, unfortunately, we had to honor Bob Sheppard, and now Big Stein gets a tribute. The Boss went to the Big Calzone in the sky on Tuesday morning. He took a ragtag bunch of losers - yes, the Yankees once could be described in that way - and turned them into an empire. OK, they had already won 20 World Series, and even finished above .500 the previous three seasons, so it wasn't like he took over the St. Louis Browns. But he jumped all over the newborn free-agency frenzy, adding Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage to an already strong team in the mid-1970s, and won two World Series. Sure, his detractors might say it wasn't until he was suspended from baseball (for the second time) that the Yankees became champions again after their drought in the '80s, but seven World Championships and 11 pennants are nothing to sneeze at no matter how they're accomplished. The Boss was a giant who loomed large over New York City, and he had many sides to his personality. He may have spent more money than anybody in the history of the world, let alone baseball, but at least he put his earnings back into the team; he treated many people poorly while showering others with generosity; and he was the one who tore down iconic Yankee Stadium, while building a new replica. He was a tyrant and he was a philanthropist, but mostly what he cared about was winning. A lot. And hiring and firing Billy Martin.
Nick Swisher: After playing all night on Friday with heavy hearts, the Yankees gave the Boss (and Bob Sheppard) the best tribute possible - by winning in walk-off fashion. Swisher channeled Bobby Murcer by driving in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. He also homered and had three RBIs total for the game. In 1979, Murcer, of course, homered, had the game-winning hit and drove in all five runs in the Yanks' win over Baltimore after eulogizing Thurman Munson earlier that day. Coincidentally (or maybe it was meant to be for some reason), both games ended with a 5-4 score, the Yankees had their left-handed ace on he mound (CC Sabathia on Friday, Ron Guidry 31 years ago) and both wins came against AL East rivals in a battle for first place. Swisher also played in his first All-Star Game this week, though he whiffed in his only at-bat.
Ike Davis: The smooth-swinging rookie knocked in the winning run in the top of the 10th inning yesterday to save Frankie Rodriguez's bacon. The only fitting words when Sunday's contest ended were uttered long ago by Bob Murphy: "And the Mets win the ballgame! They win the damn thing." In the series against the Giants, Davis hit two homers, drove in five and had five hits. The Mets certainly need him to come out of his slump - but then again, they need the whole lineup to start hitting.
Jorge Posada: The Yankee catcher belted two home runs and drove in four in the three-game series against Tampa Bay. We know he can still hit at his advanced age, so the only question is, can he stay healthy?
Carlos Beltran: He's back! So far, so good for Beltran. He's batting .333 (four for 12), with a double and triple. His knee brace may be slowing him down a little in the outfield, but his leg hasn't actually fallen off and his knee is still in one piece. So that's good news.
R.A. Dickey/Jon Niese/Johan Santana: Dickey and Niese just keep on rolling, but this week they were hard-luck losers as Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito completely shut down the Mets offense. The old knuckleballer and young lefty both pitched seven innings, both only gave up one run and both ended up losers. Niese lowered his ERA to 3.44 and WHIP to 1.36. In Dickey's last four starts he's given up nine earned runs but has three losses and a no-decision to show for it. His ERA is down to 2.63. As for Santana, well, thanks a lot K-Rod. The Mets are 3-7 in their last 10 games, and all three wins came with Santana starting. The Mets' ace pitched eight innings and only allowed one run on Sunday. That's the only run he's allowed in his last three starts.
David Robertson: The young reliever threw two and 2/3 shutout innings over the weekend, striking out four and only giving up one hit. Is a bigger, more important role in his future?
David Wright: The Mets third baseman only got three hits in the series against San Francisco (one was a homer, though), but he went two for two in the All-Star Game (and stole a base). He's gotten a hit in five straight Midsummer Classics, and his .462 lifetime average is the fifth highest in All-Star history for batters with at least 10 at-bats.