The All-Star Game is a calming drink of water in a long marathon, a pause button to rest your knuckles while defeating a video-game boss, a Lost flashback sequence to allow a much needed bathroom respite.
It’s a time to sit back, relax, reflect on the first half of the season, recharge the batteries for the upcoming playoff races, and prepare your ears (and mind) for the postseason Joe Buck–Tim McCarver tandem. (Also, if you’re like me, it’s a time to get on your knees and pray that your fantasy cornerstone third baseman David Wright didn’t mess his swing up by participating in the Home Run Derby.)
And with that first-half reflection in mind, it’s time to hand out some midseason hardware.
The Stacy from Wayne’s World Award
for biggest annoyance you can’t get rid of,
no matter how hard you try
First Place—Barry Bonds
Not only is he already half-retired—playing three games a week, tops—but halfway through the year he’s hitting .250 with 12 home runs, numbers that fantasy deadweights like Ty Wiggington and Phil Nevin have surpassed. And yet, he’s impossible to get rid of. You can’t just drop him for nothing (since he’ll start hitting as soon as you jettison him), and he has the trade value of a Johnny Fairplay Pog. So the only thing you can do is plant him on the bench, wait it out, and hope that science never finds a way to detect human growth hormone.
Second Place—Felix Hernandez
After seeing Dusty Baker’s handling of young aces-in-waiting Mark Prior and Kerry Wood—and the 67 surgeries over the past three years that followed—Mariners coach Mike Hargrove has been ordered to carefully monitor the number of times King Felix moves his arm in a forward direction. Knowing that his own life is at stake, Hargrove not only keeps Felix on a strict pitch count and skips the occasional start but also follows him around with a counter, marking off the number of times he extends his arm at all. To pay the checkout lady. To shake a hand. To write an e-mail—again, learning from Dusty’s mistakes. And with the usual summer spate of horrible channel-flipping television upon us, fantasy owners have another arm use to fret over.
Third Place—Dane Cook
You’d think that a show following four comedians on the road would be, I don’t know, funny? (The Comedians of Comedy was hilarious, after all.) But the laugh quotient for Cook’s Tourgasm series on HBO is two an hour. And the show’s only 30 minutes long. Even then, the laugh’s of the putter-cough variety rather than the deep belly chuckle. But no matter what channel you change to, he’s always there. For Mike Hargrove’s sake, let’s hope King Felix is a fan of Cook’s and doesn’t try to avoid him.
The Tom Cruise on Oprah’s Couch Award
for best idea backfiring horribly
The former employee who convinced his boss to put up the sign at the All-Star Game’s Home Run Derby awarding a lucky fan 500 free round-trip airplane tickets if a player happened to hit it. My feeling is he won’t be asking for Ryan Howard’s autograph anytime soon. Mostly, he’ll be asking for change outside your local grocery store.
The Adrian Beltre Award
for peak season before a contract extension
I don’t know if it’s because of the lessened expectations after a surprisingly dull Sopranos season, the cancellation of Carnivale, and the horribly lifeless blob that is Tourgasm, but the current season of David Milch’s Deadwood is, far and away, the best show currently on television. So far we’ve seen a finger get chopped off, an eye vacate its socket, and full-frontal nudity from Calamity Jane. Then again, maybe it’s always been this great and I’m just finally desensitized to the word “cocksucker.” Let’s all hope that HBO wises up and re-signs the show to a much deserved extension. And that, if they do, Milch doesn’t phone it in like the man for whom the award is named.
The Hannibal Lecter Award
for best method of rooting for the bad guy
Despite the country hating him with a special mix of pure loathing and abundant disgust (the kind that Roger Ebert reserves for Rob Schneider movies), A.J. Pierzynski won the fans’ vote for the final American League roster spot in the All-Star Game. The fans’ vote. As in, the fans going online and casting their votes for him. Of course, since the dawn of time, man has enjoyed witnessing dramatic events. (You can bet that many a caveman let slip a bit of juicy gossip to the wrong person, just to see the chaos that would ensue.) So the guess here is that most of the votes were cast in the hope of seeing a brawl start at the All-Star Game. Or at least to have someone to boo.
The Tom Brady Award
for best reason to gloat, since you had the intelligence to draft him, while all others ignored him
Having the foreknowledge to draft Francisco Liriano in the 15th round—and then the access to an insider scoop from native Minnesotan BatGirl to pick him back up after I mistakenly put him on waivers—has paid larger dividends than a Park Place–Boardwalk monopoly. And since Monopoly money isn’t official legal tender, and my fantasy league pays out actual currency, that analogy is literal!