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Friday, March 28
Leave Junior, All-Star Game alone

By Harold Reynolds
Special to

Since I've been in hibernation for the winter, it's time to chime in on a few baseball issues that have been discussed both before and during spring training:

The All-Star Game
The Midsummer Classic is an exhibition game, and playing it to decide home-field advantage in the World Series is one of the biggest jokes I've ever heard. The days of Pete Rose and Ray Fosse are over -- deal with it.

Torii Hunter
Torii Hunter's leaping catch of Barry Bonds' ball was an All-Star Game highlight.
Baseball players are now making millions of dollars per year, and fans are voting for their All-Stars. As a result, the game has become more about entertaining the fans than winning or losing. If baseball tries to make this a game of importance, the fans will miss out on a lot of great moments.

In 2001, Cal Ripken was hitting around .220 when fans voted him onto the All-Star roster. In another format, Ripken would not have received the thunderous applause and standing ovation when he approached the plate in his final All-Star appearance. He would have never hit the home run that followed, or been named MVP. Because if the American League had been concerned about winning that year, Ripken would not have made the roster.

Last season, Joe Torre would not have picked five shortstops -- all deserving of All-Star status; he would have had to choose a team that made sense.

Furthermore, if this were a game of importance, why would anyone pitch to Barry Bonds? We would have missed Torii Hunter robbing Bonds of a home run in his first at-bat. And we definitely would have missed the titanic home run Bonds hit in the third inning.

Last year produced one of the most exciting All-Star games in recent history. Tied 8-8, we got 12 innings for the price of nine.

Derek Jeter vs. George Steinbrenner
I understand that Steinbrenner is trying to motivate his players, but let's put this situation in perspective. Much has been made of Derek Jeter's statistics, but I can tell you from experience that stats are overrated. Especially in Jeter's case. They simply don't show intangibles.
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Jeter is clearly the leader of the Yankees' clubhouse. He plays every day and motivates his teammates. Perhaps the most alarming thing I've heard is that Jeter isn't the $189 million player he used to be.

Well, he didn't hit 50 home runs then, and he's not going to hit 50 now. But if there's a runner on second base, Jeter will get him over. That's what the Yankees pay him to do, and that's what they'll get from him.

Over the course of the season, if Jeter hits 15 ground balls that move a runner over to third base, that's an 0-for-15 -- that hurts his average big-time. I know, because I did it every year. Now, I often hear, "Oh, you were a career .260 career hitter."

Did that mean I wasn't a good hitter? No, it meant that I made good contact, but half the time I had to get a man over. The truth is, if I wanted to be selfish, I could have hit .280. There are a lot of things that take the bat out of your hands.

The difference for Jeter, though, is that he moves those runners over while getting himself on base. He hit .310 and had a .385 on-base percentage with runners on base last season, and those numbers jumped to .320 and .411, respectively, with runners in scoring position.

Those are the intangibles that win championships. I didn't win any, and few other players in this generation have won as many as Jeter. So the writers need to wake up and stop keeping this controversy alive.

Ken Griffey, Jr.
People wonder why Ken Griffey Jr., is upset? After being traded for Mike Cameron (who had a career year), injuries limited his production and he was considered by many to be a "bust." And he's supposed to be happy about that? It doesn't work that way.

Leave Junior alone. Let him play. If he's healthy we'll see him hit 40 home runs. He was on pace last season until he got hurt -- if a player is injured, he's injured.

Michael Jordan was injured last year and this year he's the greatest 40-year-old to ever play basketball. Junior was once the Jordan of baseball. He was the most popular player and a member of the All-Century team -- an honor even Bonds didn't receive. Let's not forget what a great player Junior was before his injury.

The death of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler is so unfortunate. And I hope that at the very least, we all learn a valuable lesson from this tragedy.

There are many ways to lose weight that don't involve taking dietary supplements. And it's important to come into spring training already in shape and ready to go.

Last season, the big topic was steroids and how many players were potentially "using." Steroids? That's like going back to the '60s and wearing bell-bottoms. I tried to stress that the problem goes beyond just steroids to other supplements like creatine, amino acids and ephedra.

These days there are so many legal, over-the-counter supplements. Why would a player take steroids when he has access to so many other supplements that do the same thing?

There isn't a lot of research on these products, and we don't know all of the potential adverse effects. To me, that has always been the bigger issue.

Ephedra is the bad supplement of the moment because of what happened to Bechler. But what's next? What about the next person whose heart is racing because of some other supplement? Or when someone's arm rips out of the socket because his shoulder joint can no longer keep up with his muscle growth?

Banning these supplements will be difficult. Even if it's banned, players will still do it. So, a lot of the onus will fall on the individual to make better choices.

ESPN baseball analyst Harold Reynolds played 12 seasons in the majors and was a two-time All-Star.

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