West-ern blues

While the Rockies had their problems in April, the free-fall didn't start until the day after Troy Tulowitzki was sidelined with a torn tendon in his left quadriceps. The Rockies managed to win the game in which Tulowitzki was hurt, 3-2 at San Francisco on April 29, which left them with an 11-16 record.

Since Tulowitzki went on the disabled list, the Rockies are 11-22.

The real frustration for the Rockies is the opportunity they have allowed to slip away during that time.

How bad is the West?

Bad enough that no team in the division has a winning record against either the NL East or NL Central, and all five teams have losing records on the road. Consider that the Diamondbacks are 20-8 against the rest of the West but 12-20 against everybody else.

A fine art

The modern baseball manager pays attention to every detail. And, for Reds manager Dusty Baker, that includes schooling himself in the proper method of arguing with umpires.

Baker was suspended for two games for an ump bump earlier this season. So when Atlanta's Bobby Cox came out to dispute a call in a game against Cincinnati, Baker made sure he watched the way the guy who has gotten the thumb more than anybody in history controlled his body.

"I learned something from Bobby," Baker said. "He's the king of ejections. He crosses his arms, he kept his distance. I was really studying Bobby. I was. I'm not kidding."

Losing Royally

The Royals have had four losing streaks of 10-plus games since the start of the 2005 season, one more than the other 13 AL teams combined. Their futility hit a low last week when they changed starting shortstops in seven straight games, using four different shortstops in four games at one point. Trey Hillman is so down on the light-hitting Tony Pena Jr. that he's using second baseman Esteban German as his "regular" shortstop.

Sound the alarm

Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder wants his at-bats at Miller Park introduced by a siren instead of the usual signature song. Team officials are waiting to get an OK from Major League Baseball because the sound effect is similar to an emergency siren. —Wire services

Top 10

SHORT SEASON AFFILIATE EDITION

Short-season single-A or rookie

TEAM . . . . . Last week

1. Chicago Cubs . . . . . 2

Boise Hawks

2. Boston Red Sox . . . . . 1

Lowell (Mass.) Spinners

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim . . . . . 3

Orem Owlz

4. Tampa Bay Rays . . . . . 4

Hudson Valley (N.Y.) Renegades

5. Philadelphia Phillies . . . . . 9

Williamsport (Pa.) Crosscutters

6. Chicago White Sox . . . . . 6

Great Falls (Mont.) Voyagers

7. St. Louis Cardinals . . . . . 8

Batavia (N.Y.) Muckdogs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks . . . . . 5

Missoula (Mont.) Osprey

9. Florida Marlins . . . . . 7

Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers

10. Milwaukee Brewers . . . . . —

Helena (Mont.) Brewers

Dropped out: Oakland Athletics — Aaron Morton

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jason Giambi. After an all-or-nothing April in which he hit .164, Giambi might be a fantasy factor again. His .315 average in May came with a .644 slugging percentage. Believe it or not, he led AL first basemen in homers with 11.

Dan Uggla. The Florida Marlins mainstay wasn't that far behind Utley in homers and RBI, plus he was hitting .300 — a far cry from the .188 average he had three weeks into the season.

Nick Markakis. Traditionally a slow starter, Markakis was more than 30 points below his career average of .290. He caught fire in the second half of last season, so there might be time to acquire him before he does it again.

Jon Rauch. Rauch was supposed to be a setup man for Chad Cordero. But after converting 12 of 14 save opportunities, he has more than proved he can get the job done. — USA Today