Bright Rays

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria looks like an All-Star in his rookie season. Longoria was 4-for-10 with two walks while fielding his position well in last week's sweep of Boston, which pushed the Rays' lead to 3 1/2 games in the AL East — and No. 1 in the Deseret News Top 10 rankings.

Tampa Bay is 6-0 at Tropicana Field against the Red Sox and an amazing 18-2 at home against a group of elite teams, including the Yankees, Angels, White Sox and Cubs. It's no surprise players have begun to believe they are a lot more than a nice first-half story.

David Ortiz created a stir by saying he didn't believe the Rays can hang on, saying that in the end experience will tilt the race back toward Boston.

"He's right — history backs him up," Tampa Bay closer Troy Percival said. "But it's not going to happen to us. If we don't win this thing, it's not going to be because we fall. They will have to come and take it from us. There's a difference."

Like it is

Kids really do say the darndest things, a fact Ken Griffey Jr. was rudely reminded of recently.

Seeing that he wasn't starting against Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm on Monday, he asked manager Dusty Baker's nine-year-old son, Darren, why he was out of the lineup. According to the Dayton Daily News, here's the conversation that followed.

Darren: "Because you can't hit lefthanded pitchers."

Junior: "I hit 21 homers off lefthanders in 1996."

Darren: "That was 1996. You're old now."

Informed of the exchange, Darren's dad just shook his head. "Hey, don't ask a kid," he advised. "He'll tell you."

Number: 6

Players with at least 200 plate appearances who hadn't grounded into a double play this year, going into Wednesday night: Jayson Werth (Phillies), Willy Taveras (Rockies), Kaz Matsui (Astros), Corey Patterson (Reds), Akinori Iwamura (Rays) and Jack Hannahan (Athletics).


Padres CEO Sandy Alderson, on why he expects San Diego to be a seller before the July 31 trading deadline: "If we were to be buyers, it would be hard to choose among catcher, shortstop, outfield, starting pitcher, half the bullpen. There's not a shopping cart big enough." —Combined wire services

Top 10 — 10 year history edition

(Years below .500 since 1998)

TEAM . . . . . Last week

1. Tampa Bay Rays . . . . . 3

10, finished last in AL East in 9 years

2. Chicago Cubs . . . . . 2

5 of 10, playoffs 3 times

3. Boston Red Sox . . . . . 1

None, playoffs 6 times

4. Chicago White Sox . . . . . 6

3 times, in playoffs twice

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim . . . . . 4

3 times, in playoffs 4 times

6. Philadelphia Phillies . . . . . 10

4 times, none since 2003

7. St. Louis Cardinals . . . . . 5

2 times, 1999 and last season

8. Minnesota Twins . . . . . 7

4, but also had 4 AL Central titles

9. New York Yankees . . . . . 8

None, won AL East 9 straight years

10. Milwaukee Brewers . . . . . 9

8, finished .500 in 2005

Dropped out: None — Aaron Morton

Fantasy tip

The best way to look at the 81-game midpoint of the baseball season is to treat it like a check-up at the doctor's office — get a gauge of your team's general health to see if there are signs of distress, then determine if corrective measures need to be taken.

Look carefully for players who may have over- or underachieved and adjust your second-half expectations accordingly.

Another reminder: Now that interleague play is over, players who feasted, struggled or were benched in games against the opposite league won't have to worry about that anymore.

And if your team is one or two key players away, remember the trade deadline could bring players such as C.C. Sabathia, Erik Bedard, Mark Teixeira, Brian Fuentes, Raul Ibanez and Xavier Nady across league boundaries — and open up playing time for others. — USA Today