There's still time to get this right, so pay close attention. When filling out your all-star ballot, your American League shortstop should be the Chicago White Sox' Ozzie Guillen and one of your three National League outfielders should be the Philadelphia Phillies' Len Dykstra.
This may seem obvious, but through June 3, Guillen was running sixth in the voting, Dykstra 11th.
Going into Friday night's games, Guillen was third in the AL with a .341 batting average. He makes nearly all the plays in the field but knows he faces an uphill struggle to make the all-star team.
"No one knows who I am," he said, "so I'd have to kill all the other shortstops. I'd have to take care of Cal Ripken, Alan Trammell, Tony Fernandez and Kurt Stillwell. Then I'd be in jail and I wouldn't be able to play anyway."
Dykstra entered the weekend with hits in 20 consecutive games (the majors' longest hitting streak this season), 30 of 31 and 41 of 46. His major league leading batting average was .414, but he was batting .488 (20 for 41) with runners in scoring position.
"That's got to be one of the greatest stats in the majors this year," Phillies Manager Nick Leyva said.
The club's batting coach Dennis Menke told the Philadelphia Inquirer this week: "With every at-bat, he really has a very specific idea of what he wants to do. He's really something of a hitting genius. With the way he's swinging and hitting, he should be one of the best hitters in baseball."
But like Guillen, Dykstra is not exactly stunned by his lack of all-star support. "That's a reputation-type deal," he said. "It would have been a major surprise to see me in the top three."
So remember, now. Vote Guillen. Vote Dykstra. Vote early. And because this is for the all-star game, vote often. NL Batting Booms
Before Friday night, when six National League games produced 98 runs, offense in the NL already was way ahead of a year ago. Courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau: During their first 309 games last season, NL teams had 2,326 runs, 374 homers and a .241 average. During their first 310 games this season (games through Wednesday night), they had 2,672 runs, 497 homers and a .260 average.
Even with the designated hitter, the American League's batting average through Wednesday's games was .257. And while we're on the junior circuit, its teams hit 546 homers in their first 362 games last season. In their first 363 this season, they hit 615 homers. The prevailing theories range from a livelier ball to crummy pitching caused by the lockout-shortened spring training to just plain crummy pitching. And then there is Athletics outfielder Jose Canseco, who opined: "Well, I didn't play in the first half last year." . . .
Only with the Braves: Pete Smith retired the first 15 batters and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of Tuesday night's game against the Dodgers and was trailing, 1-0, on an unearned run. Atlanta pinch hit for him in the eighth, scored six unearned runs to take a 6-1 lead and ended up winning, 6-4. . . . Cardinals reliever Frank DiPino's last loss was on June 9, 1988. He's 14-0 since. . . .
An heir to Mike Hargrove (a k a) The Human Rain Delay) finally has surfaced. It's Padres pitcher Andy Benes. On April 23 he started a game that became the first one in San Diego delayed by rain since 1984. May 4 he was rained out of a start in Chicago. On May 9 the beginning of a game he started in St. Louis was delayed by rain. May 29 he was rained out of a start in Philadelphia. Tinker to Evers: No Chance
The Angels, whose infield has been decimated by injuries, had an interesting combination for Wednesday night's game against the Royals. Dick Schofield was at shortstop for the first time since injuring a hamstring in spring training. Gary DiSarcina, who had been playing shortstop, moved to second base -- a position he had not played since high school -- because Johnny Ray needed to rest his sore right shoulder. Then, when first baseman Wally Joyner had to leave the game in the top of the first because of a knee injury, Lance Parrish moved down the line from catcher for the first time since 1988. "It was the bomb squad out there," Schofield said.
"I wondered if I was going to make it through the game without a broken leg," said DiSarcina, who called turning a first-inning double play "kind of a shock." Equally shocking, Schofield made the trio's only error (on a fly ball) and the Angels won, 6-2. . . . On three consecutive pitches this week, Brewers reliever Tony Fossas allowed the Orioles six runs. . . . The White Sox sold out Comiskey Park's last game in less than an hour. The game will be Sept. 30 against the Seattle Mariners. About 10,000 tickets were available after the team fulfilled commitments to season ticket holders and sponsors.
Worms in the Apple
Negative New York Note of the Week: After Friday night's games, the city's new managers, Bud Harrelson and Stump Merrill, had respective records of 3-6 and 0-3.