Shanoff's W.U.C.: Pujols, Prince, Prez Obama

Today's Calls: Albert Pujols vs. A-Rod, Prince Fielder vs. Nelson Cruz, Barack Obama vs. Joe Buck, Roy Halladay vs. Tim Lincecum, Blake Griffin vs. Stephen Curry, Tyreke Evans vs. Brandon Jennings, Urban Meyer vs. Notre Dame, Marcin Gortat vs. the Magic, Umpires vs. Judges and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: I love that Albert Pujols wants to be THE face of baseball. And I love his defiance in the face of the Steroid Era. In fact, his quotes yesterday read like his own argument-starting column: ↵

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↵Current events hook: "I can understand people being disappointed with A-Rod and Manny. But just because Manny made a mistake, now I have to pay? Just because A-Rod made a mistake, now I have to pay? Oh, guilt by association? That's wrong." ↵

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↵Acknowledge issue: "For people to be suspicious of me because of the year I'm having and for people to say I just haven't been caught, that makes me angry and disappointed." ↵

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↵Decisive answer: "I would never do any of that crap. You think I'm going to ruin my relationship with God just because I want to get better in this game? You think I'm going to ruin everything because of steroids?" ↵

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↵Bold claim: "Come test me every day if you want. Everything I ever made in this game I would give back to the Cardinals if I got caught." ↵

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↵Emotional crescendo: "I can understand why people don't know who they can trust or their hero was caught. I want to be the guy people look up to. But I want to be the person who represents God, represents my family and represents the Cardinals the right way." ↵

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↵Kicker: "So many people can't wait until I do something negative. I can't understand it. That's sad, because I want to be that poster boy in baseball. Just give me the chance." ↵

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↵Done. ↵

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↵Bonus Pujols quote, off last week's claim that his run at 62 was one of the biggest 2nd-half story lines. Pujols rejects "62" as any sort of record: "To me, 62 isn't the record. You've got to hit 74. The king is still Barry." ↵

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↵HR Derby: Prince Fielder may have won the Derby title, but the most notable performance in an otherwise snoozer event came from Nelson Cruz, who was the runnerup. He continues a wild breakthrough at the ripe old age of 29, with barely a full season's worth of MLB games on his resume before 2009. ↵

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↵SPs: Halladay and Lincecum couldn't be more different, though both are plenty dominant. Halladay is the best vet pitcher in baseball, but on the trading block, presumably on his way to a contender -- Lincecum is the best young pitcher in baseball and as untouchable as it gets. ↵

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↵ASG meets Obama: The best thing that will happen to the White Sox during this All-Star Break is Sox "First Fan" Barack Obama settling into the Fox broadcast booth sometime around the 3rd inning. Expect a nice little plug for his ChiSox. ↵

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↵CFB: "I am not going to Notre Dame. Ever." That's Urban Meyer about a certain college football coaching job that everyone seems to want to link him to, if not at the end of this next season (after another Gators title) then eventually (after the inevitable firing of Charlie Weis). Ain't happening. ↵

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↵(Meanwhile, Matt Hayes proclaims the best college football coach in the country to be ... Urban Meyer. How can you argue? From his "Plan to Win" to his offensive schemes to his focus on special teams to his insanely sophisticated recruiting to the way he models his program on the New England Patriots ... best in the business.) ↵NBA Summer League: Blake Griffin's debut was as good as advertised -- 27 and 12 (and the symbolism of his Clippers beating the defending champs. ... Stephen Curry Watch: 23 pts (7/19 FG shooting). ... Duel of the Night: Tyreke Evans (33 pts, 9 reb, 7 ast) vs. Brandon Jennings (13 pts, 14 ast). ↵

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↵Meanwhile: It's official -- even a team of the D-League's best is better than the T'wolves. Granted, the T'wolves were playing without Al Jefferson and Kevin Love, but the best of the D-League is also spread out among many NBA summer teams; this was a hodge-podge mix of D talent. ↵

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↵NBA Offseason: Magic match on Marcin Gortat. Gortat may have wanted to be a starting C (say, for Dallas), but instead he remains the best backup center in the league, playing behind the league's best center and alongside the league's best "stretch-four" (Rashard Lewis, who himself now has a capable backup in Ryan Anderson, who lit up the Orlando Summer League last week). Oh, and there's still the backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter, not to mention the brilliant free-agent acquisition of Brandon Bass (from Dallas, oof), who could be the Magic's starting power forward by midseason. ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: Is Derrick Mason retiring? That's what he told JockLife.com, a Web site affiliated with Mason's agent. But now there are competing reports that he hasn't made the final decision yet. At any rate, the Ravens won't buy it until Mason files his retirement with the league. ↵

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↵Gambling: Delaware is not content with just having parlayed NFL gambling; per USAT, they want to offer single-game betting, which would dramatically increase the action they handle. The NFL won't like this -- I'm not sure they're going to get any say in the matter. ↵

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↵Relationships: Tony Romo broke up with Jessica Simpson. If you still cared about that at this point, please check your office pool sheets to see who had "July 2009." ↵

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↵Sports and Politics: Umpires. As it was during the Senate confirmation hearing of John Roberts, "umpire" was THE sports analogy of choice for the opening of the Sotomayor hearings yesterday. ↵

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↵Judges calling judicial "balls and strikes" (and the obligatory point about the hardly "strict constructionist" nature of umpires' myriad interpretations of the strike zone); judges, like umps, "applying rules, not making them" -- even a partisan quip that Roberts was less "behind home plate" than out in "right field." ↵

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↵When sports metaphors are co-opted by preening politicians ... well, I guess it makes us all love sports a little less, truth be told. ↵

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↵Milestones: Rinku Singh -- the Pittsburgh Pirates minor-league pitcher by way of Indian reality show -- earned his first career win, and what is believed to be the first win ever in pro baseball by an India-born player. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "You ain't dunking on me at my camp." -- Kobe Bryant, telling campers how he won't get the LeBron Treatment, made all the more hilarious that Kobe ensured that the statement was on video and available via YouTube. Checkmate, Kobe. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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