Shanoff's W.U.C.: MLB Midway, McNair, Marion

Today's Calls: Red Sox vs. Yankees vs. Rays, Pujols vs. History, LeBron vs. Confiscated Video, Brandon Inge vs. Ian Kinsler, Pablo Sandoval vs. Shane Victorino, Shawn Marion vs. Dallas Mavericks, Mountain West vs. BCS and More. ↵
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↵The Opening Pitch: The MLB season is halfway over.
Here are your top 3 story lines for the 2nd half: ↵

↵(1) AL East Freak-Out: The best three teams in the AL are the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays. At best, only two of those teams can make the playoffs, and for all three of them, missing out means a devastating blow to the franchise. ↵

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↵(2) Pujols "62": With all of the resentment towards Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, look for a meme to pop up from the stodgier corners of the baseball media universe tracking Pujols' attempt to top Maris' 61 HR as the "real" record-breaking moment. ↵

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↵(3) NL Down to the Wire: 5 teams are within 3.5 games of the NL Central lead; 4 teams are within 4.5 games of the NL East lead. The Giants -- seemingly out of it in the NL West -- have a better record than all 9 of them for the Wild Card, and the Rockies are just a game behind SF. This won't be decided until the 162nd game. (Hopefully 163rd or 164th.) ↵

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↵Plus, as always, the annual "Will your fantasy team make/win the playoffs?" In my league, I am in playoff contention for the first time ever, seemingly coming from nowhere -- not unlike the Rays in 2008. (This, all without Manny for the last 50 games! Woo: Zobrist, Lind and Sandoval!) ↵

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↵In the end, I love the idea of the Rays bumping either the Red Sox or Yankees (I really don't care which). I love the idea of Pujols smashing 62 (or even 70+ HRs). I love that no one knows how the NL will shake out. ↵

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↵But if I'm being honest, I am rooting for my fantasy success above all. ↵

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↵Coming tomorrow: 1st-half awards. ↵
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↵Police close McNair case: And, as if any specific conclusion would make this any less tragic, it turns out that the earliest and simplest theory was correct: McNair's girlfriend Sahel Kazemi killed McNair while he slept, then killed herself. Definitively knowing what happened doesn't offer much closure. ↵

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↵The Tale of LeBron's Tape: Or, as I like to call it, "No Witness." We already knew LeBron was a fairly bad sport (playoff exit non-handshake), but did you know he also has no sense of humor about himself? All those fun TV ads where LeBron looks like a guy confident in his uber-stud image? ↵

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↵Apparently that's a facade -- because if you dunk on LeBron in a pick-up game, he will demand that the tape of said dunk gets confiscated. Mr. Billion-Dollar-Brand probably doesn't recognize that (a) the release of that as a grainy YouTube video would be humanizing, in a positive way, and (b) confiscating the tape makes it into a much bigger deal -- in a negative way -- than it should ever have been. ↵

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↵(But never underestimate Nike's ninja marketing skills. They have the tape, and they are savvy enough to have followed yesterday's brush fire on Twitter, blogs and elsewhere. Expect to see the footage from that tape show up in a TV ad next season -- promoting LeBron. Um, unless Nike pushes "indignant recalcitrance" as their rapid-response message, as they did here.) ↵

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↵MLB All-Star Final Vote Update: Voting ends today at 4. Your current leaders: Pablo Sandoval, who has led the NL Fan Vote wire-to-wire (will Shane Victorino's heroics yesterday trigger a last-day push past Sandoval?), and Brandon Inge, who has overtaken early leader (and Wake-Up Call favorite) Ian Kinsler. Vote Kinsler! ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points ↵

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↵• Zobrist!: Walk-off winner (plus HR!) ↵

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↵• When you think speed...: You think "Fielder." ↵

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↵• Greinke Watch: Out-dueled by rookie French. ↵

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↵• Rox roll: 3rd in NL-W, would lead any other NL div. ↵

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↵• All-Star Wakefield: AL-leading 11th W. ↵

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↵• Like the old Andruw: 3 HR in TEX W. ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: Wandy Rodriguez (CG SO, 5 H, 11 K). ↵

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↵NBA Offseason: Shawn Marion goes to Dallas. Given that so many teams in the NBA actively and intentionally have no interest in competing for a championship right now, it is refreshing to see the Mavs going for broke: Re-signing Kidd and trading for Marion, all without gutting the Dirk-Howard-Terry core. ↵

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↵(Meanwhile: AI to Grizz? Anyone else sort of love the idea of a Mayo-Iverson backcourt in Memphis? AI will take shots from Mayo and Gay -- and everyone else -- but for entertainment value, Memphis immediately would become a fun team to watch. And if you're not making the playoffs, that's not a bad consolation prize.) ↵

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↵NBA Summer League Stars Orlando Edition! ↵

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↵(1) Tyler Hansbrough (again!): Game-high 24 (Pacers 3-0!) ↵

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↵(2) Russell Westbrook: Game-high 26 (plus 5 steals) ↵

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↵(3) Ryan Anderson: 21 and 7 in 108-point blitz. ↵

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↵BCS Mess: The Mountain West hates the BCS! The Mountain West hates the BCS! The Mountain West hates the BCS. (Um, where do we sign to get that check to NOT be in the BCS?) ↵

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↵CBB: Here is your 2010 NCAA Tournament National Championship roster. (And don't think I like saying it.) ↵

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↵The Last Word: "I don't know if it's going to be a good year." -- Jerry Rice, on Brett Favre unretiring to play for the Vikings. (Hey, we're getting pretty close to the moment Favre will make it official -- I'll give it another 3 weeks of wait, max.) ↵

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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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