NL a beleaguered league recently vs. AL on field

Phil Garner is plenty aware of the recent dominance.

The American League has won 10 of the past 14 World Series. The AL is 8-0-1 in the past nine All-Star games. This season, it dominated interleague play with a 154-98 record (.611 winning percentage).


"The American League has sure whipped up on the National League," said Garner, the manager of the defending NL champion Houston Astros who leads the NL team into Tuesday's 77th All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.

"We're hoping to stop all this talk about [how] they are a whole lot better than the National League. Obviously, they have the bragging rights right now."


Collectively, Garner said the AL simply might have better overall talent.

"Or they might just be playing better than our good players are," he said.

Individually, though, the NL holds its own, he said. In fact, Garner says, "I don't think anybody in the AL is better than [St. Louis first baseman] Albert Pujols."

Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who will lead the AL squad, said he thinks economics has something to do with the shift in power. The unquestionable leaders in payroll, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, are in the AL.

"I think a lot of GMs, a lot of owners are spending a little bit more money because they want to compete against New York and Boston," Guillen said. "And the only way you're going to compete ... is to get better players."

Plus, Guillen said, the designated hitter helps the AL attract players.

Whatever the reason, the NL has lagged behind recently. But Garner has history on his side. The NL is 40-34-2 all time in the All-Star Game heading into Tuesday.

Ugly stretch


Houston catcher Brad Ausmus set a club record for position players by going hitless in 40 straight at-bats before getting a single Wednesday night. Pitcher Jose Lima, who went 0-for-44 in 1999, holds the all-time Astros futility record.

Ausmus, known more for his ability behind the plate than at it, took the historic skid in stride.

"I've been 0-for-40 before, just not consecutively," he joked.

Happy to be here

Cincinnati Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo wanted to stay in Boston, but he was dealt to the struggling Reds and their hitter-friendly ballpark before the season. Now Arroyo, a first-time All-Star, has been one of the league's best pitchers and a key reason the Reds have been in the playoff mix.

"Since I've been in this uniform everything has just played out nice," Arroyo said. "Starting off as hot as I have, us being in contention, a team that people didn't expect to be here, and for me to make the All-Star team is something I could have never expected."


Baker's time up?

Some in the Chicago media believe manager Dusty Baker could be informed as early as today that he is out as Cubs manager. Baker signed a four-year, $14 million contract in 2002 after guiding the San Francisco Giants to the World Series.

"All my life, I didn't go from being a winner to all of a sudden being some loser," Baker said. "We are losing, but I ain't no loser."