TSN Baseball Insider Steve Phillips answers several questions each week. Mickey Mantle Jersey . This weeks topics include the battle atop the American League East, Bryce Harper rocking the boat, All-Star Derek Jeter and more. 1. The Baltimore Orioles have taken over first place in the AL East (albeit by percentage points) from the Toronto Blue Jays following Thursdays games. Will the AL East race come down to which GM makes a move first, or do you see one club having an advantage over the other as they are currently constructed? The Blue Jays and Orioles are two very similar teams. They both have dynamic offences and somewhat less than overwhelming pitching. They also are in a similar position as they find themselves in an uncommon spot atop the AL East. I have been saying over and over that this year is an unanticipated opportunity for the Jays. This is a season that the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays are all subpar teams that are not playing very good baseball. If there was ever a year for the Jays to go for it, this is it. But the same logic applies to the Orioles. Whereas, the Jays and Orioles are very similar, there are some subtle differences. The Jays have a better offence as they have outscored the Orioles by 35 runs. The Orioles have the overall edge in pitching as they have a 3.90 ERA (7th) and the Jays have a 4.03 ERA (11th), but interestingly, within those pitching numbers, the Jays have a better starting pitchers ERA, while the Orioles bullpen is almost a run better in ERA. What does this all mean? It means that a general manager will decide who wins the AL East: Dan Duquette vs. Alex Anthopolous. If either team decides to let their offence be the focus of the club, that will be the team that will lose. Pitching wins championships. These two teams need better pitching, not only to win the division or to be a Wild Card team, but they need better pitching if they have any designs on advancing once in the playoffs. The most interesting part of this will be that they will battle for the same players in the trade market. Neither team is likely to get David Price, since the Rays probably wont move him within the division, but Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel (a former Oriole) of the Cubs could help both teams. If Cliff Lee of the Phillies returns to health before the deadline, I would expect him to be made available. His contract is likely prohibitive to the Jays and his health history prohibitive to the Orioles. There is speculation the Phillies might move Cole Hamels, but he would have to approve any trade and it is unlikely he moves north of the border. The Os might have an edge in getting Hamels if he is moved, but his contract may be prohibitive considering how they got burned by the Ubaldo Hernandez deal this year. AJ Burnett could be a chip the Phillies would move. The Jays know him well as he played there a few years back. The fear with Burnett is that he faded down the stretch last year for the Pirates. Will he do the same this year? There is a ton of interest in the NY Mets lefty Jon Niese. He would help both teams and fits financially, as well. The Jays have a recent history of trading of trading with the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal. Relationships matter, so this could give the Jays a slight advantage. If the Mets make Bartolo Colon available, he could be a target of both teams. He is an experienced 41-year-old guy who is a competitor and he has pitched successfully in the AL. The Orioles may shy away from his age, giving the Jays an advantage. I suspect both teams will also target relievers. The San Diego Padres are getting the most calls right now as they have both closer Huston Street and set-up man Joaquin Benoit available. I dont anticipate either team targeting a closer to step in and assume the duties, so any interest in Street would likely be to add him as a set-up man and use him as insurance to close. Joaquin Benoit is the best set-up man available and he has some experience as a closer. It will be far easier to make a deal for Benoit than Street. He would be a difference-maker for both clubs. Both the Orioles and Jays have enough depth in their farm systems to make deals for this year. Certainly the GMs would have to swallow hard to trade away prospects, but let me remind you that prospects get general managers fired. Big leaguers win championships. So as the players battle and the managers manipulate their rosters to try and win games, this season will be decided by guys who wear ties to work not uniforms. May the better man win. 2. When he returned from injury earlier in the week, Washington Nationals OF Bryce Harper told the media his ideal lineup for the club that included him starting in centre field over teammate Denard Span. Manager Matt Williams downplayed the comments as best he could afterwards. How disruptive are comments like this to the team, or does the media make more out of it than there really is? Is Bryce Harper a good player? I find myself asking this because so far I am not really sure how good he is. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but he is only a .273 career hitter. He has never driven in over 60 runs in a season. Now, I know he has suffered injuries that have limited his playing time, but at some point he needs to be less about the hype and more about actual production. He needs to less about talking and more about doing. At 21 years old, there is still plenty of time for Harper to fulfill his potential, but he really needs to focus more on his production and less about writing out the line-up. I mean, really? Twenty-year veterans dont make comments about who they believe the manager should be playing. Who does he think he is? As much as Harpers comments rubbed Williams the wrong way, it had to rub his teammates that way, too. Players dont care for young phenoms who talk. Remember when Cole Hamels of the Phillies hit Harper with a pitch a couple of years because he just didnt like his style? That tells you what players think. Earlier this year, Williams benched Harper for not hustling. It was a huge statement made to Harper and the entire organization. It said that it doesnt matter who you are, if you dont do what I say you will be held accountable. Harpers cocky attitude without having accomplished anything significant in the big leagues alienates him from his peers. They had to enjoy some of the air be taken from his balloon. Harper gave Matt Williams another opportunity to make a statement. This time Williams chose to minimize Harpers comments and protect. Time will tell if this was the right approach. I would have preferred my manager knock him down a few pegs by calling Harper in and telling him to shut his mouth and just play. Then, when asked by the media, I would have wanted Williams to say, “It has been addressed internally. Beyond that I have no comment.” The most important aspect of this though is the player-to-player reaction. What is going on in that clubhouse? Bryce Harper desperately needs a veteran player to grab him by the collar and mentor him. Harpers ego may not allow him to be open to that, but boy does he need it. These comments can force Harper into isolation to where he wont interact with teammates. What a lonely existence. The Nats can overcome this now, but in the long run it will tear apart the fabric of the franchise if Harper is left unaddressed and isolated. I was worried about Harper when his parents appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at 16 with a title “Baseballs Chosen One.” I am more concerned now. No kid should have to live up to that. It sets him up to fail and disappoint, even if he turns out to be a pretty good player. Just play Bryce. Lighten up. 3. Derek Jeter – who is outside the top five in most offensive categories among AL shortstops – still holds a solid lead in All-Star voting. Does Jeter deserve a final All-Star start as part of his farewell tour or is this just another flaw in the voting system? Derek Jeter does not deserve to be an All-Star based upon his on-field performance this season. The fans are voting for him to show their respect for his long and meritorious service. I understand that. I have tremendous respect for Jeter. He is a superstar on and off the field. He is one of the most clutch players I have ever seen and one of the classiest, too. Playing in New York is not easy. Players play and live in a fishbowl. Jeter has survived a lengthy career without scandal. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That being said, his leading the balloting for shortstops and starting the All-Star Game isnt appropriate. It shows a major flaw and contradiction in the entire system. One of the slogans for the midsummer classic is “The All-Star Game means something.” It is not just an exhibition. The teams are playing for home-field advantage in the World Series. I get it, that can certainly be important. Is there any other game that means something where the fans get to pick who starts the game? If the Jays come down to the last game of the regular season against the Orioles and the winner is the division champ and the loser is a Wild Card team, should John Gibbons let the fans decide who is starting in the game? Of course not. There is an easy solution: The fans vote for players they want to see in the game, but the players vote for the starters in the game. The fan vote is a popularity contest. It is not a strategic evaluation about winning a game. The fans should get a say in the roster, just not the starters. This would allow for Derek Jeter to appropriately be recognized, but still allows the game to be played like it mean something. Bud Selig is stepping down at the end of this year. Maybe if the fans start campaigning for me to be commissioner I can institute this change. Do I have your vote? ------------------------------------------------------------------------ On July 4, 1939 Lou Gehrig gave one of the most memorable speeches ever. He had been diagnosed with an illness, ALS, which later became know as Lou Gehrigs disease. It is a horrible disease where once strong bodies deteriorate before our very eyes. Gehrig had played a then record of 2,130 consecutive games. That is about 5.83 years of playing baseball over a 17-year career. He was the most durable player in the game at the time. His body allowed him to play through pain and injury. How ironic that it was his body that so quickly deteriorated? He died less than two years after his speech. How unfair. Gehrig didnt deserve this. He did everything right. He was a classy professional who showed up for work everyday. He prepared well, played hard and produced at the highest level. He had it all. He was adored and respected by his teammates, his bosses, the media, and the fans. He was loved by his family. He had everything. If anyone had a right to feel like a victim it was Lou Gehrig. Yet, there was no victim in him. He proclaimed, "Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." In his darkest moment, robbed of that which he loved the most he found gratitude. He went on to say what he was grateful for, "I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. "Look at these grand men [his teammates]. Which of you wouldnt consider it the highlight of his career to associate with them for even one day? "Sure, Im lucky. Who wouldnt consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert -- also the builder of baseballs greatest empire, Ed Barrow -- to have spent the next nine years with that wonderful little fellow Miller Huggins -- then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology -- the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy. "Sure, Im lucky. When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift, thats something! When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies, thats something. "When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles against her own daughter, thats something. When you have a father and mother who work all their lives so that you can have an education and build your body, its a blessing! When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed, thats the finest I know." I have learned through my own struggles over the 51 years of my life, particularly the last five years, that we all have stories. We all have struggles. We all walk with a limp. Some of our limps are more profound than others. Some of us are better at hiding our limps than others. But we all have them. I have learned, too, that I am not here to teach, but rather I am here to learn from those around me. Everyone I cross paths with in my life can teach me something. I can always find a way to relate to the struggles of someone else and learn from them. I can relate to Lou Gehrigs story in my own way. There was a time in my life where from the outside I had it all: a loving family, a great job, money, respect etc. I had all of those things that the world would deem needed for success. Then, in one fell swoop, it all fell apart it. My illness, addiction, led me down a path of self-destruction. I actually didnt believe I had a lot to live for. My initial reaction was to feel like a victim, but I learned from others who were suffering, as I was, that there is no recovering in that victim place. So I decided to fight to get better. I truly believe that you find out a lot more about people when they are facing adversity than when things are going well. Its easy to be a good teammate, coworker, employee, husband, wife and friend when everything is going well. When things are their darkest, we show what we are truly made of. Lou Gehrig at his darkest moment found a solution in gratitude. I have learned that along the way, as well. When I dont feel right or if I feel like a victim during the course of my day, I stop and list the things I am grateful for. It is hard to feel like a victim when I dwell on all of the gifts in my life. I believe and have experienced that from our greatest miseries come our greatest blessings. I am living that. So today, I am grateful for Lou Gehrigs courage. I am grateful for his reinforcing that gratitude is the answer. I am grateful that I get to make a living doing what I love. I am grateful for my family. I am grateful for the support of TSN and my other employers. I am grateful that I see the world differently and interact with it differently today. I am grateful for my faith. I am grateful that I am not judgmental like I once was and that many people dont judge me without knowing me. I am grateful for my fall because it was the only way I could rise. Lou Gehrig is known as the Iron Horse because of his consecutive games played streak. He is known for a disease that is absolutely awful. But to me he is an inspiration of faith and courage. He taught me something and for that I will always be grateful. Custom New York Yankees Jerseys . The 29-year-old German, the 2011 overall World Cup champion, says she has decided "to end my career now. Austin Romine Jersey . - Leon Draisaitl scored a hat trick as the Prince Albert Raiders stormed past the Swift Current Broncos 5-2 in Western Hockey League action Tuesday. http://www.authenticbaseshopyankees.com/authentic-starlin-castro-yankees-jersey/ . PETERSBURG, Fla.NEW YORK -- After a loss Wednesday, the Atlanta Hawks had the New York Knicks right where they needed them for the rematch: in Madison Square Garden. The Hawks sent the Knicks to a fifth straight home loss and in search of answers with a 110-90 victory Saturday. New York coach Mike Woodson said he might look at lineup changes, but his teams problems go well beyond who starts. "Were not getting it done from an effort standpoint. Its like were not even trying right now," Carmelo Anthony said. Jeff Teague scored 16 points to lead eight Hawks in double figures. Paul Millsap, back in the starting lineup, had 14 points and 13 rebounds as Atlanta shot 56 per cent and won for the fourth time in five games. "Obviously a good effort on our entire groups part," coach Mike Budenholzer said. "I think it was great to see the bench give us what they gave us tonight. I think defensively that was the closest to a complete game weve had." The Hawks avenged their most recent loss, a 95-91 Knicks victory in Atlanta. This was at MSG, where New York hasnt won since beating Milwaukee on Oct. 30 in its season opener, and where the fans are getting restless. There were noticeable groans and boos in the arena, along with a few "Fire Woodson!" chants as the Knicks fell to 3-6. "Games are starting to slip away, and especially at home," Woodson said. "I mean, if this was happening on the road, I wouldnt be that concerned, but Im very concerned about how were playing here at home. Were not playing well and that shouldnt be." Anthony had 23 points and 12 rebounds for New York. Andrea Bargnani added 16 points and nine boards. J.R. Smith shot 3 for 18 to fall to 8 for 43 at MSG this season after he was suspended the first five games for violating the NBAs anti-drug policy. He was yanked with a little under 4 minutes left after missing all six attempts in the second half. "Im playing (bad)," Smith said. "I played terrible. Ive been terrible since I got back. Im unhappy about it." So is Woodson, who will have to decide if last seasons Sixth Man of the Year should return to a reserve role. "Im not just blaming it on J.R," Woodson said. "Offensively, youre going to miss shots. Theres nights where you just cant throw it in the ocean. Jamie Garcia Jersey. But that has no excuse why you dont give effort defensively." The Knicks fell to 0-4 in their orange uniforms, which made for an ugly match on the court with the Hawks wearing red. And they had a four-game winning streak against Atlanta snapped. Up 11 after three quarters, the Hawks let the Knicks get within five, then put it away with a 12-2 burst that included a four-point play by Kyle Korver, who extended his streak with a 3-pointer to 83 games, pulling within six of Dana Barros NBA record. Korver scored 15 for the Hawks, who followed a 113-103 home victory over Philadelphia on Friday with another powerful performance. Already without Tyson Chandler because of a broken leg, the Knicks were also missing Metta World Peace on Saturday because of a sore left knee. They are still holding down Amare Stoudemires minutes as he works his way back from a third knee surgery in the last year, and said the limited time on the court isnt working for him or his teammates. He talked with Woodson earlier Saturday and said he hoped his minutes could double, though the only thing Woodson committed to while talking to reporters was getting Stoudemire more repetitions in practice. The Knicks led 26-24 after one before Mike Scott, Gustavo Ayon and Shelvin Mack led a bench unit on a 17-3 burst to open the second that gave Atlanta a 41-29 advantage. The Hawks led 54-47 at halftime. Mack had 12 points and 12 assists. "Man, those guys stepped up real big for us tonight," Millsap said. "They did a great job coming off and sparking that energy for us. They came in, executed well, played great defence. Goose (Ayon) was on the glass. Going forward, thats what were going to need. Were going to need a bench to compete in this league." NOTES: Woodson said he wouldnt tell Smith to stop using Twitter, and Smith said he didnt plan to. Smith was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Friday for his inappropriate tweet directed at Detroits Brandon Jennings, the second time hes been fined that total for a post on the social media site. Woodson had said Thursday he may consider a policy banning Twitter. ... Stoudemire had five points in 14 minutes on his 31st birthday. Cheap NFL Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale NFL Jerseys Jerseys From China Wholesale NFL Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys ' ' '