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MLB NOTEBOOK: Once again, doping cloud hangs over MLB All-Star Game; expansion of instant replay coming

Chris Davis’ 37 first-half home runs were amazing — but it hasn’t stopped questions about whether it’s legit.

Chris Davis’ 37 first-half home runs were amazing — but it hasn’t stopped questions about whether it’s legit.

NEW YORK — Major League Baseball’s 2013 All-Star game, a Midsummer Classic meant to celebrate the best in the game, cams to New York’s Citi Field on Tuesday under the threatening cloud of doping in the sport.

Through votes by fans, major league players and managers of the American and National League teams, the All-Stars of the nominal first half of the 162-game regular season got to show off their talents in a special showcase.

This year, the exploits of some of baseball’s best have been overshadowed and in the case of young Baltimore Orioles slugger Chris Davis called into question due to MLB’s ongoing probe into some 20 players linked to a Florida anti-aging clinic purported to have supplied them with performance-enhancing drugs.

MLB’s active career home run leader Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees was questioned by MLB investigators last Friday causing a flurry of new headlines over the scandal after former NL MVP Ryan Braun had previously met with them.

Other big names linked to the Biogenesis clinic run by Anthony Bosch, who is cooperating with MLB, include players on title contenders such as Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers and Bartolo Colon of the Oakland Athletics and suspensions could be announced soon.

Given that cloud hanging over the game, the prodigious power displayed this season by 27-year-old Davis has drawn cynical doubts from some.

And it has left him defending his imposing line of 37 home runs and 93 runs batted in with a .315 batting average.

“It sucks that guys in our day and age have to answer for mistakes that guys have made in the past. But it is part of it,” said Davis, who hit a total of 33 home runs last year in his first full season as a starter in the majors. “I have never taken them. I have no reason to. I’ve always been a power hitter. With me, I think the biggest thing was the consistency of the contact.

“People are going to believe what they want to believe.”

National League All-Star manager Bruce Bochy, whose San Francisco Giants won last year’s World Series, said the probe was important and that he supported efforts to remove doping from the sport.

“Baseball, the players, coaches, managers, we all are 100 percent behind MLB and cleaning up this game and just try to eliminate any kind of drugs that these players get involved with,” Bochy said. “And so we’re behind this, and hopefully when this investigation is over, we can move on, move forward, and it’s a shame we are having to deal with this now.”

LOST NOVELTY: The All-Star game lost some of its novelty with the advent of inter-league play in 1997.

Prior to that, fans only got to see players from the two leagues play meaningful games in the World Series between the champions of the two leagues.

That made the All-Star game a suspenseful opportunity to see how each league’s best players matched up against the other.

In trying to invest the game with new meaning, since 2003 the winning league has been awarded home-field advantage in the World Series and American League All-Star manager Jim Leyland thinks the arrangement is working.

“Home-field advantage won seven out of the last nine times,” Leyland said on Monday. “I think it’s a nice touch. You win this game, you do get that. I think you do live by the old saying, there’s no place like home. I think pretty much sums that up.”

The National League has won the last three All-Star games and also went on to win the last three World Series.


MLB set to expand instant replay --- finally

NEW YORK - Baseball fans can look forward to more use of video replays next season, Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre said on Tuesday.

Questionable home runs are now subject to video review by umpires, but former major league manager Torre said other plays would become subject to replay review.

Torre, now MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations, has been involved on a sub-committee with Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz and former manager Tony La Russa on expanding video replay.

"We want to improve what we've done with the home run replay and we're pretty confident we'll have it in place for 2014," Torre told reporters.

An agreement already in place with the Players Association would allow MLB to institute replay to determine fair/foul calls on balls hit down the baselines and whether a ball has been caught cleanly or trapped.

Torre said one aspect of expanding replay would be to decide on "the trigger" for review of a play. Currently, umpires decide whether to review a home run call, but expanded replay could require a manager to use one of a limited number of challenges.

While fans and commentators often bemoan the "missed" calls that can crop up in a game of close plays, Torre said the goal was not to eliminate every possible mistake on the field.

"We want to stay away from having a knee jerk reaction," Torre said. "Some people have asked that we get every play right.

"But how much replay do we want? If you start from the first inning to the ninth inning you might have to time the game with a calendar.

"We have a game with flow, we have a rhythm to it."

Commissioner Bud Selig said he does not like to tinker too much with the game, but recognized that improvements could be made.

"I'm very pleased with what they've done," Selig said about the introduction of replay. "I'm a traditionalist at heart. We have to be careful not to affect the pace of the game."

Selig said he could foresee changes "that are constructive and fit in with the game" but reminded the reporters that "life isn't perfect, the sport isn't perfect, but we live with it and its been great."

NO CALL UP FOR MANNY BY RANGERS — YET: Despite a hot start to his comeback attempt, the Texas Rangers plan to keep slugger Manny Ramirez at Triple-A Round Rock for now, according to an MLB.com report.

Citing sources, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan said the team has no plans to promote Ramirez after the All-Star Game. The 41-year-old is 9-for-30 with three home runs for the Express.

The controversial slugger signed with a Taiwanese team this season for $25,000 a month but opted out of his contract after 49 games in the hopes of returning to the major leagues. He batted .352 with eight home runs with the Rhinos in Kaohsiung.

A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez spent 19 seasons in the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, and was the MVP of the 2004 World Series for the Boston Red Sox. He last appeared in the majors with the Rays in 2011.