Paul Hagen: It's not always home, sweet home

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Kevin Youkilis: fans negative

The Red Sox sell out every game at Fenway Park and are annually in contention in the carnivorous American League East.

First baseman Kevin Youkilis is unhappy.

"I understand everything's not positive in this world. But . . . I don't even think you can take kids to a game anymore," he told the Boston Globe. "There's so much negative yells and screaming at players. People don't even root for their own team anymore. They just root against the opposition's players. They're so angry at people."

The Cubs routinely play in front of large, festive crowds at Wrigley Field.

Outfielder Milton Bradley is unhappy.

"All I'm saying is that I pray the game is nine innings so I can be out there the least amount of time possible and go home," he told reporters.

That came a day after Bradley said that he is weary of "all the adversity and the hatred you face on a daily basis." He said he endures racial taunts and even complained that waiters badmouth him when he goes out to eat in restaurants.

The Rockies are one of the hottest teams in baseball.

Reliever Joe Beimel is happy. But only because he was traded to Colorado from the last-place Nationals.

"You don't really have anything to play for," he said of his Washington experience. "It's that kind of atmosphere where you have to find a reason to come to the field."

And his were?

"Pretty much selfish reasons," he admitted. "That's not the way it should be. I was pretty miserable."

This isn't to suggest that the players mentioned are wrong. Youkilis is certainly correct in observing that crowd behavior has coarsened and become more boorish over the years. It's not a coincidence that this has happened at a time when salaries have risen dramatically, creating a disconnect between the players and the average Joe in the seats.

That guy, by the way, probably idealizes the lives these players lead. He sees the money. He sees what appears to be a glamorous lifestyle of mansions and luxury cars and private jets. He doesn't think about the work or the rate of attrition or the reality that an injury can snatch all the glory away.

The average major leaguer will make $3.2 million this season. Which just goes to prove something my parents always said:

Money really can't buy happiness.

 

The hot corner

 

**Here's more proof that fans are often more serious than players about rivalries.

While the Yankees and Red Sox played at Fenway Park last weekend, the Boston Herald said, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, of the Sawx, dined with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, of the Bombers. And Boston's Jon Lester was spotted with New York's Phil Hughes and Robinson Cano at a nightclub.

**Dee Gordon, of Class A Great Lakes, has been named the prospect of the year in the Midwest League. The Dodgers player is the son of former Phillies closer Tom "Flash" Gordon.

 

Around the bases

 

**The theme music for White Sox rookie Gordan Beckham's at-bats is "Your Love," a 1986 hit for The Outfielders. So when he appeared on a radio show Tuesday morning, the producers arranged to have Tony Lewis and John Spinks from the British band call in and talk to him. Beckham was thrilled. "This is a huge surprise. I can't believe it," he said.

**Going into last night, the Cardinals were an incredible 28-3 in games started by Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Joel Pineiro since July 1.

**Since his perfect game against Tampa Bay on July 23, White Sox lefthander Mark Buehrle is 0-4 with a 6.21 earned run average. Opponents are batting .355 against him in those five starts.

 

Cheers

 

For former Phillies second baseman Juan Samuel, now third-base coach for the Orioles.

In an age when managers and coaches are too often terrified to given an honest appraisal of their players, lest they get their tender little feelings hurt, Samuel isn't too impressed with Baltimore's baserunning. And he isn't afraid to say it out loud.

"They are major league players. Or at least we think some of them are," he began.

And he was just getting warmed up.

"To me, some of them are not," he continued. "Some of them have to be thankful that expansion came because some of them wouldn't be here. Some of the stuff you see them do is not OK. You mean to tell me they're in the big leagues and don't know how to run the bases?"

Now that's old school.

 

Jeers

 

To Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who had only two at-bats after cutting his hand with a steak knife while eating dinner at home before returning to the starting lineup yesterday. Then he had to leave the game in the fifth inning when he aggravated the injury attempting a diving catch.

That's pretty dumb, especially since Colorado is in the thick of a pennant race. He's lucky the injury wasn't more serious.

"Next time, I'm going to use plastic," a chagrined Gonzalez said.

 

By the numbers

 

1: AL Central team with a winning record: Detroit.

2: Home runs needed by Boston's David Ortiz to break Frank Thomas' career record for homers by a designated hitter (269).

6: Yankees with at least 20 homers.

17: Big-league teams with total payrolls less than the $88 million worth of contracts the Mets have on the disabled list, according to the New York Post

20: Unearned runs scored against the Blue Jays in their first 34 games after the All-Star break, most in the AL. Before that, they had allowed 21 in 90 games, fewest in the league.

2,123: Minutes of rain delays for the Washington Nationals.

 

Up next

 

Five of the last six teams to appear in the World Series the last three seasons have failed to even make it back to the playoffs the following year. Whether Tampa Bay adds to that statistic could well be decided starting tonight. The third-place Rays play 17 games in 17 days against the Tigers, Red Sox and Yankees, 11 of them on the road.

 

Quote of the week

 

Rays manager Joe Maddon, on the reaction from the customs agent in Toronto, when she looked at his passport and compared it to his newly dyed black hair: "She wanted to know if that was my dad in the picture. I think it was tongue-in-cheek. But maybe not."

 

Rip of the week

 

Former big-leaguer Ed Crosby, father of A's shortstop Bobby Crosby, is not a fan of the plate discipline that is drilled into Oakland players.

"The A's take the bats out of their players' hands from the time they're in the minor leagues," he told the Press-Telegram, of Long Beach, Calif. "Bobby was taught to always take the first pitch. They take all the aggressiveness away from their players. Look how much better guys like Eric Byrnes and Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro have become since they got out of Oakland."

In a related note, Bobby Crosby can be a free agent at the end of the season. He says he can't envision any scenario in which he will return to the A's.

 

Stat of the week

 

Rays first baseman Carlos Pena has more home runs (37) than singles (35).

 

Oops of the week

 

A volunteer umpire at a youth baseball tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y., thought it was his lucky day earlier this month when he spotted 350-game winner Greg Maddux in the stands. He asked the future Hall of Famer to autograph a ball for him and Maddux, who was with his son, obliged.

The ump was pretty happy until he mistakenly reached into his ball bag and threw it to the pitcher. But he figured it was no big deal, that he'd just switch it out after the first pitch. Except that it never got to the catcher. Instead, the batter drilled it into the crowded leftfield bleachers for a home run.

 

Finally

 

Here are the facts, and nothing but:

Going into play on July 31, the Cubs had a half-game lead over the Cardinals in the National League Central.

That night, at Land Shark Stadium in Miami, Billy the Marlin paraded a goat in front of the Chicago dugout.

They lost that night and have gone 9-16 since. Meanwhile, St. Louis has been on rampage, pushing the Cubs to the fringes of contention.

So, is there a Billy Goat Curse? You make the call.