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Bryan Bullington, Stephen Strasburg, Ron Gardenhire and Mets thoughts

Your new playoff seeds:

AL: Yankees (1) vs. Minnesota (3), Texas (2) vs. Tampa Bay (4)

NL: San Diego (1) vs. Philadelphia (4), Atlanta (2) vs. Cincinnati (3)

Thoughts: First time for the Phillies here since we began this on Aug. 1. I'm betting it won't be the last. Great job by the Reds to sweep the Marlins, rebounding from a sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.

As usual, it appears that our best races will come in the NL. The AL could turn into a real snoozer besides seeding battles _ the Yankees and Tampa Bay for the AL East title and the wild card, and Texas and Minnesota for the two and three seeds - if the White Sox don't pick it up shortly. They'll be tested immediately, as they visit the Twins for three games starting tomorrow night.

Let's try something different this morning. Let's call it "My Favorite People, 8/16/10. Perhaps this will be a recurring feature. Perhaps it won't.

Without further ado, my favorite people are:

1. Bryan Bullington. For shutting down the Yankees, for his first career victory. Which places him one above poor Brien Taylor on the chart of "Victories by a first overall pick in the amateur draft."

Bullington turns 30 next month, so I don't quite see this start as a springboard to the great things he was supposed to attain back in 2002, when the Pirates made him the first pick of the draft (ahead of fellow first-rounders like B.J. Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher and James Loney. But no matter what happens from here, he can say that he shut down the reigning World Series champs.

I listened to some of the radio broadcast as I drove to Citi Field yesterday, and I thought poor John Sterling was gonna need some oxygen. Yes, John, we know you can't predict baseball. We especially know that, in one day - or even a series, a week a month or even a whole season - pretty much anything can happen. Only an idiot would try to predict the actual day-to-day happenings.

2. Stephen Strasburg. While marveling at his pitching, I found him to be rather uncomfortable in post-game news conferences, the two starts of his I covered. Hence my surprise when I read his comments about Bryce Harper

I get the sense that Strasburg was speaking more matter-of-factly than expressing any real contempt toward Harper, the first overall pick of this draft, but that's just a guess on my part. In any case, the Nationals had to be thrilled when they heard Strasburg say this, and Strasburg's agent Scott Boras - who also is advising Harper - couldn't have been too pleased at all. And that hilariousness puts Strasbrurg on this list.

I'd be very, very surprised if Harper and the Nationals don't agree on terms by tonight's midnight deadline. The same goes for the Mets and their first-round pick, Matt Harvey.

3. Ron Gardenhire. The Twins' manager lifted Kevin Slowey after seven innings, even though Slowey was throwing a no-hitter. Slowey had missed his previous turn in the rotation with elbow tendinitis, and he had thrown 106 pitches through his seven innings.

Read Gardenhire's quotes on the matter, and you can see how passionate he felt about his decision, while at the same time respecting the disappointment of those who wanted to see Slowey go for history. This, like everything in life, came down to a cost-benefit analysis, and Gardenhire rightly decided that the costs outweighed the benefits.

--At the Mets game, I wrote a column about what the Mets should do, front-office and ownership-wise, for the duration of this season. I'm reminded of "Red Sox Rule," the book about Terry Francona and the Red Sox that I recently finished and gave away here. In the book, Holley writes that once the Red Sox suffered a five-game sweep by the Yankees at home, the front office shifted its focus dramatically toward planning for 2007.

Meanwhile, how bad has the Mets' offense been in the second half? .212 batting average, .274 on-base percentage, .323 slugging percentage. Bru-tal.

That's what the Mets should do now. The fact that Omar Minaya might not be the general manager anymore is only somewhat relevant. It's not like the Mets are going to bring in an outsider to take over the GM slot and blow up the place. Minaya will be involved regardless of his title.

--Good story by David Waldstein of the New York Times on how the Mets will revise their procedures on concussions, after Jason Bay's concussion last month. Notice how the experts don't really blame the Mets' trainer for what happens. As we've been discussing for years now, the Mets' problems on the medical front seemed to lie more with a cultural attitude, coming from the very top, rather than specific medial people's alleged incompetence.

-I'll check in tonight from the Stadium, as Johnny Damon makes his return to the Bronx.

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