6:21: I've just returned home from our fifth interleague loss in which we've allowed three runs or fewer. Once again all the offense was provided by one of our three above-average Major League hitters.

If Shea, Nomar or Johnny isn't doing it, it's not happening.

There's been a lot of debate recently - particularly in the Boston press - about what images are acceptable to print or broadcast. Is it in good taste? Does it serve a purpose for society? Will it produce trauma for the viewer? With these ever-evolving criteria in mind, may I suggest that we stop televising Brian Daubach's at-bats. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment. He's got three looks at the plate: bad, worse and Koufax. Seriously, Sandy's record of 12 straight whiffs as a hitter is in jeopardy.

The good news is that Dauby's woes at the plate have not affected his fielding in left: he still covers absolutely no ground and throws like a first baseman. And while we're discussing bad jumps, did anybody get a 20 on where Johnny Damon was on Alex Cora's pop-up that was airborne for approximately 30 seconds before Lou Merloni's failed diving attempt in the fifth? The crap blooper led directly to two runs.

I've got Dauby at 0-for-his-last-10 with eight strikeouts and 2-for-27 with 13 K's since his last extra-base hit. But no rush, Manny.

Now about our first base platoon... the good news is Jose Offerman got a bunt single tonight. The bad news is that it was the hardest ball he's hit in two months. With Tony Clark as the other half of our switch-"hitting" platoon, our first baseman can't hit from four sides of the plate. Why call up Juan Diaz and let him rot on the bench when we've got one punch-and-Judy barely hitting his weight and a gentle (to the ball) giant barely hitting his height? How come Art Howe was able to teach Scott Hatteberg how to play first base but Jimy Williams couldn't? Hatte can't be doing too poorly since the A's lose about once every three weeks.

Manny's return won't solve the 1B problem. Nor will it solve the scary middle relief situation. Were Darren Oliver and Willie Banks really pitching in a one-run game? Is this what's it come to? Are lefties hitting .400 yet off Casey Fossum? And which number is higher: the number of meals Guapo would have to skip to get down to 250 or the number of scoreless innings he'd have to throw when he returns to get his ERA under double figures? When Tim Wakefield and Chris Haney are your most reliable setup men, you may not be playoff ready. (Think Arthur Rhodes-Jeff Nelson, Mike Stanton-Steve Karsay.)

By the way, Frank Castillo has a better ERA than Mike Mussina. Frankie is 5-7. Moose is 10-3.

How the hell are we in first place? The biggest reason for that amazing fact takes the hill for us tomorrow.   Hardball