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July 11, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

The All-Star Game

by Joe Sheehan

All-Star night, and I, like millions of others, will not be in Seattle for the festivities. So if I'm going to watch the game on TV, I might as well get a column out of it.

(All times Pacific Daylight.)

5:18: I do believe that Jorge Posada lining up for introductions with his baby in his arms is going to be one of the things I remember about this game.

5:31: Why can't we ever hear "Oh, Canada" if we're watching the game on television in the United States?

5:35: A surprisingly understated version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Mya; enough personality to give it life, but falling short of the semifinal round of "Star Search." Nice job.

5:41: Alex Rodriguez and Joe Torre are pushing Cal Ripken to play shortstop as the game gets underway, and it looks like Ripken is complying. It's a nice gesture, although it calls to mind this from last Tuesday's DP:

Third Base: Even with the lousy batting average, Troy Glaus is a worthy All-Star. The Angels don't need him there, though (Troy Percival will make the team), and Torre may elect to pass on a backup and allow Cal Ripken to go the distance. And bat cleanup. And maybe even pitch an inning or two.

OK, that's overly cynical. It's a good way for Ripken to go out, and certainly a treat for anyone at the game.

5:50: Infield single by Ichiro. Man, he's fast.

5:57: I'm sure Torre has his reasons, but he is cleaning up the wrong Mariner. Bret Boone is having a good year, particularly in the power department, but Edgar Martinez is a much better hitter even this season, and would have been a better choice. Boone in the #4 spot, ahead of Martinez and Juan Gonzalez and even Ivan Rodriguez, is going to be one of those things we struggle to understand years from now, when the other players are Hall of Famers and Boone is a manager in Triple-A.

5:53: Stolen base by Ichiro.

6:02: Mike Piazza faces Roger Clemens. All work at the New York Daily News ceases.

6:04: Piazza flies to right after an uneventful six-pitch at-bat. A New York Post headline writer is later found weeping under his desk.

6:10: Tommy Lasorda can sleep standing up. Cool.

6:22: Cal Ripken goes yard to lead off the bottom of the third inning, the latest in a long string of well-timed home runs in his career. He hit one in the 1991 All-Star Game, after winning the Home Run Derby the day before, during his second MVP season. He hit homers in the game before he tied Lou Gehrig's streak, the game in which he tied Gehrig, and the game in which he passed Gehrig.

We do a lot of detached analysis of players, focusing on overall performance and not giving extra credit for things that don't contribute to wins. But it's things like those home runs--the moments that make up a legend--that we will remember about them after they're retired. Ripken won't get to go out the way Michael Jordan or John Elway did, so this achievement will serve as the bow around his Hall of Fame career.

6:32: The National League finally gets a baserunner, as Luis Gonzalez singles to right field leading off the fourth inning.

6:34: Barry Bonds is 0-for-2, but he's seen more fastballs tonight than he had since about Fathers' Day.

6:35: Don Zimmer, Joe Torre, and Frank Torre in the same shot. If there's a better advertisement for the V-chip, I have yet to see it.

6:52: This is a pretty uninteresting game so far (through 4 1/2 innings), and I've been trying to figure out why I feel this way about low-scoring All-Star Games. After all, pitchers' duels are usually interesting affairs in which every pitch can mean winning or losing.

The difference, I guess, is that there's no tension. It's one exhibition game with nothing riding on it, so that an otherwise taut game lacks the underlying sense of importance.

In other words, it's boring. An All-Star game needs stuff happening in it--hits, rallies, sparkling defense--or it's just a parade of guys hitting grounders to shortstop.

6:56: Well, I didn't mean Jeff Kent throwing a ball into the stands, which he did on a groundball by John Olerud. It was the kind of play that I don't think you'd see during the regular season; Olerud runs like Sam Horn after a full meal, and in a real-game situation, I believe Kent would have been more aware of that and not rushed his throw.

6:57: Jason Giambi pinch-runs for Olerud, which is a little like being pinch-hit for by Mike Matheny or Daisy Fuentes or somebody.

7:10: I know I'm going to get hate mail for this, but did MLB have to schedule an awards ceremony in the middle of the game? It really detracts from the game itself, not to mention making it even more difficult for fans in the Eastern and Central time zones to see the late innings. The time for this kind of thing is before the game, or maybe after it, but not in the bottom of the fifth.

This all started with the halftime show that was Ripken's victory lap in his 2,131st consecutive game, and there was a similar, albeit shorter, on-field delay when Barry Bonds hit his 500th home run this year. (Which was even more appalling because the homer came at a crucial point in the game and gave the Giants the lead, after which victim Terry Adams had to wait 15 minutes to throw his next pitch.) The ceremony isn't going to be any less a tribute if you have it between introductions and the first pitch, so what's the point of disrupting the game?

Any remaining illusions that the baseball game played during the two days of All-Star activities has any meaning are being shattered tonight. There are people who want home-field advantage in the World Series to hinge on this?

7:19: Prediction: the rules will be tossed and Tony Gwynn will get a plate appearance tonight.

7:28:20: Vladimir Guerrero's bat breaks, sending most of the stick hurtling towards Tommy Lasorda in the third-base coaches' box.

7:28:25: Mike Piazza ducks.

7:34: Derek Jeter hits a home run to center field on a ball about thigh high on the inner half of the plate. Jeter got his hands through the hitting zone incredibly quickly, enabling him to drive what wasn't a bad fastball by Jon Leiber.

7:36: Magglio Ordonez hits a home run to center field on much the same pitch, although with a different swing, almost one-handed.

7:52: The first walk of the game, as Albert Pujols works the count nicely against the nasty Jeff Nelson with two outs in the top of the seventh.

7:55: Just one starter remains in the game, and unless Jeff Kent gets hurt, he's playing nine innings.

I know it's an off year for NL second basemen, but I still think that going with just one backup middle infielder was a mistake by Bobby Valentine. If Kent had, say, been hit by a pitch in the second inning and forced to leave, Valentine would have had to ask Rich Aurilia or Jimmy Rollins to play out of position, with all the risks that entails. Second base is dangerous for regulars; doing on-the-job training there, even for half of an exhibition game, is just asking for trouble.

This isn't Dave Stieb having to embarrass himself at the end of a game. This is the potential for injury, and for a dramatic impact on a pennant race and a career. Sure, maybe it's a tiny chance that Kent can't go the distance, and subsequently Rollins or Aurilia hurts himself while playing out of position, but when there's no reason to take that chance--and there is no reason to take that chance--why do so?

8:06: Nikolai Bonds--Barry's son--is getting more air time than Gary Condit. He was on "Baseball Tonight" last night, and just made the Fox broadcast this evening.

8:19: Mid-inning pitching changes solely for the sake of getting players into the game suck, especially since the commercial breaks in this game are running slightly longer than a Greg Maddux start.

8:24: Ben Sheets replaces Billy Wagner. Anybody want to bet Bobby Valentine ends up working for Fox this October?

8:34: You know what's interesting? It's the top of the ninth, and almost every player is standing at the top of the dugout or leaning on the railing. It's as if they all want to get a good look at the tail end of this game, this All-Star Game that, for a little while, was theirs.

8:36: Two outs in the ninth, and no Tony Gwynn. Looks like I missed that one.

8:37: AL 4, NL 1, and if Ripken isn't the MVP, I'd be shocked. Hope you all enjoyed the game, folks.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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