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
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
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
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
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
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