The following column was written before Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.
5:01 p.m.: The wires list the game as an 5 p.m. start. Right. My
California ID says that I’m 190 pounds, too. What’s weird is that in most of
these situations–like the postseason–the game time is listed rather than the
telecast time. In this case, they go with the air time. Regardless, there
won’t be any baseballs flying until 5:30, at the earliest.
5:04 p.m.: I just lost a few minutes there, following a “Cold
Pizza” flashback. I’m glad they had Will Carroll on today, but I think
I’d rather watch a reality series based on the lives of BP’s stathead
contingent–“Last Propellerhead Standing”–than see that show again.
5:17 p.m.:: A great moment, as Jorge Posada‘s son runs
onto the field during the introduction of the American League reserves. While
telling the heartwarming story of the boy’s courage–he’s had seven skull
surgeries since birth–over camera shots of the adorable little boy, Joe Buck
and Tim McCarver fail to mention that Jorge Jr.’s dad isn’t actually on the
5:25 p.m.: During introductions of the NL squad, Joe Buck and Tim
McCarver speculate on the possibility that Barry Bonds has
used steroids or other unlawful substances to fuel his late-career rush.
5:29 p.m.: The National Anthem is butchered. It’s a march, not a
I would argue that Ichiro is the worst player in either starting lineup, and
after an excellent rookie season, has become one of the most overrated players
in the game.
AVG OBP SLG SB CS 2001 .350 .381 .457 56 14 Since .318 .370 .435 86 29
Even that OBP is inflated, as Ichiro was walked intentionally 27 times in
2002, coming off his media MVP in ’01. With the recognition that he’s not a
true .350 hitter, and that his power is minimal, he’s been IBB’d just 14 times
since then. Safeco Field impacts those numbers a bit, but as his EqAs show, Ichiro is
a tier down from the best right fielders in the game. He’s a good defender and
baserunner, and he’s durable, however those things don’t make up the gap
between him and, for example, his outfield mates this evening.
Of course, it’s a good thing he’s here, as the AL has no center fielders on
its roster. He and Carl Crawford will each get some time
covering the ground that their counterparts cannot. With Beltran gone to
Houston, I think the best center fielder left in the AL is Dwayne
5:40 p.m.: Clemens walks off the mound after blowing away the next two
batters, earning a huge ovation from the Houston crowd. As a Yankee fan, I’m
still a little bitter about this whole thing, given how much I invested in
watching Clemens’ “last starts” last season. As a baseball fan, I’m
both in awe of the man’s abilities and appreciative of the great story his
continued success is.
5:43 p.m.: I appreciate that it’s not always easy to construct an
All-Star lineup, but I was a little surprised to see the guy with the worst
numbers–Edgar Renteria–batting leadoff for the NL. On the
other hand, Renteria has had a .500 OBP against left-handers since the start
of last year, so it’s just more evidence that Jack McKeon is paying attention.
5:49 p.m.: Bonds steps in and, with first base open, reflexively begins
taking off his elbow guard. He needs to call time out when he realizes that
Ivan Rodriguez is in a squat and that Mulder is winding up in
5:51 p.m.: Buck and McCarver discuss the rumor than Bonds was paid to
participate in the All-Star Game, seeming more eager to get it out there than
to set the record straight (Bonds wasn’t paid). They do take extra care to
point out that Bonds has opted out of the union, which he hasn’t (just the
5:53 p.m.: Bonds flies to center field on a 2-2 pitch. Somewhere, Jim
Tracy says, “they should have walked him, anyway.”
6:03 p.m.: The AL has three straight Yankees in the #5 through #7
slots, hitting, oddly enough, opposite of the way in which they hit in the
Yankee batting order. Jason Giambi looks awful against
Clemens; I seriously doubt he’ll be in this game for more than the required
6:22 p.m.: With first and third and two outs in the second,
Moises Alou bats for Clemens.
That the All-Star Game doesn’t use the DH rule regardless of ballpark is one
of the dumbest things in baseball. Whatever arguments there are for pitchers’
batting–I’m not getting into that debate now–none of them apply to an
exhibition in which no pitcher goes more than three innings, and ain’t nobody
bunting. Moreover, permanently installing the DH would a big step in avoiding
the fear of running out of pitchers that has given us absurd 12-man pitching
staffs–but no one who started Sunday, please–for one game.
It’s a foregone conclusion that Rodriguez is a Hall of Famer. What we’re
asking now is where he’s going to end up on the all-time catchers list. For a
long time, I ranked Mike Piazza ahead of him, but the longer
Rodriguez goes without entering a decline phase, the harder he makes that
argument. We have enough problems determining how good today’s catchers are
defensively that evaluating, say, Yogi Berra is pretty much
impossible, so that’s a barrier to the discussion.
I’m comfortable with the idea that Rodriguez has established a career path
that forces us to wait to evaluate him. If he continues to show otherwordly
longevity, that’s something else that will be in his favor as compared to
Piazza, Berra, Johnny Bench and the rest of his peers.
For now, he’s just fun to watch.
6:48 p.m.: Another Pujols double, this time off of Esteban
Loaiza, again brings Bonds to the plate with the bases empty.
Rodriguez flashes four fingers at Loaiza and sticks out his left arm. As the
crowd erupts in a hail of boos, Rodriguez pulls down his glove hand and cracks
6:50 p.m.: Buck and McCarver speculate on the possibility than Bonds
may be involved in efforts to disrupt one of the national political
conventions later this summer.
6:52 p.m.: Bonds pops up to short right field on a 2-0 pitch. I get the
sense that there’s no way he’s going to take a walk tonight.
7:28 p.m.: C.C. Sabathia comes into the game for the AL in the
bottom of the fifth.
See, this is how it should work. Three starting pitchers each throw two
innings apiece, leaving an inning each for three relievers. Not getting into
an All-Star Game shouldn’t be an insult; it really is an honor to be selected,
and the machinations–mid-inning pitching changes and the like–that burn
through pitchers are unnecessary, other than to allow Fox to dump commercial
inventory. Ten pitchers should be more than enough for any contingencies, such
as pitchers getting hit hard or extra innings.
Two other players–Hideki Matsui and Miguel
Tejada–come in with Sabathia, rendering any attempts to score the
game futile. Another reason to implement the DH: doing so would reduce, maybe
even eliminate, the double-switches that make following the game a bit
7:46 p.m.: About those “contingencies”…Sabathia is gone,
having mixed balls and meatballs in near equal amounts. The damage? Four hits
and two walks create four runs in 2/3 of an inning. Francisco
Cordero comes in to mop up, getting Sammy Sosa to
strike out, but the NL now leads, 4-3.
7:59 p.m.: Randy Johnson, who has been the focus of so
much media attention, goes Carl Hubbell one better by
striking out all six men he faces. It’s not exactly a Hall of Fame portrait,
but it’s still one hell of an audition tape.
A week ago, I didn’t think Johnson would leave Arizona, although my bigger
point was that I didn’t think anyone outside of Johnson and his nearest and
dearest had any clue as to his mindset. The decision to accept a trade to a
contender is one that outsiders tend to see as a no-brainer, but if you’re a
40-year-old man with a family and one championship ring and a couple of years
to go on a contract, and you already work in your adopted hometown, it’s not
It now appears that Johnson is willing to accept a trade, so he’s going to be
the story in baseball for the next few weeks. Getting to pitch tonight,
being on the field and away from the questions, had to be cathartic in some
8:12 p.m.: In the bottom of the sixth, Lance Berkman
brings the hometown crowd to its feet by crushing a Joe
Nathan fastball into the right-field seats. Five-three, NL. I don’t know
Berkman at all, but I have to say that he just looks like he belongs on the
short list of MLB players you’d most like to have in your circle of friends.
Just a hunch.
8:23 p.m.: Jack McKeon makes a whole host of changes to start the
seventh. I’m not sure, but I think Hubie Brooks just went in
at shortstop. I couldn’t tell you either team’s batting order at gunpoint.
8:36 p.m.: Victor Martinez yanks a ball just fair down
the right-field line off of Danny Graves, scoring
Mike Young and, with some difficulty, Ken
Harvey. The game is tied, and we’re treated to a round of hearty
enthusiasm for the home-field advantage gimmick. Because before last year, no
All-Star Games ever had lead changes.
I loathe Fox.
8:44 p.m.: Carlos Beltran, who’s played in fewer than 20 games
as an Astro, makes his entry into the All-Star game as one. I’d imagine that’s
some kind of record.
I like Guillen, who is finally healthy and playing well, but if he finishes
the season in the top five of the AL MVP voting, I’ll wear a Tigers cap and a
Guillen jersey to the winter meetings.
9:06 p.m.: The NL is down a run in the eighth and facing
Francisco Rodriguez, after which they’re going to get
Mariano Rivera. Then again, they have Jack
Wilson, Mark Loretta and Johnny
Estrada due up, and aren’t matchups like this what the All-Star Game
is all about?
9:21 p.m.: As the game edges towards the four-hour mark, Bonds comes up
with two outs and two runners on base. Buck and McCarver, noticing the time,
excoriate Bonds for taking too many pitches, pointing out that the game would
have been over a hour ago if he wasn’t so patient, and that it’s Bonds’ fault
why kids on the East Coast never get to see the end of All-Star Games.
9:25 p.m.: Rodriguez strikes out Bonds on a 3-2 slider that is
immediately sent to the Hall of Fame.
9:31 p.m.: The commercial break ends, and the ninth begins with
Bobby Abreu in left field for the NL, replacing Bonds, the
lone remaining starter in the game. McCarver lambastes Bonds, pointing out
that in his day, the stars wanted to play the whole nine innings.
9:40 p.m.: Perhaps atoning for last year’s misstep, Eric
Gagne strikes out the side in the ninth, capping the inning by
getting Hank Blalock on a three-pitch sequence in which he
hit 85, 98 and 74 on the gun.
9:50 p.m.: It’s over, as Rivera puts the NL down 1-2-3 in the ninth.
The AL bullpen retires the last 11 men it faces after the Berkman home run,
and wins another come-from-behind game, 6-5.
When I was a kid, I rooted for the AL in All-Star Games. I don’t have much of
an attachment to either side now, but I do think it’s good that the AL won.
Nothing will kill the All-Star/World Series connection faster than one team
getting home field for three or four straight years.
9:54 p.m.: Victor Martinez, who was 2-for-2 with the game-winning
double, is named the game’s MVP.