Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2010 All Star Game

So, here I am, online, watching Channel 234 - Fox Network - and the game is about to begin. Well, the pregame festivities, anyway.

I'm using an Acer Mini Netbook to do this and the thing practically fits in my hand, so typing is difficult. But hang in there ... hit the "refresh" key every now and again, and I'll do my best to keep up with the action.

8:00pm - Aww, a father and son "passing on the legacy" kind of opening. My heartstrings are feeling the tug already.

8:03 - Nice tribute to Steinbrenner. He once said, "I'll never die of a heart attack ... I give 'em." Ironic. The Yankee players are wearing black armbands. Classy.

8:09 - Player introductions. The game is being played in Anaheim, an American League city, so the National League (the visitors) are being introduced first. I notice the crosstown LA Dodgers are getting the biggest crowd reaction. Well, until the AL players are announced. The crowd goes wild!

8:19 - Vladimir Guerrero. I love that name. He played for the LA Angels last season, that's why he received such a big hand. The Angels thought he was more or less washed up, so they let him go via free agency and the Rangers are happy he signed with them. Having a "Comeback Player of the Year" kind of season.

8:20 - Here's the People magazine "All Stars Among Us" section. This is the second year MLB and People have done this. Last year a USPS postmaster - Kate Brooks from an office in my own postal district - was one of the honorees. The celebrity explanations this year are a nice touch. Yowsers - Harrison Ford is getting a little long in the tooth. Han, you're looking a little, shall we say, "grizzled"?

8:24 - And now the celebrities explain why these folks were chosen. This part never fails to bring a tear to my eye. The depth of commitment these folks show to their adopted causes is truly remarkable and reward-worthy.

8:28 - The cast of "Glee" is doing a number. Really? Nice plug for your show, there, Fox.

8:30 - And now the ballplayers mingle with the real folks. This is quite an honor - for the ballplayers!

8:34 - Another tribute to Steinbrenner. The man was an icon, no doubt. In baseball, in show business, in life.

8:35 - The National Anthem. Can the game be far behind? Sing it, Amber, sing it.
I still remember attending the All Star Game when it was in Detroit in 2005, as the anthem finished, a stealth bomber did a flyover of Comerica Park. You *felt* it coming more than heard it. It was flying so slow I have no clue how it stayed in the sky. It was awesome. I was so awestruck I totally forgot to snap a picture.

8:40 - Rod Carew tossing out the first pitch. Man was a great leadoff hitter. Wow. Nice pitch! Steeeerike! That's got to be one of the best first pitch tosses I've seen in some time. Annnnd, another commercial. (sigh)

8:43 - Little bit o'retrospective. Back to 1996. That's the last year the National League won. And since 2003, the winner of this game gets to enjoy home field advantage during the World Series. So it's not just a showcase here, it's a significant game of baseball.

8:47 - Awww, cute kids announcing the starting lineup. Another promotional contest for MLB. Well, they need all the positive press they can get. And heck, I think I'd rather listen to them than Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, anyway.

8:49 - First pitch. Strike! David Price is the first Tampa Bay player to start an All Star Game. My wife just remarked that this must be interesting for the pitchers and catchers, who have never thrown to each other before. I agree.

8:54 - Nice snag by Ichiro Suzuki to rob Albert Pujols, and it's three up, three down for the NL. Hey, bit o'trivia: Ichiro Suzuki is the only MLB player allowed to have his *first* name on the back of his jersey.

8:57 - Since fabled Yankee Stadium PA Announcer Bob Sheppard stepped down from the job in 2007, Derek Jeter has had Mr. Sheppard's voice announce him at home games. Since the man just passed away - another beloved Yankee icon - using it here in Anaheim is a nice touch, too. Better than the hip hop or death metal most players use to announce their at-bat.

9:00 - Detroit's Miguel Cabrera loops a single into right. I guess Ubaldo Jimenez - the first pitcher to twirl a no-hitter this year - won't be turning in a hitless performance this evening. It's men on first and third for the AL ... annnnd there's a nicely-turned double play. Good job, Ubaldo.

9:05 - Top of the 2nd inning. David Price still tossing high-90s heaters from out of the shadows toward home plate. Ryan Howard looks good. He lost a lot of weight this year, to support that mega-contract he signed w/Philadelphia. But oh! He goes down on strikes. Grab some pine, Ryan.

9:07 - Robinson Cano's new nickname: Iron Man? He's bobbled both balls hit to him, though granted, they were both scalded by the hitters. Man on first for the NL, one out.

9:09 - And a slam-bang DP turned by the AL. This could be a low-scoring game.

9:14 - Evan Longoria slams a double into left. Hmmm. Jimenez looks hittable tonight.

9:17 - And Cano hits an easy grounder. He's shaping up to be the "goat," tonight. Two innings into the books, and it's still scoreless.

9:20 - Top of the third and Andy Pettitte is into the game. This is a nod to the All Star Game's expanded rosters. Usually an MLB team carries 25 players. They let them have 34 for this game, and that's up from the 28 of a few years ago. But to accommodate those extra players, pitchers now only give you two innings. The starting pitchers used to pitch three.

Andy Pettitte is enjoying perhaps his best season, and he's just struck out his second NL batter in a row ... but there's a single by Yadier Molina, the Cardinal's catcher.

9:26 - Josh Johnson is in for the NL to pitch the bottom of the third. He has the best earned run average of starting pitchers in baseball at 1.70.

The commercial break was all about the Pepsi Refresh Project. An interesting idea and the fans get to vote for ideas generated by MLB teams, too.

9:32 - Josh Johnson is as good as his statistics. Two strikeouts and a third easy out and one third of this game is over.

9:34 - Torii Hunter of the hometown Angels is into the game in CF. Josh Hamilton slides to right and Ichiro is outta here. Cliff Lee is in to pitch for the AL, Andy Pettitte's night is over. Lee was just traded for the second time in less than a year, to the Rangers. He's a good pitcher. Just struck out the ranking "best player in the game" - Albert Pujols - Cliff Lee is a very good pitcher.

9:40 - Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego takes over at first base for Albert Pujols and the NL. Josh Johnson is still on the mound, so the two All Star managers have taken different strategic tactics this evening. It's the bottom of the fourth inning.

9:42 - Ryan Braun makes the most exciting catch of the game so far, a diving snag of a Josh Hamilton liner that was sinking into left field.

9:44 - The game is almost half over and I realize I got the link for the Pepsi Refresh/MLB crossover promotion wrong. It's here. The other link is just about *your* ideas, not the MLB clubs.

9:46 - My hometown Tigers now have Justin Verlander on the mound. Top of the fifth. But oh, David Wright singles off JV. And now Wright steals and Mauer heaves it into center field! But Wright doesn't realize it and he sticks at second. A lucky break for the AL.

9:50 - Verlander throws a nice tailing fastball and Ryan Braun goes down swinging. One out. Note the black circle on the right sleeve of Verlander's uniform with the "EH" emblazoned upon it. That's a season long tribute to legendary Tiger's broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who passed away this past Spring.

Whoop. Andre Ethier of the Dodgers singles to right but Josh Hamilton cuts it off and is ready to throw so they hold Wright up at third base. One out, runners on first and third for the NL.

9:54 - Corey Hart can't hold up on Verlander's slider and is called out on a checked swing. Brian McCann is up as a pinch-hitter, so Yadier Molina is out of the game, now. But now we've got two outs and Justin might get out of this inning without a run being scored.

9:58 - McCann hits a deep fly. Hardest hit ball of the night. Hamilton drifts back ... and back ... and hauls it in on the warning track, with the shadows of the stadium criss-crossing his vision. The AL escapes unscathed, and we are still scoreless with the game half over.

10:01 - Hong-Chih Kuo is now pitching for the NL as we go to the bottom of the fifth. I read yesterday that 27.1% of major league players are citizens of another country.

10:02 - Evan Longoria walks. Will the AL score this inning?

10:04 - Mauer hits a swinging bunt ... but Kuo airmails it nearly into the stands beyond first base! The AL now has two runners in scoring position, Cano is up. Let's hope he's less goat-like.

10:07 - Cano swats a deep fly to Matt Holliday in left field. Longoria tags ... and scores! The AL goes up 1-0. Runner still on second, one out. Carl Crawford pinch-hitting.

10:09 - Easy grounder to Ramirez at short, a quick throw to Scott Rolen at third base, and Mauer is out. Baserunning gaffe, there. Kuo has faced nearly all lefthanders, and now that a right-handed batter is due up, the NL is changing pitchers. San Diego's closer Heath Bell will toe the rubber.

10:13 - Crawford steals second, but the ball trickled away from McCann, anyway. Torii Hunter skies a fly ball into right and Ethier chases it down in the corner. We've played five innings, and the AL has a 1-0 lead.

10:17 - Jon Lester, Ian Kinsler, Vernon Wells, and John Buck (P, 2b, OF, C) are now in at the top of the sixth for the AL. Out are Verlander, Cano, Crawford, and Mauer. The bevy of substitutions that make an absolute mess of your scorecard have begun. Good thing I'm blogging and not scoring.

10:23 - Not a particularly powerful at-bat for Adrian Gonzalez, and the NL goes down in the top of the sixth. Roy Halladay is coming in for the NL. Roy is, perhaps, one of the best and most competent pitchers in the game today.

10:27 - Derek Jeter bloops a basehit just out of the reach of new NL-centerfielder Marlon Byrd. Elvis Andrus pinch-runs and Jeter is out of the game. Many more substitutions in the field for the NL. Paul Konerko pinch-hitting for Miguel Cabrera and the AL. Paul was a late addition to the AL team when Justin Morneau listened to his trainers and decided to give his concussion a few days off.

10:30 - Halladay whiffs Konerko, but Andrus was attempting a steal. McCann double-pumps and the throw is just a tad late, but Andrus' momentum carries him a step off the bag, and alert NL second baseman Brandon Phillips whips a tag onto him ... and he's out! Another AL baserunning gaffe. Hope these don't come back to cost us.

10:34 - Josh Hamilton rips a single into right, and now Home Run Derby Champ David Ortiz is pinch-hitting for Guerrero and the NL decides they want to bring in the Washington Nationals' closer, Matt Capps. So we go once again to a commercial break. Joe Girardi - the AL manager - sends Jose Bautista of Toronto out to pinch-run for Hamilton.

10:37 - The NL has put on "The Ortiz Shift" where the 2b-man moves left and the shortstop moves to play second and the third baseman slides into the SS position. The theory is that Ortiz is such a pull hitter, he'll never hit one down the line at 3b, so let's give ourselves a bigger fielding advantage.

10:39 - And oh! Ortiz is frozen by a tailing fastball and looks at strike three. We go to the top of the seventh inning.

10:42 - Nice commercial with Jake Gyllenhaal for Stand Up to Cancer.

10:44 - Three more outs and we get either "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" or "God Bless America." Maybe both!

10:45 - Scott Rolen singles to CF and my wife just notices the "star" cut into the grass by the Los Angeles ground crew. How do you make that look so three dimensional, she asks. I have no clue. I'm not even cutting my own yard this season.

10:47 - Matt Holliday strokes a single up the middle and Rolen's stretching it, trying to get to third base ... and he's safe! Torii Hunter made a pretty poor throw, really, for a guy known for his defense. Hunter has won nine Gold Glove Awards. So with runners on first and third, one out, Girardi pulls Phil Hughes and calls on Chicago's lefty specialist, Matt Thornton to face Andre Ethier. Whoops. Wrong. Arizona OF Chris Young is pinch-hitting. He pops to first. Now we have two outs.

10:52 - It's Northside Chicago (Cubs' Marlon Byrd at bat) versus the Southside of Chicago (Matt Thornton on the mound) with two outs and two runners on for the NL. Their best chance to score all evening.

10:53 - Thornton goes to a full count on Byrd. Byrd fouls one off. I have a sense this is the pivotal at bat of the game for the NL. We'll see. Byrd spoils another, fouling it off into the stands along first base. And there's ball four. The bases are loaded for the National League!

10:55 - Brian McCann at the plate. Fouls one off, then rips a double into the right field corner, clearing the bases! As McCarver says, this could be the biggest hit in 13 years for the NLers, as they take the lead, 3-1. And the AL brings in Oakland closer Andrew Bailey, since Thornton couldn't get the job done. (I have Matt Thornton on one of my fantasy teams and he usually *does* get the job done. Don't let this shake ya, buddy.)

11:01 - Bailey walks Rafael Furcal. This is starting to feel bad. NL has runners on first and second. All right. Brandon Phillips goes down swinging and now we get the seventh inning stretch.

11:05 - The PA announcer asks us to remember our service people with Cobe Cailliat (hope I spelled that right) as she sings "God Bless America." Really nice microphone technique on that nylon string guitar accompanying her rendition. Very nice. The camera shifts to a HUGE sunset that looks just gorgeous, and we're off to the commercials.

11:10 - Adam Wainwright now pitching for the NL. Wainwright has a wicked nasty curveball. Nick Swisher, last man voted onto the team, is pinch-hitting for the AL. Swisher goes down, but John Buck clobbers a drive to left and Matt Holliday watches it bounce out of his glove for a 2-base error. Hope lives for the AL!

11:14 - Ian Kinsler has Wainwright struggling with a 3-1 count. And he walks. The AL has runners on first and second with just one out. Vernon Wells steps up to the plate for his first at-bat.

11:15 - Wells grounds one into the hole at short and the only play is a fielder's choice to get the out at second. Now there are runners at the corners for the AL, two outs, and Torii Hunter strides to the dish. Let's hope he makes up for that sloppy throw last inning.

11:17 - Hunter waves at a pair of good curves from Wainwright and strikes out. Sure looks like Mr. Hunter is just kind of coasting, which is ironic, because that's what he accused his teammates of doing just last week. We go to the eighth inning, and the American League is down to six outs left, with three runs to score for the victory.

11:20 - Rafael Soriano takes the mound for the AL, and gets one quick fly out here in the top of the eighth. Joey Votto - the last man voted onto the NL squad - hits a fly ball to center, and we have two outs. And here's a fly ball to left for the third out. Didn't realize Soriano was such a fly ball pitcher. Bottom o'the eighth coming up. As Ernie would say, "It's time for the American League to get some instant runs!"

11:27 - Brian Wilson of the Giants, not the Beach Boys, is in pitching for the NL. My wife wants me to point out that *I* just noticed there's a halo on that star in the center field grass. A nod to the Los Angeles Angels, where the halo is a part of their team logo.

Elvis Andrus is at the plate. He may be one of the youngest All Stars at 21 years old. He hits a soft chopper to 2b and he's out. Five outs left. Paul Konerko steps in against Wilson.

11:29 - Konerko hits a sharp grounder, but right at 3b Scott Rolen. Two outs for the AL. Up comes Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays for the first time. Over the past 162 games, he's hit more homers than any other player. He leads the AL with 24 homers this year. And McCarver mentions that's the lowest total at the All Star Break since 1993.

Can we safely say the Steroid Era is over?

Bautista pops out and we begin the last inning of the game with the Tigers' Jose Valverde coming in to pitch.

11:34 - Valverde - The Big Potato, "Papa Grande" - takes the hill for the American League and promptly strikes out Astros' OF Michael Bourn. No ultimatum here, heh. Same result for Arizona OF Chris Young. He might as well be swinging a waffle against Valverde. Jose's split finger is just diving into the dirt at the last second ... the hitters might have better luck if they used a sand wedge. And Byrd whiffs. Jose Valverde has struck out the side. We go to the bottom of the ninth inning with the American League trailing by two runs, 3-1.

11:42 - Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton is on to try and save this game for the NL. He'll face David Ortiz to start the ninth. Ortiz smacks the first pitch into right for a base hit. Adrian Beltre steps in for his first at-bat. Alex Rodriguez is the only position player for the AL left on the bench. Ortiz is not a fast runner so let's hope Beltre doesn't hit it anywhere in the infield or we're looking at a quick double-play.

11:45 - Broxton blows a 99-mile-per-hour fastball past Beltre for a strikeout. Two outs left. Midnight approaches.

John Buck comes up. Can't pinch-hit for him because he's the only catcher left for the AL. Neither Ortiz nor Buck can run well. Looks like the NL might pull one out, finally.

11:48 - Buck works the count to 3-0, then swings through a pair of fastballs. But then, what luck! He bloops one into right field for a single ... but NO! Ortiz had to hold up because he wasn't sure if the ball would be caught or not, and that gave the RF time to throw Ortiz out at 2b for the force! Arrrgh. I told you Ortiz didn't run well. But kudos to Marlon Byrd for his heads-up quick thinking and gunning down Ortiz in what could be the defensive play of the game.

11:49 - Ian Kinsler flies to deep right-center, and that's the ballgame!

My call? Brian McCann gets the MVP award this year. Let's see.

The American League seemed a little too "coasty" this year. Too overconfident, perhaps? Some baserunning gaffes, some mishandling of the ball, some baserunning mistakes. The NL definitely wanted to win more this year. Glad they did. Let's get 'em next year, guys.

And oh yeah, the MVP?

11:56 - Brian McCann.

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