Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The 2009 Mid-Summer Classic

The MLB All-Star Game is the best in pro sports.

In my opinion, it's really not even that much of an argument. The Pro Bowl is terrible, so get rid of that right away. The NBA and NHL All Star games are fun, but there is no semblence of defense whatsoever in either one. The two biggest reasons that the MLB game is the best are that it is the only All Star gathering that plays like a real game, and that you get to see outstanding pitchers face stacked lineups, with every pitcher and every hitter looking to make thier best pitches and get in their best hacks..

Some thoughts from the 2009 All-Star Game last night in St. Louis...

- Good to see a few good guys that have been good players for a long time get thier due and make an All Star team. Raul Ibanez, 37, started in left field for the NL, while 42 year old Tim Wakefield made his first All Star team after making his ML debut in July of 1992.

-The Mets apparently asked Charlie Manuel not to use Johan Santana. He didn't. But, if I was Charlie, I would've been tempted to say something like "Well, MY team might actually be in the World Series this year, so I'm going to try to win. If you don't like it, YOU can win the NL Pennant, and then YOU can play or not play whoever you want." Since it's Charlie, just throw in a few "you know, likes" in there. But come on, don't use Santana? I've got no time for that request, especially after Clint Hurdle warmed up Brad Lidge 47 times in last year's All Star Game.

- Fox should be embarrassed about that pre-game show. Are you kidding me? For an exhibition? Come on the air at 8, first pitch not until just before 9. Awful.

- Nice effort out of President Obama on the first pitch last night. He got up on the mound and didn't bounce the pitch to Albert Pujols. Good things indeed. Interestingly enough, the last two Democratic Presidents we've had are leftys. George W. Bush was a righty. Coincidence? Probably.

- Loved the All-Star matchup of Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay. Several other representitives from my man crush list were there last night too, including Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Josh Hamilton, Adam Jones, Hanley Ramirez, Curtis Granderson and probably a few others I'm forgetting.

- Now that Lincecum has started an All-Star game for the NL, he can move on to other goals in life, such as having to shave, getting his driver's license and being able to buy his own tickets to rated 'R' movies. If he looked a day over 16 out there, I'm Santa Claus. In all seriousness, Tom Verducci wrote an interesting piece the other day about how young starting pitchers are rising in prominence throughout the majors.

- Zach Greinke is filthy. Dirty breaking stuff to David Wright and Shane Victorino. Good for him. Greinke has battled back from a well-chronicled bout with Social Anxiety Disorder in 2006, and if he pitched for any team other than the Royals, would be on the same level as Tim Lincecum in terms of notariety and exploding superstardom. And not giving up an earned run in April helps too.

- Carl Crawford made a great catch to save the game for the AL last night, but that's an awfully soft MVP award.

- Jonathan Papelbon gave up two rockets for outs, then struck out Jayson Werth, and got himself a win. While not a vultured win, he wasn't exactly the most deserving of AL pitchers last night.

- Determining home field advantage in the World Series by the result of the All-Star Game remains patently absurd. Bud Selig looked dumb once when he had to declare the 2002 game a tie, so now we have this ridiculous solution. The '02 game was a tie because the teams ran out of pitchers. Call me crazy, but why don't we add a couple of pitcher slots to the rosters, instead of having four first basemen, as the NL did this year? Think about this... the winning run scored when Adam Jones, of last place Baltimore, hit a sacrifice fly to right off of Heath Bell, closer for the crappy Padres. And because of that, Cole Hamels or Chad Billingsley (or Roy Halladay) could open game one of the World Series in Fenway Park or Angels Stadium. Not because their team won fewer games than their AL counterpart, but because Adam Jones hit a sac fly against Heath Bell three months prior. Idiocy.

-And that's how I really feel about that.

-How great was the 8th inning showdown between Joe Nathan and Ryan Howard? One of the premier closers in the game mano-a-mano with one of the game's premier power hitters. Howard pinch-hit for Heath Bell in the 8th with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second for the NL. Nathan went right after the Big Man, challenging him with fastballs. Howard, to his credit, came off the bench hacking, missing Nathan's first offering and fouling off his second pitch. With the stars from both teams on the top step of the dugout, visibly enjoying this clash of titans, Nathan broke off a hard slider down that Howard offered at in vain for the third strike and an end to the National League threat. A GREAT matchup between two great players.

-Big ups to Mariano Rivera picking up his fourth All-Star save, breaking a record he held with Dennis Eckersley. Makes sense that Mo should hold that record too.

-The AL wins again. I can't figure out why they're on such a streak, having not lost since the 1996 game in Philadelphia. Think about what that means. The NL has not won an All-Star game since Derek Jeter's rookie season. How many great players have played their entire career in the NL and never seen an All-Star game win? Not new guys either, guys like Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, Brandon Webb, etc. Does that mean tha AL is that much better? No. The AL leads World Series titles in that span by only 7-5. Just one of those things I guess.

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