As you may recall, one of my esteemed colleagues here at the Recorder wrote in one of his first essays that baseball is a boring spectacle that has been surpassed in recent years by nigh every other major professional sport short of cricket, curling, and non-Triple Crown equestrian events.
Unfortunately, the MLB All Star Game is one of the best arguments that can be made for his position.
Like most All-Star games in the other major American sports, the All-Star game is a relic of a distant past, a game where the greatest stars of the American and National league would be pitted against each other in an exhibition of their talents. (Key word being exhibition – the game did not count for anything.) In past games, there was nothing to compete for except for pride and the sheer mystery of competing against the best teams of the other league. (This was long before interleague play became a mainstay, regularly pitting the two leagues together. Remember, it once made a difference to be in either the National or the American Leagues. Although one might call the fact that the DH is still in play makes the AL still the League of the Devil…but that’s neither here nor there.)
Pride used to be enough. Look at the 1970 All-Star Game, pitting Pete Rose against Ray Fosse.
Now look at 2002, where you see Torii Hunter being lifted onto Barry Bonds’ steroid soaked shoulders in a massive bear hug upon the nimble outfielder’s robbing Bonds of a home run. As Tom Verducci has said, it’s hard for fans to care about the outcome when the players don’t seem to care.
And then this happened.
And now, the winning league gets to claim homefield advantage for the World Series, a feature that might have helped the Cardinals to victory in last year’s championship against Texas.
So that’s something to root for.
Another thing that at least helps keep the game lively is that, by its very nature, there is still defense being played in this All Star game. The NBA and NFL in particular are renowned for being explosive as far as offense is concerned, yet their defense leaves much to be desired. (The NHL, as far as I’ve been told, does have an All-Star game. I do not know when, where, or how this magical event is conducted, but I’m told that it’s once every centennial, and that’s only if the Red Comet traverses the sky, foreshadowing the return of dragons to the land. Maybe.)
So that’s something as well.
And then there’s the fact that each team is represented at the game. True, rosters have become bloated (84 Major League players were named to the game last year. If each roster is 25, that means that over three teams worth of players were named: the Yankees and Red Sox for the AL, and then the rest to make up the other two rosters.) to prevent another ill-fated tie from happening, and to replace the inevitable injuries that occur, but there’s at least one player from each major league team here, which means that fans in Kansas City and Houston still have someone to cheer for in the end, no matter how hard it gets. In addition, it serves as a sort of national coming out for players such as the Pittsburg Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen and the Washington Nationals’ Bryce Harper so that the rest of the world can see what they do.
(Some of the youngest stars playing in the game today will be there, including McCutchen, Harper, Mike Trout of the LA Angels, and Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers, a trend that continues the evisceration of the league from the bloated, aging stars of the Steroid Era.)
Which is something else to root for.
And so, with a little background on the game, I now present to you my live thoughts regarding the 2012 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
6:30 PM CST – Pre Game Show
Athletes introducting the game, decked out in their respective league uniforms. Dark blue vs. Light Blue. Someone clearly thought through this design scheme.
Side note – how many of these players can YOU recognize? Myself – half?
6:31 – I hate Joe Buck. His very voice fills me with anathema and rage. And he’s got his own podium. There’s not even a second commentator for the game? Really? Joe Morgan was busy?
“Oh, and there’s a game here tonight, too.” *facepalm smack*
6:33 – Erin Andrews interviewing young Mike Trout and Chipper Jones, making his 8th and final All-Star appearance. Chipper is a wonderful relic of the ’90s, from a time before steroids, and still one of the best 3rd basemen in the history of the game. Coincidentally, if a movie is ever made about the Atlanta Braves dynasty, Chipper will be played by Matt Damon, Greg Maddux by Matthew Broderick, Tom Glavine by Matthew McConaghy, and Bobby Cox by Mickey Rooney.
6:35 – The Theme of the Night is “Kansas City” by Wilbert Harrison. I’d just like to say that I titled this recap before the game had even started. Which goes to show that if I thought of the name of an article concerning an all star game in Kansas City in less than an hour which just so happened to be what MLB came up with, after an entire year’s worth of prep, that someone in the marketing department should be concerned. I’m COMING FOR YOUR JOB.
6:38 – The attendance seems to be about half filled at the moment. Or, you know, a typical Royals home game.
6:39 – And we’re still talking about the tornadoes from last spring, as the Midwest is crippled by both a giant heat wave and severe storms. I’m gonna go make some hot dogs. Back in five.
6:44 – Alright, a dog and a beer. NOW it’s the Midsummer Classic. Joe Buck has been joined by Eric Karros and someone who’s name I missed before they ducked into an eloquent tribute to the Negro Leagues. (It looked like John Kruk, but don’t quote me on that) They’re picking the National League to win despite the starting 2nd baseman for the National League being Dan Uggla. Seriously, after considering sixteen teams for second basemen, the best we can come up with is Dan Uggla? And the NL is still favored?
(I’m still feeling bitter over the Brandon Phillips/Johnny Cueto snubs, in case you couldn’t tell.)
6:49 – Ah, it’s Harold Reynolds. Good. Also, I’m not sure how I confused him with John Kruk. Like, at all. I’m vaguely ashamed as I sit here typing. (Also, that’s not Joe Buck talking. I have NO IDEA WHO THAT IS.)
6:50 – “Thanks, Matt.” (Some guy named Matt.)
6:51 – George Brett is narrating the introduction to Kansas City. On a related note, he seems to be doing the most unintentional yet spot-on Ron Swanson impersonation I’ve ever heard. It’s wonderful.
6:53 – And here are the coaches and players.
BIG cheer for Chipper Jones. Standing O in some parts. Chipper’s a great guy. Gotta love him.
CINCINNATI REDS! BRUUUUCE! AROLDIS!!!!!!!!
Jose Altuve seems to be about four feet tall.
The Phillies have four selections. And are in last place. Yuck.
Decent cheers for the Cardinals. And some scattered boos. Mostly from the vicinity of my apartment.
6:56 – AL team introductions. Big cheer for Royals manager Ned Yost.
Big cheers for the White Sox players as well. I guess Missouri’s not that far away after all…
And there’s Huge cheers for Billy Butler, the lone Royals representative. Seriously, only one Royal? When 84 players get picked, is it that hard to add in Mike Moustakos?
And THERE’s the boos for C.C. Sabathia of the Yankees. Bout time.
Texas Rangers. Let’s expect big cheers for Josh Hamilton in a bit.
6:59 – Now the Managers and Starting Line Ups.
Stupid Tony La Russa…*grumble grumble*
Decent cheers for Melky Cabrera, the one time Royals star who got traded away for pittance (Also known as Jonathan Sanchez’s corpse.) and is now having a break out season.
Cheers for ex-Royal Carlos Beltran, though noticeably not as large as Melky Cabrera. Goes to show how long a town can hold a grudge.
Aaand boo, Dan Uggla.
Now for the AL.
There goes Derek Jeter. Classy cheers.
And Robinson Cano, in light of his comments about the Derby last night, gets heavily booed.
Big cheers for Hamilton, who now holds the record for most All-Star Game votes with roughly 6.8 billion points in his favor. You know, since he is The Natural after all.
7:04 – The teams this year might have a lot of players, but at least it doesn’t feel bloated. That’s a good thing, I suppose. Let’s remember that your typical D1 college football program is allotted 85 scholarships, while a baseball team is allotted 11.7. Yes, you heard me right: 0.7 of a scholarship. Yet no one complains about the bloated roster for the Akron Zips.
(Yes, that’s because that’s 85 players who get to afford college, as opposed to 84 baseball players adding a little asterisk of glory to their bloated resumes to use for contract bargaining. But tell me there’s not something wrong with colleges being able to field over three starting football lineups vs. one ball club with a couple of spare pitchers and Eddie Gandell.)
7:07 – The anthem. This guy is taking FAR TOO LONG to sing it. He also seems to be passing a kidney stone.
7:10 – Three minutes. Not cool. Not cool at all. But Paul McCartney is singing “Kansas City”, so that counts for something.
7:12 – Joe Buck + Tim McCarver = A Long Night. When will be able to vote for the announcers of the All-Star Game like we do for players? I’d much rather have Vin Scully doing the announcements than these two schmucks. Just not fair.
7:16 – Justin Verlander. AL Cy Young. AL MVP. All he needs to ensure Hall of Fame selection is three or four more years of dominance. Then it just becomes routine. A brilliant pitcher, with a whole shelf full of trophies. And he’s only 29. 300 wins? Still possible. If C.C. gets to that number first, I think it’s entirely possible for Verlander to do it. He might age well, as long as his arm holds out (Which it seems to be doing).
As for tonight, it’ll be impressive if he gets three innings in.
7:18 – The leadoff hitter is Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, normally a #3 hitter. I suppose Dan Uggla wasn’t available, as he was busy being terrible.
7:19 – The Ford Keys of the Game are “Any Ideas?” The Broadcasters are highlighting their own inadequacy. I think they should be put down.
7:20 – Melky Cabrera gets a hit on his first pitch after Carlos Gonzalez strikes out. He leads the NL in hits at the moment, another sting for Royals fans.
7:22 – Ryan Braun doubles in Cabrera for the first run of the game. Bautista loses the ball in the sun, which means Braun could probably have taken third if he didn’t have to watch for the ball to be thrown in. Already a 1 run NL lead. Fantastic! #purist
7:23 – JOEY!!!!!!!
Look at Jay Bruce palling around with Chipper Jones. Look at Jay’s stupid grin on his face. Look at Chipper grimace and wish this damn kid would leave him alone. In the pregame speech he gave, televised here, he states that he doesn’t want “to go out a loser.” Can you blame him? And let me say again that the players actually care here, unlike the Pro Bowl where all of a sudden, everyone plays like they’re made of glass.
7:26 – Aw, Joey guessed wrong on his pitch. Got a curveball instead of a fastball. And what a sick little curveball it was. Strikes out swinging. Oh well. Beaten by the best. That’s fine for me. It’s the All Star game after all.
7:32 – Pablo Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda, the man with a pant-size the size of Rhode Island, hits a three-run triple to right. Poor Jose Bautista. Poor Verlander. Huzzah National League!
Dan Uggla fails to ground out, driving in Sandoval. Five-run inning for the NL and counting.
(This is just in: This is only the third time in 225 career starts, regular season, post-season, and All-Star game included, that Verlander has allowed 5 or more first inning runs. Somehow, I don’t believe that this game is indicative of a larger trend.)
7:40 – Matt Cain, he of the perfect game this season, has earned the start. Some might say that R.A. Dickey of the Mets should have started, and there’s a fair argument to be made. Kind of like the argument that could be made for Johnny Cueto to start – well, if Furcal had made that throw, that would have been a spectacular play. As it is, just missed throwing out Jeter by a hair. I blame Dan Uggla.
7:42 – The crowd is chanting “Bil-ly But-ler” as Cano bats. Say what you will, at least the fans are still passionate after 25 plus years of missing the playoffs.
7:42 – “I’m gonna show you a split screen of Robin Cano and Hamilton. To me, those two hitters have the most tensioned…tension swings in the league.” #FireTimMcCarver
7:45 – Neither starting pitcher seems able to find the strike zone that easily. Robinson Cano and Jeter both worked the count very well, and Hamilton has worked a 3-1 count. For Cain, this could mean a short day. Verlander’s already been replaced.
7:46 – DEEEEEP fly ball by Hamilton…falls short. #MisseditbyThatmuch. End of the first inning, the score is 5-0 in favor of the Senior Circuit.
7:49 – In the Wal-Mart steak commercial, the shot of the kitchen showed the chef grabbing his ass and giving it a good scratch. Probably not intentional, but my taste for Kansas City steak has suddenly decreased by a bit. You can understand, yes?
7:55 – I’ve realized that commenting on every single batter, play, and moment will make for a very long article indeed. Therefore, I’m simply limiting this to highlights, such as Jose Bautista’s running, diving catch to rob Ryan Braun of a second base bit. What a play! Again, defense makes a difference! Learn from this, NFL!
7:59 – Ah, David Ortiz. Big Papi, the only Red Sox player on the team this year. What a sad moment – GET USED TO IT, BOSTON. THIS IS WHAT MEDIOCRITY FEELS LIKE, I’M SURE YOU REMEMBER IT, RIGHT? Ortiz flies out to left, and the end of two, still 5-0. Up next is JOEY VOTTO!!!
8:05 – Ah, here’s the All-Star Game I remember. The best pitchers in the game today zipping through the line ups like butter. David Price makes quick work of the NL.
On an unrelated note, Barry Manilow has no place in the All-Star Game. He is for Hellboy II and Hellboy II alone!
8:11 – Neil deGrasse Tyson is live-tweeting the All-Star game, providing insight from out of left field. His most recent comment: “Does it disturb anyone else that ‘the Los Angeles Angels’ baseball team directly translates to ‘The The Angels Angels’?”
And that’s why we drink for baseball.
8:13 – In spite of Dan Uggla’s best efforts, Jeter grounds out to second. Still 5-0.
8:19 – Rafael Furcal hustles and guns for a triple. You can see the desire in his eyes as he rounds second, focused, intent on making it his. And tell me again why the NBA All Star game is worthwhile? The triple is made worthwhile when Matt Holliday drives him in with a 2-out hit, making it 6-0 in favor of the NL.
8:22 – Aaaaand that’s a two run shot to left by Melky Cabrera to make it 8-0. I guess Chipper’s speech really pumped up the NL guys.
8:24 – And now Ryan Braun has tripled! Grinning the whole way the entire time. His thought process: “Well, if he gets one, then god DAMN am I gonna get a triple!” Poor Votto grounds to second to bring up the AL, still down 8-0.
8:28 – With a cushion for a lead, the first subs have come into the game. David Wright now steps in at 3rd as Stephen Strasburg winds up on the mound. I guess when one of the top-5 averages in the league is your BACK-UP third baseman, your team is doing alright. On an unrelated note, Strasburg’s breaking ball is just downright filthy. And that he throws a 98 mph fastball? Not fair. Just not fair.
With a leaping catch, Ryan Braun robs Prince Fielder of a double, so at the end of four, it is still NL 8-0.
On an unrelated note, Matt Kemp has been miked. Matt Kemp, who is not playing in the game owing to injury. Unfortunately, Matt Kemp has no business being miked. It’s just awkward. Why not mike Chipper? (Because Chipper’s so classy, he wouldn’t put up with it? Likely.)
8:37 – Bryce Harper steps in against Jered Weaver, Harper being the youngest position player ever to appear in an All-Star Game.
And he’s wearing gold cleats. That look like slippers.
There are 26 first-time All-Stars this year, and 19 under the age of 26. This includes 6 rookies. That’s a big deal, which means that for MLB, the future is now. Good young talent makes the game immensely watchable.
8:39 – On a deep fly out to left by Buster Posey, Harper tags up from first and runs to second, taking it without even sliding. Good aggression. Unfortunately, on the next play, he gets caught in a rundown between 2nd and 3rd. Ah, the price of aggression.
8:42 – Uggla flies out, failing miserably to get a base hit. Middle of the 5th, still 8-0.
8:47 – The State Farm commercial featuring Cubs legend and Hall of Famer Andre Dawson being stuck in the ivy at Wrigley Field is hilarious. Just as funny as the Aaron Rodgers belt commercial, though not quite as quotable. (“RODGERSSSSSS!!!!”) Coincidentally, as my esteemed colleague has pointed out on Twitter, the commercial is infinitely more exciting than most of the AL at-bats.
8:49 – Bryce Harper just let a ball drop six feet behind him. A “should’ve been-a” can of corn that becomes a hit. Naturally, Joe and Tim are making excuses for him, but the real truth is that those are mistakes that come when, you know, you’re 19 flipping years old and playing professional baseball. Unfortunately for Harper, it comes on the national stage.
Fortunately, his team still has an 8-0 lead. For now.
8:56 – There’s an 8 run lead, but the AL has the bases loaded, and it’s still exciting. I’m sorry, but I’m a baseball fan. I enjoy this shit too much.
Nope, nothing comes of it. Still 8-0.
9:01 – Aaaaand Here comes Chipper Jones, the (soon-to-be) Hall of Fame 3rd baseman. Third most home runs by a switch hitter, all time. Getting a standing ovation from the crowd. What a guy.
I miss the ’90s.
And he gets a base hit! Scoots by Ian Kinsler, and Chipper makes it to 1st. Good for Chipper! One gets the feeling that Kinsler didn’t dive for that ball like he could have, but as it’s the All-Star Game, one defensive lapse for an all-time great’s benefit here and there seems all right. Besides, even if he dives for it, he still has to make the throw from the ground. Not a likely play. Good for Larry “Chipper” Jones.
9:04 – And now Andrew McCutchen hits a line drive to left field and you feel that the NL are not done adding on.
9:04:30 – BRUUUUUUUUCE!!!!!!! (Aw nuts, a fly out to center.) We go to the bottom of the inning, still 8-0.
9:09 – R.A. Dickey, who should have started the game, gives up a hit to Mike Trout, the rookie. Dickey, 38, has been one of the most talked about players in the league this year, between climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, writing his revealing memoir, being a dominating pitcher with an antiquated pitch (the knuckleball), and vanquishing the Decepticons.
Yes, you heard it here at the Addison Recorder first. R.A. Dickey is a Transformer.
9:14 – Loud cheers. Billy Butler must be on deck.
9:14:30 – Yup. Billy Butler’s on deck.
9:15 – All for naught. Double play ball ends the inning. End of the 6th, still 8-0.
9:19 – Just watched Andrew McCutchen do a James Brown dance in the interlude. Uncanny. I wish he didn’t play for the Pirates. Then I could like him more.
9:21 – Derek Jeter’s casual flirtation with Erin Andrews makes for the worst romantic comedy ever.
On an unrelated note, we go into the 7th Inning Stretch with the NL still up 8-0.
9:28 – Ah, there’s Billy Butler. I must say again, I don’t remember ASG fans cheering as loudly for their hometown players in years past, even when it was at places such as Yankee Stadium and in San Francisco. Kansas City fans are fantastic, and clearly need a winning baseball team sometime soon. They deserve it. Good Midwestern towns with passionate fans always deserve good teams. Think Oklahoma City, or St. Louis. Think of Minnesota or Green Bay. Heck, think of Cincinnati.
9:33 – Now it’s the 8th inning, although this game was over once the NL got out of that bases loaded jam in the bottom of the 5th. That’s just how it goes sometimes.
This is the part of the game where, I admit, it gets boring. Like any blowout in any sport. I’m sorry, I just don’t care if a team is up 24-0 in a football game. I care to see if the shutout will stick, but that’s about it. The same applies here.
Fortunately, I’m cheering for the NL. The designated hitter is still for chumps.
9:37 – Jose Altuve is in. He is actually 5′ 5″. Close play at first, but Ian Kinsler throws him out on a ground ball. We are officially in the deep bench part of the game, where the final players get their at-bats/appearances, while helping to close out the game with their defense.
Although in Starlin Castro’s case, that might be a stretch of the words.
9:42 – Craig Kimbrell is now pitching for the NL. My sole remaining concern in this, besides making sure the Senior Circuit closes it out, is whether or not Aroldis Chapman gets to pitch.
And he’s loosening in the bullpen! Huzzah!
The interview with Chipper: “I truly regret not being given an opportunity to play here [in Kansas City] before, and I’m truly grateful for getting to play here. The fans are unbelievable.” A little rehearsed, but he makes a point. The fans are still in this game, dedicated to the last even though their rooting interest in the AL was spoiled long ago.
Aroldis Chapman is coming in after Kimbrell gets the first two outs! The Cuban Missile!
And, naturally, he’s overthrowing in an attempt to show off. Blast. When Chapman is simply pitching, he’s unhittable. A 98 mph fastball that lively will always get hitters out. Unfortunately, Chapman knows he can throw 101, 102, and on and on. And when he tries, his control goes away. That’s where he gets into trouble.
However, in spite of Dan Uggla’s fevered whispers from the dugout urging him to throw harder, Aroldis relaxes and Mark Trumbo strikes out, ending the 8th. Yay Chapman!
9:56 – We’ve finally come to the top of the 9th. The NL has used every available position player tonight, and the only one who remains on the AL bench is Adam Dunn, he of the true triple powers. (Home runs, walks, and strike outs.)
Fernando Rodney is pitching to BRUUUUUUUUCE, and throws a nasty tailing fastball for a strike. The kind that looks like it’s bending the plane of reality. Yikes.
Here we go, bottom of the 9th. Three outs away from the NL’s third victory in a row. Time to make up for the AL’s dominance of the Aughts. (How’s that for naming a decade? If we call it the Aughts for Naughts, it really sums up what happened and how everything went AND it rhymes. I’m down.)
10:06 – Tim McCarver and Joe Buck cannot go away quickly enough.
10:13 – Joel Hanrahan is doing his best Nuke LaLoosh impersonation here in the bottom of the 9th, hitting the batter (uncalled by the umpire), the umpire, the net, the bat, and assorted bits of the wall. Anything but the catcher’s mitt and the mascot (who is nowhere to be seen). And still, he strikes the batter out.
Immediately after that, the coach comes out to make a pitching chance. (The mascot and umpire breathe a sigh of relief.)
10:17 – Jonathan Papelbon comes in to rescue Joel Hanrahan, getting the last out from Matt Wieters on a fly ball to right.
The final score stands at 8-0, with San Francisco Giants earning the win (Cain) and driving in five runs (Sandoval – 3, Cabrera – 2). The National League has earned home field advantage in the World Series for the third year running, and now has a winning streak against the AL.
And this is just in: Pablo Sandoval speaks fluent mumble-gibberish.
(Yes, I realize he’s not from this country and that English is not his native language, but when you’re typing and not watching the screen and you start to hear authentic mumble-gibberish, it draws your attention. And that’s why you always leave a note.)
10:24 – Bud Selig presents the MVP award to Melky Cabrera. He seems like a horrid mix between Ed Sullivan and a Milk Man. (Coincidentally, Joe Buck identifies Melky Cabrera’s nickname as “The Milk Man”. So is something coming full circuit here? Or did I just construct a bad analogy? I blame Joe Buck for forcing that terrible thing upon audiences across the country. FIRE JOE BUCK.)
This is just in: Melky Cabrera also speaks fluent mumble-gibberish.
So, what have we learned? The Senior Circuit has fantastic pitching, the Giants have brilliant hitting, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck are poorly suited for their jobs, and Dan Uggla is secretly trying to destroy the world.
Or, to sum up, the All-Star Game is not a bad experience.
Now let’s get back to games that count.