Hey! The 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game just happened! And some pretty interesting things happened during it. I'm sitting in a beautiful log cabin just upmountain from Estes, Colorado, with the door wide open and I'm feeling that refreshing breeze typical of young mountains, pine forests, and sparkling ice-cold crystal-clear lakes and streams. Also, I talk to trout.
Anyway, consider that old Clint Eastwood movie The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. That three-part title has always meant to me the following: some things in life are just and right and awesome - The Good. And some things in life are nasty and brutish and stupid and evil - The Bad. And then there are some things that aren't pretty, aren't nice, but are effective and get the job done no matter how high the body count may climb - The Ugly. Here's my The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly take on yesterday's baseball match.
1. The National League won! It was about time. I kinda knew they were going to win this year, because they in general had a more solid pitching staff. It'll be nice for the NL team to have home field advantage again... for the first time since cave man days.
2. Marlon Byrd. Credit where credit's due to a hated Cubbie - he worked a great at-bat against Matt Thorton with two outs to draw a walk, just before Brian McCann hit a bases-clearing double to score all three NL runs. Byrd, being a speedy fellow, scored from first, where a slower dude - Scott Rolen (who scored from third) comes to mind - wouldn't have. Although the NL only needed two of their three runs to win, that cushion is invaluable. Not to mention his heads-up defense in the ninth inning; Marlon Byrd played a shallow blooper on a hop and threw a laser strike to second base to nick David Ortiz for the second out of the inning, and kill a rally. That's classic veteran poise and performance - and considering his great day in Anaheim, Byrd must've been "Eight Miles High" after the game, heh.
3. Brian McCann. Hit a bases-clearing double to score the only runs the NL would need to win. Plus, he caught just about every single pitch he was thrown by the vast assortment of talented NL pitchers he handled - and Matt Capps, too (more on Capps later).
4. Derek Jeter using Bob Sheppard's recorded intro was cool. Even if you're sick of the Yankees, that's classy all down the line.
5. Ryan Braun's diving catch to rob Josh Hamilton of extra bases. Watching him twist and bend his wrist over and backward and come up with the ball unharmed, you had to give it up for a guy willing to risk injury in what is essentially an exhibition game. I guess he really thinks the Brewers can come back and make it to the World Series and get home-field advantage. Good for him!
1. The Managers. Ay, yi, yi. Let's start with Joe Girardi. Why on EARTH would you let Alex Rodriguez sit on the bench throughout an entire game, where at several crucial late inning moments, his pinch-hitting or baserunning could've made a difference or even tied the game? I am baffled, and I have to assume that A-Rod didn't a.) pinch run for David Ortiz in the ninth inning (dollars to donuts Byrd can't throw A-Rod out on that play), or b.) pinch hit for Ian Kinsler with two down in the bottom of the ninth, who while a fine hitter in his own right, isn't - oh, I don't know, what's a good descriptor here - THE BEST HITTER IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE??? I have to assume that A-Rod didn't enter the game for one of two reasons: because Joe Girardi didn't want to risk injury or whatnot to his star, or because A-Rod is a total dick and didn't want to play. The easy joke here is "both answers are correct," but I honestly see a different A-Rod this year, and I can't believe that New A-Rod isn't a little pissed that he didn't get a chance to play hero when the chips were down in Southern Cali.
Also, he didn't use Joakim Soria once, despite the fact that The Mexicutioner is the hottest closer in baseball right now.
I can't complain about putting Andy Pettite in to pitch the third inning, but if he had stumbled, you'd better believe I would be complaining right now!
Then you've got Charlie Manuel, manager of the National League - the victors. Besides picking Omar Infante for the All-Star game, a horrible move in the first place (Infante must have pictures of Charlie shaking hands with Jerry Manuel or Santa Claus or something else that would get him fired in Philly), there's the yanking of Roy Halladay for Matt Capps to face David Ortiz, after the Doc had recorded only two outs and thrown 17 pitches - and recall now that Halladay has BY FAR the most complete games of any pitcher in baseball today, so fatigue ain't the issue. That made no sense, but less sense that it was Matt Capps he brought in. You see, if he were channelling Mr. Burns and "playing the percentages," he might have gone to a lefty in his bullpen for that critical out with runners on first and second and two down. He had a few to choose from - and southpaw Arthur Rhodes immediately jumps to mind, and what a great story it would be if that 40-something old man made a freakin' All-Star appearance, eh?
Charlie Manuel brought in Matt Capps. Matt Capps is a righty. David Ortiz devours righties. Why did this happen??? Luckily for the NL, Ortiz struck out and no damage was done. But it was the wrong move, and I can't for life of me understand why Manuel made it. Hey, I guess that's why he's the manager and I'm the bloggerist.
2. Matt Capps gets the win. Ok. Let's say you have a pitcher - Pitcher A. He pitches for two innings, pretty much lights out, and then is relieved for innings numbers three and four by Pitcher B, who is also pretty much lights out. No other pitcher on your team throws for more than an inning. A couple pitchers only throw a handful of pitches, used situationally to get one out. When all is said and done, who should get the win? Pitcher A or Pitcher B, right?
Nah. Let's give it to one of the dudes who recorded one out (admittedly one of four or five more crucial outs, but really! Come on!). Let's give it to one of the guys who threw five pitches. The Win is one of the most stupid stats in baseball, right up there with The Loss and The Hold.
3. Joe Mauer's attempt to throw out David Wright stealing second was abysmally off target, and exceedingly atypical considering the man's past history of great defense behind home plate. But that throw wasn't as off target as Hong Chi-Kuo's attempt to throw out Joe Mauer at first - fueled by nerves and adrenaline, Kuo picked up Mauer's choppy swing-bunt and threw the ball practically to San Diego. Yikes! And thus was the road paved for Robinson Cano's sacrifice fly, scoring what would be the AL's only run.
1. The one run scored by the AL came about via a walk, a throwing error advancing a runner to third, and a sacrifice fly. Ugly. But effective. Maybe the AL should've tried using that strategy more, instead of trying hit the ball well (and locking their best hitter to the bench with titanium manacles).
2. The anointed closer for the 2010 National League All-Stars Jonathan Broxton was able to lock down the bottom of the ninth with a major assist from two sources: boneheaded managing by Joe Girardi - no pinch runner for Ortiz; no at-bat for A-Rod - and exceptional defense from Marlon Byrd and Brandon Phillips to retire the American League and secure the first win for the NL since, say it with me now, cave man days. Sure, he might've gotten the job done had there been one out and runners on first and second and A-Rod at the plate... you know how this game works. Broxton was ugly, but the job was done.
3. The shadows and sun spots sliding and sinking across the ballpark during the first half of the game were causing trouble for the batters on both teams. Is it coincidence that neither offense really mustered anything until the shadows completely settled on the field? Not to take anything away from Ubaldo, Josh, David, and others, but one has to wonder.
That's all for this entry. Now I'm gonna go wrestle a grizzly bear, and drink a good microbrew. Later.