Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Maybe They Should Target That "This Time It Counts" Campaign Towards The Managers

Ah, the All-Star Game. A chance to see the "best" players in baseball (or more accurately, the players either most popular with fans/other players or the one guy on each of the crappy teams that the All-Star manager likes best) in a fun exhibition game, showing off their skills. Even with some of the things that have diluted its impact (interleague play, the constant movement of star players from one team to another and across the leagues, the conflict between the fun exhibition aspect and the idea that it should determine home-field advantage in the World Series), there's still something pretty awesome about players from every team coming together for a friendly competition in the middle of the season.

It's even more awesome when your favorite team is well-represented at the game. All 3 Mets in the starting lineup got at least one hit, combining for 5 of the NL's 9 hits in the game. I was especially happy for Jose Reyes, since he was unable to play in last year's All-Star Game. Not only did he go 3-for-4, steal a base, and score the game's first run, but he was the player given the tremendous honor of catching the ceremonial first pitch from Willie Mays in that beautiful pre-game ceremony in Mays's honor. Jose has come so far over the past couple of years, and as a Mets fan it just makes me so proud to see him on the field with his peers and taking part in the celebration of one of the game's legends.

The only Met who really had a bad night at the game was Billy Wagner, who provided the AL with what proved to be a crucial pair of insurance runs. Of course, he wasn't the only lights-out closer to serve up a 2-run bomb last night, and if this was Billy getting a bad outing out of the way in a game that doesn't affect the NL East race I'm not particularly upset, but given the way the bottom of the 9th went down, Wagner should be happy that all of the heat is on Tony La Russa.

La Russa made some questionable decisions earlier in the game (not having any of the starting pitchers go more than 1 innings, pulling Russell Martin when Takashi Saito was brought in to pitch, putting Freddy Sanchez in the game at all), but the bottom of the 9th was some inexcusably bad managing that should once and for all convince people that he is not a "genius." After a late rally against two of the best closers in baseball, the NL was down by a run with 2 outs and the bases loaded. There was exactly one position player left on the NL bench: Albert Pujols. Aaron Rowand was scheduled to bat. Now, Rowand had a good first half (.310/.385/.478) that's better than his overall career numbers, but Pujols is a far superior hitter - this is perhaps the worst season of his career so far, and he's hitting .310/.411/.516 at the All-Star break! Given that either an out or a base hit would end the game right there, I cannot for the life of me understand why La Russa was saving the best weapon he had in case the game went into extras (because K-Rod was totally going to walk a 3rd consecutive batter/throw a wild pitch/balk and then get the 3rd out, right?). Rowand flied out, the AL took home-field advantage yet again, and while that's probably not going to affect La Russa given that his team is below .500 and 7 1/2 games out in the worst division in baseball, alienating his star player probably isn't going to make for a pleasant second half in St. Louis. It's enough to make me wish for a rule change - perhaps from now on the honor of managing the All-Star teams should go to the previous season's Manager of the Year winners instead of the pennant winners. Joe Girardi is far from perfect, but I doubt he would have left Pujols on the bench last night.

Observations/Odds & Ends:
  • Just about the only thing worse than Fox's usual stable of broadcasters (thanks, Tim McCarver, for reminding us all of Game 7 as Beltran hit a triple last night, and props to Joe Buck for showing us all how hip he is with those Entourage and Wedding Crashers references) is their belief that the viewing public thinks Eric Byrnes is entertaining. Having him in the studio for the playoffs last year was bad enough; did anyone really want to see/hear him reporting live from a kayak with his dog?
  • I've never been a fan of the whole "God Bless America" in the 7th inning stretch phenomenon (really, would you expect a nonobservant Jew who thinks "America The Beautiful" should be the national anthem to like that?), but the extended technical difficulties and Paula Cole's subpar performance would have merited a thumbs-down even if I liked the idea of that song being performed at that time. The only saving grace it had over the similarly disastrous "This Is Our Country" performance before a World Series game last year is that there was no car commercial shoehorned into it.
  • I thought it was pretty awesome that the San Francisco crowd loudly booed all 3 Dodgers during player introductions, and I thought it was even more awesome that Penny, Saito, and Martin all responded by tipping their caps. Rivalries don't subside during the offseason, so why should they during the All-Star break?
  • Yeah, it's been said before, but it's worth repeating: Derek Jeter has the range of a garden gnome. I don't know how a shortstop doesn't get to Griffey's RBI single in the 1st.
  • The MVP presentation just cracked me up. Why the hell did Jeanne Zelasko announce that Ichiro will be a free agent soon when Ken Rosenthal reported during the game that Ichiro was close to signing a 5-year extension with the Mariners?

4 comments:

matthew said...

As usual... agreed on all accounts. But remember that Tony Larussa is smarter than you, just ask him. Ilike how he turned Albert Pujols in to Joe McEwing in interviews by saying that Pujols would be the guy who would play any position on the field. And yes, Rowand is having a nice year, but his OPS is .800 on the road and he is an all star because he had a great April.

Funny note, I was at a the Mets/Yankees in the Bronx and some Yankee fan berated me verbally for talking during God Bless America. He called me a terrorist. So, yeah... I hate that this song has been a tradition since 9/11. Though I am happy that Paula Cole shaved her armpits.

Scott said...

Thank heavens someone agrees with me on the whole Pujols thing. I've been sick of that goon for ages now, and the one time I WANT to see him, the one time I WANT him to kill the ball, he's nowhere to be found. I was literally screaming "POO-HOLES!" during the 9th inning, which I guess is okay since I live in California.

Jessica said...

Ilike how he turned Albert Pujols in to Joe McEwing in interviews by saying that Pujols would be the guy who would play any position on the field.

What makes it even worse is that Freddy Sanchez is a) that kind of versatile player and b) a bad enough hitter that he should have been the "break glass in case of emergency extra innings" guy.

And yes, Rowand is having a nice year, but his OPS is .800 on the road and he is an all star because he had a great April.

All of that is true, but I thought that La Russa made the right move in putting Rowand on the roster because otherwise Beltran would have been the only centerfielder on the team, and it's not like there are any centerfielders in the NL having better years offensively thus far (you could make an argument for Hunter Pence, but he wasn't even called up until the end of April and judging by what we saw in the Houston series, he's due for a drop-off once pitchers realize he has Jeff Francoeur's plate discipline).

Funny note, I was at a the Mets/Yankees in the Bronx and some Yankee fan berated me verbally for talking during God Bless America. He called me a terrorist. So, yeah... I hate that this song has been a tradition since 9/11.

I remember reading something earlier this year about how the security guards at Yankee Stadium block the aisles so that people can't leave their seats during God Bless America. Pretty scary.

Rutgers Theatre Alumni Network West Coast said...

Amen to the "America The Beautiful" comment. - Wally