Results tagged ‘ All-Star Game ’

My All-Star Ballot (NL & AL)

2009-mlb-all-star-ballot1.jpgWhen I was younger, voting for the annual Midsummer Classic was more of a science to me than anything.  I would pore over the stats to try and determine who, categorically, was having the best season and vote for them above all other alliegences.  In recent years, however, I have come to take a different approach: Just vote for the guys who I want to see in the game (within reason, of course!).  Sure, the game actually “counts” now in terms of World Series home-field advantage, but at its core it still is really just a fantastic exhibition event that the fans love…the meaningfullness is only to keep the players interested.

That being said, here are what my current AL & NL All-Star ballots currently look like (barring any severe injuries or horrific slumps during the following month):

American League

C: Joe Mauer

1B: Justin Morneau

2B: Dustin Pedroia

3B: Evan Longoria

SS: Derek Jeter

OF: Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Denard Span (Write-In)

National League

C: Brian McCann

1B: Albert Pujols

2B: Chase Utley

3B: Ryan Zimmerman

SS: Jose Reyes

OF: Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Justin Upton

Also, if I had to pick the starting pitchers for each team right now, I would go with Roy “Doc” Halladay for the Americans and Johan Santana for the Nationals.

1B: Everything We Asked For (And Probably A Bit Too Much…)

MornyDerbyReview.jpgWhat did Justin Morneau NOT accomplish during the 2008 season?!  His offensive stats read as follows: 683 AB, 97 R, 187 H, 47 2B (a new team record), 23 HR, 129 RBI, and .300 BA, far and away leading the rest of the team in nearly all of those categories (and likely garnering him at least a few MVP ballots behind probable winner Dustin Pedroia).  Defensively, Morneau has also developed himself into an above-average (and borderline spectacular) defenseman (much like Corey Koskie did years ago).  Oh, and on a personal level, Morneau won the MLB Home Run Derby and scored the winning run in the All-Star Game.  What’s to complain about, right?

While Justin (much like his buddy Joe Mauer) was the team MVP throughout the 2008 season, he also seemed to succumb to a bit of fatigue at certain points (163 games will do that to a player).  Basically, he carried the team when he was hot, but also was abhorrent when he was cold (like the last week of the season).  I hope that Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will view this as just another learning experience with his always-potential MVP candidate, as it would be smart to give him a few days off next season whether or not it messes up the lineup.

In order for that to happen, though, the Twins may need to go out a sign a part-time player (much like Mike Redmond does at the catcher position) to play 1B, or give Brian Buscher a bit more work at the position so they at least feel moderately comfortable giving the Big Canuck some rest.

All in all, it was a great season for Morneau and I hope he continues his success in subsequent seasons, as he is the rock that our offensive lineup is built on.

Playoff Notes:

-Talk about some bad blood in Los Angeles…the Dodgers got back into their NLCS with a 7-2 win over Philadelphia.  Besides some early offensive fireworks from the men in Blue (knocking Phillies’ starter Jamie Moyer in the second inning), both benches also emptied when Hiroki Kuroda (the Dodgers’ starting pitcher) threw over the head of Shane Victorino, with Manny Ramirez leading the charge out of the home dugout.  A bunch of other beanballs were exchanged (whether intentional or not) during the contest, setting up a Game Four tomorrow night that was the potential for high drama.

-Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays evened the series with the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night, but with the series moving to Fenway Park tomorrow afternoon, does anyone really think the Rays will take two of three on that hallowed ground.  IF this series goes back to The Trop, it WILL be with the Sox holding the advantage.

Twins All-Star Trio

Trio.jpgThe Minnesota Twins sent a trio of All-Stars (Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan, and Justin Morneau) to the 79th Annual All-Star Game and Home Run Derby.  It turned out to be perhaps the greatest representation of the Twins in All-Star Game history:

-Joe Mauer: Played a rather small role, but caught the first five innings and collected one infield single and one walk at the plate.

-Joe Nathan: Pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning for Terry Francona’s AL stars.

-Justin Morneau: Won the Home Run Derby, went 2-4 in the All-Star game, and scored the winning run of the contest by barely beating a throw from right field while tagging from third.

Considering that the Twins are usually a non-factor in the midsummer classic, this game was a remarkable occurrence and will hopefully energize the team in the coming weeks and months.

The Twins are off on Thursday and kick off the unofficial second half of the season against Texas at the Dome on Friday night.

The Aftermath

Buddy-Boy.jpgDespite featuring perhaps the greatest finish (and extra innings) of any All-Star Game in history, last night the cameras kept periodically panning over to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, whose face wore an expression much like the one above.  The reason?  Here are the details:

Going into the top of the 15th inning, AL manager Terry Francona used Tampa Bay pitcher Scott Kazmir, despite a word of caution from the Rays’ organization as Kazmir had pitched 100+ balls on Sunday before the event.  Kazmir got out of the inning, but Francona will not reveal the pitch count Kazmir would have been on had the AL not pulled out the win in the bottom of the 15th.  Essentially, too, the NL was in a similar situation, as reliever Brad Lidge (had he not allowed the winning run to score) would have been good to go for probably only one more inning.  In essence, both teams ran out of players.

Further complicating matters was the “This Time It Counts” mantra, or having the game decide home-field advantage in the World Series (instituted after the 2002 All-Star Game tie).  Had the game gone into a 16th inning (if Corey Hart had a little bit more on his throw or Justin Morneau would have been a little slower), baseball would have had it’s biggest on-field PR nightmare since the ’02 tie.

Of course, this topic has been discussed ad nauseum by network commentators and analysts throughout the day today.  Here are my quick thoughts:

-Really, the only way to prevent another situation like last night from occurring is to let the starters play longer or save a few guys as bench players that may not enter the game at all.  This is how the game was played in its early existence and for many years.  Of course, the downside is that a few players may not get into the game at all.

-If that above solution is not feasible, however, I honestly don’t think we should worry about last night’s situation, as it is likely an aberration (how many more All-Star games will go 15 innings?!).  For probably the first time in my life last night, I actually felt a little bad for Bud Selig.  I liked his new rule that the All-Star game should determine World Series home-field advantage, and it almost came back to bite him.

Living Up To It’s Name

Logo.jpgAt the start of last night’s All-Star Game, the stage had already been immaculately set for a special evening.  The night before, Josh Hamilton stole the hearts of fans with his incredible performance in the Home Run Derby.  Then, before the start of the game in a tribute to baseball and Yankee Stadium, every living member of the Hall of Fame stood by his respective position as the current starters were introduced.  For those who consider themselves to be students of the game, the ceremony likely brought goosebumps to your arms and chills down your spine.  All that was needed to top off the entire event was a great game, and boy did that ever happen:

Coming into the fifth inning, this All-Star contest was dominated by pitching, as the AL’s Cliff Lee, Joe Saunders, and Roy Halladay locked up against the NL’s Ben Sheets, Carlos Zambrano, and Dan Haren to produce a few scoreless frames.  In the top of the fifth, however, the NL drew first blood…

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A solo home run by Matt Holliday gave the NL a 1-0 lead, which was quickly followed by a sacrifice fly from Lance Berkman to up the deficit to 2-0.  The scored stayed that way until the seventh inning when, after a beautiful rendition of “God Bless America” from singer Josh Groban, J.D. Drew came to the plate with Justin Morneau on base and did this:

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Drew’s two-run bomb tied the game, but the NL quickly took the lead back again when Adrian Gonzalez’s sac fly drove home Miguel Tejada in the top of the eighth inning.  So, with the AL facing fireballer Billy Wagner with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, it seemed as if the outcome would be determined in the ninth.  That is, until the AL found a little more magic:

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After Grady Sizemore singled and stole second, Evan Longoria (until this moment known mostly to his name correlation with actress Eva Longoria) smashed a ground-rule double down the left field line, scoring Sizemore and tying the game at 3-3.  This is when things really started getting crazy.

After a scoreless ninth, the game went into extra innings and saw the AL load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the tenth.  However, ground balls from Sizemore and Longoria resulted in force outs at home plate, while Morneau nearly got an infield single that would have won the game, but he was thrown out on a great play by Tejada at short.  The NL had dodged a bullet, and were understandably pumped up:

pumped.jpg

Yet, the NL (who were not hitting at all at this point) wriggled out of another seemingly impossible situation in the bottom of the twelfth when center fielder Nate McClouth gunned down Dioner Navarro at home plate, with NL catcher Russell Martin doing a great job of blocking the dish and tagging him out:

martin.jpg

Finally invigorated, the NL rallied with the bats in the top of the 12th inning, loading the bases with just one out.  However, consecutive strikeouts from Dan Uggla and Gonzalez fizzled the rally.

The 13th inning again saw the AL get a man in scoring position and not score him, while the NL by and large slumped once again.

As the game neared its fifth hour of play, Justin Morneau lead of the bottom of the 15th with a single for the AL.  After a hit from Navarro and an intentional walk to create a force at any base, Michael Young (the hero of the 2006 All-Star game) hit a fly ball to left field.  Corey Hart got under it and fired home to a tagging Morneau:

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After a moment in which the collective audience held its breath, the ump flashed the safe signal and the AL bench erupted:

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After a ******** 4 hours and 50 minutes of play, the American League had beaten the National League 4-3 in perhaps the most exciting midsummer classic in history!  What a game and what a finish!

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