Tuesday, July 15, 2008

10 Homers of the All-Star Break

Major League Baseball may not be the most exciting of professional sports, but it celebrates better than any other. No lame dunk contests, no potential career threatening scrimmages (ask former Patriot RB, Robert Edwards, how he feels about beach football) and no skills competitions consisting of three Russians, whose names you can't pronounce. Just long balls, Hall of Famers, and home field advantage in the World Series. Welcome friends, to the homers of the 2008 MLB All-Star break:

10. The usual suspects, are at home. Sure Manny (12), Jeter (9), and A-Rod (12) have all been to quite a few, but active All-Stars, Griffey Jr. (13), Pudge Rodriguez (14), and of course Barry Lamar Bonds (14) are conspicuous by their absence. I'm not sure which commentator brought it to our attention but during the home run derby it was most noticeable. No past winners of the derby or 500 homer guys participated, and in doing so the passing of baseball's proverbial torch is occurring. Our sweet swinging, muscle bound, wall bangers are making their way out of the game and stepping into their shoes are the five-tool players with more versatility. Say hello to playes like Brewers OF, Ryan Braun and Indians OF, Grady Sizemore.

9. Before the booing, the Yanks fans were actually pretty solid. I'm not going to tell you I wouldn't be booing A-Rod if this game was at the Fens. I will tell you that booing every Sox All-Star (SEVEN OF THEM) including manager Terry Francona, was a bit much. From the rousing ovations for Yankee great, Yogi Berra, to Yankee architect, George Steinbrenner, the Bronx faithful knew who to pay respect to. What I was most impressed by was the chorus of cheers that rang through the ballpark as the embattled, Josh Hamilton, began his assault on the walls of what Yankee fans consider, THE ALTAR. As Hamilton approached every derby record the fans roared for him to continue, and when asked if he was disappointed he didn't win, Hamilton paid that respect back to the fans.

8. Could the MVP go to a losing player? I wouldn't have minded to see Astros SS, Miguel Tejada, get awarded the MVP. No disrespect to J.D. Drew, but it was Tejada's steal of second and subsequent run scored that put the N.L. ahead in the seventh inning. Not only was Tejada good at the plate, it was Tejada's defense that kept the N.L. alive when Aaron Cook loaded the bases and got out of the inning unscathed. We may not know how old he is, but he's still a pretty good player.

7. What a break for Justin Morneau - To everyones dismay, Justin Morneau went home with the silver bats after the home run derby. During the actual game it was Justin Morneau's slide into home plate in the bottom of the 15th that sent everyone home for the night. While Morneau wasn't the MVP of the ASG, he had an all-star break better than many do . .cough cough, Dan Uggla. The Twins slugger is a former American League MVP and I'd go so far as to say that 80% of people don't even remember that. Morneau is on pace for almost 30 homers and 136 RBI's, all the while hitting .330. If the Twinkies can survive the loss of Johan and make the playoffs, it'll be Morneau who is leading them.

6. Sorry Jon, the people want Mariano - Red Sox stopper, Jonathan Papelbon, may be second in the AL in saves but Mariano is the King of New York. After Papelbon commented that he and not the Yankees closer should recieve the ball from All-Star manager and Red Sox skipper, Terry Francona, if the game is in a save situation, Papelbon quickly backed off those statements. The New York papers and fans didn't forget Pap's earlier comments and made sure the boo birds came out. Yes it would have been nice for Mariano to get a win and or a save in Yankee Stadium, but the real robbery was that not Pap or Mariano should have recieved the ball. Angels closer and American League leader in saves, Francisco Rodriguez (38), is having a season to remember. Not only is Rodriguez dominating American League batters but he has allowed just 27 hits in over 42 innings pitched. Exit tradition and feel good stories, enter K-Rod. (and keep Madonna away from him)

5. 1:40 in the A.M.? Say what you will about the All-Star game winner being awarded home field in the World Series, but they wouldn't have been playing till 1:40 in the morning if it hadn't. After the Mid-Summer classic ended in a tie in 2002, the MLB instituted a reward for winning the game, a justification for continuing into the wee hours and saving people for close games. After A.L. skipper, Terry Francona, emptied the bullpen in the top half of the 15th, it was up to Rays pitcher, Scott Kazmir, to finish off the National League. Using every player during the game and ending in classic Yankee Stadium fashion, with a Michael Young sac fly and a scored run from Justin Morneau, not even the players still hanging around in the dug out could contest. You still say you don't want a reward for the winner?

4. Terry said he wouldn't sit in Girardi's desk, but the way he managed the All-Stars, I'm sure the Yanks were happy if he wanted to use the desk. From the moment Terry showed up in New York he pulled all the right moves. Respecting the game being bigger than him in a place way bigger than him. Terry Francona inserted Yankee captain, Derek Jeter, into his normal "2" slot, over Terry's favorite number two, Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Replaced both Jeter & A-Rod in the middle of innings allowing their fans to show them love in an appropriate fashion. Francona made sure to insert Mariano in the spot where he'd be able to win the game and finish it in front of those same fans that booed Francona upon announcement. Terry may just be the most important manager in the Majors, he's got more rings than any other Manager over the past eight seasons.

3. Who is this J.D. character, and what happened to the one we called Nancy Drew? J.D. didn't have the best 2007 regular season, but since the game 6 ALCS grand slam, J.D. Drew has been better than anticipated. After lifting the ball over the short porch at Yankee Stadium, amidst the boos of Yankee fans, J.D. Drew was the favorite for the All-Star game MVP. While that 2-run shot only tied the game, it was just another notch on the 2008 season. A season in which Drew is batting .302, has hit 17 home runs, and drove in 55 RBI'S. More importantly, carried the Sox lineup in the absence of slugger David Ortiz and the absent mindedness of Manny Ramirez.

2. Was that Yankee skipper, Joe Girardi, in the bullpen? YOU BET YOUR A** it was! While Yankee fans would have liked to see Girardi as the American League's manager, they'll have to wait till he reaches the World Series for that. Girardi was doing everything he could to help out his league, shown around the seventh inning, in the bullpen, with a mask on, warming up Mariano Rivera. The former Yankee catcher turned Joe Torrie replacement, put on his old catcher's mask grabbed his mitt and let the future Hall of Famer Rivera warm-up on him. One of the more remarkable things I've ever seen in an All-Star game, or any game for that matter. Hats off to Joe for doing anything he could.

1. J-O-S-H H-A-M-I-L-T-O-N - Kids, it's wrong to do drugs. I won't get into my beliefs on God or Josh's beliefs in God, but what he did on Monday night in the home run derby, was flat out amazing. In Hamilton's first full season with the Rangers he was elected as a starter for the American League all-star game. What a season this guy has had and were only half way through. Hamilton's 21 homers and 95 RBI's at the all-star break is a mere afterthought after watching his 28 home run performance in the first round of the Home Run Derby. He smashed long home runs, the crowd roared, and his teammates jumped around like little league kids. From Josh using his 71 year old legion ball coach as his BP pitcher to the 500 foot home runs, how could anyone watch that and not be impressed. No matter what happens in Josh Hamilton's life, he'll always remember that moment, the moment the entire nation watched him tear the cover off the ball.

Some people aren't baseball guys, some people don't care about the home run derby, but watching baseball celebrate hall of famers, play 15 innings for home field advantage, and conquer personal demons, well I'll watch that any day.

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