This isn't your normal All-Star recap. This time it counts. We're breaking it down in "3 Up & 3 Down" fashion. What (3) things about the '09 ASG left us wanting more and which (3) things could be changed.
Let's get after it . . .
1. President Obama wearing a White Sox jacket, priceless. The commander & chief didn't throw on a Pujols jersey, he didn't dig deep for the throwback Gibson, nope. This President from the Chicago's south side showed up in St. Louis wearing his very own Chicago White Sox jacket. I loved it. He could have worn a sport coat and pants, he could have worn a jacket with a big MLB logo on the front, and he could have turned around and high tailed it out of St. Louis right after the pitch hit Albert's glove. However, this president doesn't do that. This President lets everyone know who his favorite team is. This President knew about Prince Fielder doing work the night before. This President knew that Derek Jeter was the one of the longest tenured All-Stars in the clubhouse. This President stuck around and yucked it up with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. So yes, I couldn't be more excited about President Obama wearing his team colors and throwing out the first pitch in the 2009 MLB All-Star game. Now all he's got to do is fix this economy.
2. Crawford's snag, wow! You have to love that a Tampa Bay Ray was bailing out Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon. Not only did Rays outfielder Carl Crawford make one of the most amazing catches I've ever seen, he made a game-saving/game winning catch. After Jonathan Papelbon left one hanging and Carl Crawford tracked down and leaped the wall to steal a home run we're left thinking one thing. M-V-P. Don't think I'll leave it alone. This may be the page turner on the steroid era, this may actually be the final sign that it's close to over. Carl Crawford stealing a homerun away in a 4-3 American League v. National League pitchers duel. No homers hit, runs scored based on quality baserunning by Derek Jeter & Curtis Granderson, a sacrifice fly and a great catch give us home field advantage in the Fall Classic? Carl Crawford wins the MVP for a defensive play and we can turn the page on All-Star Weekends that include 8 homerun hitters who look like the incredible hulk and hit like a Ted Williams/Babe Ruth clone.
3. St. Louis was perfect. Why not St. Louis every five seasons? It amazed me that last night was the 1st time since 1966 that the Mid-Summers Classic took place in the heartland. The fans should get a collective pat on the back, aside from that Ted Lilly taunt they were outstanding and obviously can't get enough of Albert Pujols. Bringing out the likes of Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, and Stan Musial among others, gave you the same feeling as Teddy Ballgame at Fenway in 1999. St. Louis is a baseball town, just like Boston, Chicago, and New York, they've proved it. The St. Louis Arch in the backdrop of the stadium, good. A cast of diehard Cardinal waving fans all draped in red, better. Country star Sara Evans bringing in the seventh inning with God Bless America, great! Before we go around to every brand new ballpark and give cities like Toronto, San Diego, and Arlington an All-Star event, let's head back to Missouri and give St. Louis another turn, trust me they earned it.
I'm not trying to be cynical but the '09 ASG wasn't all aces. Lincecum & Halladay didn't exactly tear it up. The Canadian national anthem got dogged and that isn't the worst of it.
3. Introductions, applause, anthem, play ball. Get to it already. The All-Star game isn't the Olympics, let's stop treating it like it is. A near hour long pre-game ceremony is entirely unnecessary. I like baseballs efforts to include "heroes among us" but shouldn't we be dedicating a whole special to them rather than rushing it together for a game opener? Recognize every All-Star on the national stage for their first half performance. Veterans who are in their first all-star game, the home town players, as well as future hall of fame coaches and players. Let the crowd applaud for both the players they voted in and recognize some greats who played for their franchise in the past I.E. Stan "The Man" & Ted Williams. Pick a good looking grammy award winning female artist (spade a spade, guys are watching this) have her belt out the song we all have grown accustomed to listening to before sporting events. Bring out the president or someone famous to the city to throw out the first pitch. Let a make-a-wish kid yell "Play Ball" and get the game going. Hats off to the heroes among us, but we can find a bigger and better stage.
2. No love for the knuckler. Look, I know one could call me a bit of a homer, and I know I've been all over TIM WAKEFIELD and his career before. But I wanted to see the guy pitch. This isn't all Joe Maddon's fault. Imagine if Wake comes in and gives up 3-runs, the Rays make the World Series and don't get home field, would Maddon be okay with his decision then? I hope there is some backlash though, the Red Sox lighting up Tampa, Wakefield shutting them down once or twice, this isn't an issue for the media or baseball fans, this is a job for the Sox. How hardcore is Joe Maddon about winning this game though? Terry Francona managed this game twice, both times he attempted to get everyone on the field, and the A.L. won both times. Maddon? Well he let Wakefield know that he wouldn't be in the game unless it went extras. I'm not saying the Sox are so good they'll dominate the league come postseason and October but if Francona can get Wake a start in the postseason, I'm sure he'd have no problem with not playing in the All-Star game. Still, I would have liked to see the 17-year veteran get some PT.
1. Justin Upton & Heath Bell determine home field, in a series they won't sniff. Curtis Granderson is very good, he's fast and extremely talented but could Diamondbacks outfielder, Justin Upton, have played that 8th inning triple any worse? Here's a player who is having a pretty good season (.301 BA, 16 HR, and 51 RBI) but he's on a team which is eighteen and half games out of first place. How are the Dodgers going to feel when they are the ones playing at Fenway Park in October because the team who finished 30 games out of first place had players who couldn't get it done? Want more? Heath Bell is on this All-Star squad strictly because we require a player from every team in this game. I'm sorry for Padre fans that your team is already 20 games out and you've got three months left to watch but give me a break. If this game is going to matter for something that will only benefit 8 or 9 teams at the most, then their players should be the ones on the big stage. I don't care that Heath Bell is great to fantasy geeks, to the Cardinals, Phillies, and Dodgers, he's just the guy who gave up the run that cost them a shot at home field advantage.
Play Ball . . .