July 16, 2008
If for no other reason, the 2008 All-Star Game was worth it just to watch Bud Selig sweat and squirm as the game stretched into extra innings, and everyone started to remember the debacle of 2002 in Milwaukee, which ended in a 7-7 tie. Just like there is no crying in baseball*, for pete's sake, There's no tie games in baseball, either! Thankfully, Mr. Selig has acknowledged that basic rule, once and for all; see MLB.com.
The game was close all the way through, and the National League held a small lead for much of the game, until J.D. Drew's clutch 2-run homer tied the game in the 7th inning. He was got the MVP award mainly for that. The game could have ended much sooner but for some superb defensive plays, most notably the throw by Nate McLouth (of the Pirates) to get Dioner Navarro (of the Rays) out at home plate in the 11th (?) inning. I was glad to see that Cristian Guzman, the only All-Star from the Washington Nationals, had some fine put-outs, even though he was thrown out on a steal and didn't get a hit. On the down side, Marlins' infielder Dan Uggla committed three crucial errors (the last one was a bad hop), and only the calm pitching of Rockies' reliever Aaron Cook save his rear end from ever-lasting shame. It was too bad the Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon got booed by the New York fans, but his teammate J.D. Drew got applause at the end, at least. Red Sox manager Terry Francona was under pressure to not use reliever Scott Kazmir, from the rival Rays, and fortunately, he was only needed for one inning. A sacrifice fly to right field by Michael Young finally ended it in the 15th inning, and if the throw to the plate had been a bit quicker, the game might have continued further.
The 15-inning game matched the record for length that was set in the 1967 All-Star Game. Clockwise, however, it was the longest such game ever, at four hours and 50 minutes. All in all, the extraordinarily tense and dramatic Midsummer Classic was an extremely fitting way to mark the final year of Yankee Stadium. It was the fourth time the All-Star Game has been held there, the earlier occasions being 1939, 1960 and 1977. Only one other stadium has hosted that many All-Star Games: Cleveland Stadium.
And so, even though the National League put up a great fight, the "Junior Circuit" (AL) won for 12th consecutive year, depending on how you count the tie in 2002. Ever since they made it so that the league winning the All-Star Game gets home field advantage in the World Series, the players really do act like "This Time It Counts!"
Next year's All-Star Game will be held at Busch Stadium (III) in St. Louis. Ironically, Anheuser-Busch was just bought out by the Belgian mega-brewery InBev, and it remains to be seen whether they will rename that ballpark "InBev Stadium."
* Exception: When they tear down Yankee Stadium, I think all Yankee fans and baseball history buffs are entitled to shed a few tears. I'm sure there are plenty of wet eyes in Detroit right now, as Tiger Stadium gets knocked down.
Josh Hamilton's 28 home runs in the first round of the Home Run Derby was almost too incredible to believe. Not just the number, but the distances -- three balls were estimated to have gone over 500 feet (without stadium obstruction, that is). Two or three of those balls came within 20 feet or so of the back row of the bleachers in right-center field, and one of them soared over the corner of the upper deck into the rear of that alley where the bullpen used to be. Too bad he ran out of energy after that, as Justin Morneau ended up winning in the final round. We shouldn't take the Home Run Derby too seriously, but I think the current format leaves much to be desired. I would either make it only one round, with ten "outs" per batter, similar to the present, or else give each player five "outs" each round to get a single home run in order to advance to the next round. If that means the subsequent rounds are crowded, fine, just have more rounds.