Despite spending over 72 hours on the ground in St. Louis, there were still a wealth of subjects I wanted to address before the Midsummer Classic clock struck midnight. I'd be obliged if you allowed me to empty the notebook of a few stray thoughts and items.
• As expected, all of the events truly belonged to Albert Pujols(notes), even if his All-Star or Home Run Derby performances didn't exactly live up to their hype. Pujols was featured on the cover of the Sunday newspaper with Stan Musial, had more people wearing his jersey that Brett Favre in Green Bay back in the day and even had folks like Pam Beasley and Billy Bob Thornton showing up to pay tribute.
I thought the outpouring of admiration was well-deserved for a player who has not only posted upper-echelon numbers, but has posted them for my keeper league team since being a waiver wire pickup during the first month of the 2001 season.
The King of St. Louis, indeed.
However, I did a radio spot on Wednesday and my Canadian hosts asked me if the American media was going down the same road it traveled with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa(notes) (ie: engaging in blind adulation, whether intentional or not, without actively investigating the impressively huge numbers). I wasn't quite sure how to answer that, other than to say Pujols has never been linked to any of A-Rod and Manny Ramirez(notes)-type activity and that until we learn otherwise, I'm just going to enjoy Pujols for the hitting machine he is. That may be a bit of an optimistic approach in this era, of course, but at some point, we're going to have let faith take over if we're ever going to enjoy baseball performances the way that we used to.
A few more thoughts from under the Gateway Arch ...
• Have you ever gone to an opposing ballpark and only then realized how much the home fans are into an opposing player you never really gave much thought to? That happened with me when I went to Philly for the World Series last October and saw loads of Eagles fans wearing Brian Dawkins jerseys. Same with the crazy applause that Yadier Molina(notes) got any time his name was announced at Busch Stadium.
• Seventy-one percent of voters who answered my question about when the All-Star Game should be played believe the events should be moved to the weekend and I pretty much agree with them. By the time the lineups were introduced and all the pregame ceremonies took place on Tuesday night, it was already almost 9 o'clock on the East Coast. Even though this year's game was played quickly, a good product should never make its customers choose between itself and getting to bed before midnight. Starting the game at 6 o'clock on a Sunday night alleviates a lot of those problems and increases the audience, too.
• Here's another changes proposal after seeing the glut of National League first basemen: How about capping each infield position at a max of three representatives?
• If you're ever in St. Louis and looking for a little night life, I highly recommend Rue 13 on Washington. Cited as one of the best "road bars" by a gaggle of thirsty beat writers I headed over with, this establishment has a cool atmosphere, an onsite sushi chef and cheap cans of PBR. So if you were wondering why the Stew got a late start on Tuesday morning ...
• Sunday marked my first time stepping into the new Busch Stadium and I have to say that Aaron Hooks nailed it in our Big Ballpark Review last season: The Cardinals cut a lot of corners and the amenities don't match up to the newer stadiums and there isn't a flagpole in center field, but darned if it isn't a fantastic place to watch baseball in.
In a retro way, all the seats really seem on top of the field and I loved how the entire place looks like a rolling wave of fans when you're looking into the ballpark or up from the field. For baseball junkies, I don't know how they could have set up the seat and sightlines any better and, really, that should be all that matters.
The other thing I really liked was the huge statue of Stan Musial outside one of the gates and the mini-statues of other stars from team history outside the team store. The setup really gives you a sense of the Cardinals' storied history in St. Louis and more than adequately prepares you for the game ahead.
(Now if only we could do something about the beer brand being served ...)
• I went the entire trip without running into Chris Berman, sitting in one of the empty seats around him or hearing "Winnie The Pujols" firsthand. This, my friends, is why I've made the trip to the last three All-Star Games (and hope to make the next three, too).
• Make your travel plans now to join me in a Berman-free world. We head west the next two seasons with Anaheim in 2010 and Phoenix in '11. Kansas City's the front runner for '12 and the Mets are said to look solid for the '13 All-Star Game.
• Am I a trendsetter for beautiful sideline reporters AND heads of state? Perhaps. On Monday afternoon, I asked Derek Jeter(notes) if he felt like an elder statesman, only to get a spirited denial from The Captain. Erin Andrews got the same treatment after insinuating as much later that night on ESPN and then Jeter was forced to rebuke President Obama by pointing toward Tim Wakefield(notes) after the Commander-in-Chief issued a similar inquiry on Tuesday. (If you want to call me a vanguard in annoying Jeter, feel free to do so.)
• Speaking of President Obama, here was my view of his first pitch:
It was a cool moment, but two days later, I'm still embarrassed for the fans — and there really were a good amount of them — who thought Obama deserved to be booed during his first official toss as President of the United States.
Let's take away the fact he's only been in office for six months away from the argument. The entire reason Obama was in attendance that he and the four living ex-Presidents — divided equally on both sides of the aisle and appearing via videotape — were trying to raise awareness of working together in community service. Together, they highlighted volunteers who are doing things like supporting our soldiers overseas and helping the homeless in this country. All four Presidents received a lot of applause with George W. Bush drawing the most.
Honestly, it was a pretty inspiring moment and it made me think that baseball is one of the few sports that could provide that type of forum for patriotism, service and community building. I couldn't imagine a similar scene playing out at the Super Bowl or NBA Finals.
But then Obama came out onto the field to some boos and applause that I thought was a bit muted for a big event like being in the presence of our country's leader. Since I thought I might be interpreting it wrong, I asked those around me for confirmation and they agreed.
Looking at that tape again, I know that not everyone was booing and judging by the cameraphones being hoisted, some people were just as excited as I was. Still, there's no excuse for the balloonheads who were booing. You're allowed to disagree with the President, but that wasn't the time nor the place for the dissension.
(And, really, spare me the "They were booing the White Sox jacket" excuse. It may be a reason given by some dopes, but the last time I checked, most Cardinals fans aren't wearing blue when they show up in droves at Wrigley Field. They're proud to be called the best fans in baseball and surely they should respect the importance of representing one's team both home and away — not to mention another team who also enjoys beating the Cubs.)
• Ah, I feel much better now after that scolding. Here's a pic of Obama's glove, which is headed to the Hall of Fame. And if you're going to ask why he would need a glove when all he planned on doing was throwing and not catching the ball, I'm just going to be honest with you. I frankly have no idea. (Maybe it has something to do with him calling the home of the White Sox, "Cominskey Field?")
• Finally, I hate to break it to you, but I'm not entirely done with my All-Star trip. On Monday, I asked all the All-Stars about their favorite All-Star memory while they were kids, but never had time to edit them altogether. That clip will be going up on Friday 'cause I didn't waste all that hard drive space for nothing. (Plus, it's always a good thing to see the stars go candid.)