July 14, 2010
As Stew Force One points back east, where the second half of the season awaits, here are a few thoughts on the just-completed Midsummer Classic out here in Orange County ...
1. Good game, eh? There were two ways to look at the National League's 3-1 victory — its first in 14 years — on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium. The first was a contest that featured no home runs, only two scoring plays, a meddlesome shadow over the infield and some questionable managing by Joe Girardi. The second view was that it was a showcase for young pitchers that featured some great defense and a memorable bases-clearing double by an underappreciated star in Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCannn.
Look, we certainly can't be hypocritical in rejecting a pitching- and defense-based game, not when we yawned over the tape-measure home runs and declared them passé an evening earlier. Ichiro(notes) and Ryan Braun (!) had memorable catches in the outfield — though Matt Holliday(notes) not as much — and Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) turned a great double play to get out of trouble in the first inning. All three were the types of highlights we talk about appreciating more and they made for a game that was somewhat light on drama, but heavy on solid play.
2. Actually, did the game even start yet? Man, do I wish there had been a camera rolling tape in the press box during the pregame ceremonies. And that's because the moment that all of the sports writers realized they had just been asked to stand not for the National Anthem but for a Christina Aguilera song sung by a "Glee" cast member instead produced a collective mumble and grumble for the ages. The pregame that wouldn't end!
The introduction of each and every All-Star is something that shouldn't be tampered with — I'm an admitted fan of the pageantry — but there should be some serious streamlining of the other pomp and circumstance because there's no reason for a game to be starting at 8:49 p.m. ET when you advertised it as starting at 8.
Introductions --> First pitch by local legend --> Baseball at 8:20. Less Joe Buck, less promotion for a musically based show on FOX that most baseball fans aren't going to watch anyway no matter how much you promote it. It's really not that difficult.
3. Was that heaven? This was my fourth straight All-Star game and while I can't say that the overall atmosphere of the three days matched San Francisco, New York or St. Louis, Angel Stadium and the fans represented themselves well on Tuesday night. As advertised, Haloland is a beautiful place to watch a game and the large contingent of National League fans (Dodger and Padre fans, no doubt) made for an interesting back-and-forth in the late innings of the game. It's pretty much impossible for any stadium to look lackluster on All-Star night, but Angel Stadium left me thinking that I wouldn't mind coming back.
4. Is the derby done? The atmosphere was considerably different on Monday night for the Home Run Derby. The corners of the upper deck were empty, but I can't blame fans for not shelling out $100 a ticket to sit through interminable ESPN commercials and a field that didn't feature a lot of names. Maybe the derby will be energized once guys like Jason Heyward(notes) and Mike Stanton(notes) start battling in it. I also think the best editions are the ones held where the sluggers have an obstacle to reach or surpass, whether it be the Green Monster, Waveland Avenue, the Allegheny River or McCovey Cove. Arizona's swimming pool and Kansas City's fountains await the next two summers.
5. The next class? One of the best parts about being able to attend the All-Star game each of the past few years has been seeing how the regular crop has shaped and shifted into something much younger. While Derek Jeter(notes) and A-Rod have been mainstays for more than a decade, it's interesting to watch as guys like Evan Longoria(notes), Joe Mauer(notes), Ryan Braun, Tim Lincecum(notes) and Hanley Ramirez(notes) become the next crop of guys you can automatically count on seeing each mid-July for the next 10 years. Ch-ch-ch-changes!