It's even more awesome when your favorite team is well-represented at the game. All 3 Mets in the starting lineup got at least one hit, combining for 5 of the NL's 9 hits in the game. I was especially happy for Jose Reyes, since he was unable to play in last year's All-Star Game. Not only did he go 3-for-4, steal a base, and score the game's first run, but he was the player given the tremendous honor of catching the ceremonial first pitch from Willie Mays in that beautiful pre-game ceremony in Mays's honor. Jose has come so far over the past couple of years, and as a Mets fan it just makes me so proud to see him on the field with his peers and taking part in the celebration of one of the game's legends.
The only Met who really had a bad night at the game was Billy Wagner, who provided the AL with what proved to be a crucial pair of insurance runs. Of course, he wasn't the only lights-out closer to serve up a 2-run bomb last night, and if this was Billy getting a bad outing out of the way in a game that doesn't affect the NL East race I'm not particularly upset, but given the way the bottom of the 9th went down, Wagner should be happy that all of the heat is on Tony La Russa.
La Russa made some questionable decisions earlier in the game (not having any of the starting pitchers go more than 1 innings, pulling Russell Martin when Takashi Saito was brought in to pitch, putting Freddy Sanchez in the game at all), but the bottom of the 9th was some inexcusably bad managing that should once and for all convince people that he is not a "genius." After a late rally against two of the best closers in baseball, the NL was down by a run with 2 outs and the bases loaded. There was exactly one position player left on the NL bench: Albert Pujols. Aaron Rowand was scheduled to bat. Now, Rowand had a good first half (.310/.385/.478) that's better than his overall career numbers, but Pujols is a far superior hitter - this is perhaps the worst season of his career so far, and he's hitting .310/.411/.516 at the All-Star break! Given that either an out or a base hit would end the game right there, I cannot for the life of me understand why La Russa was saving the best weapon he had in case the game went into extras (because K-Rod was totally going to walk a 3rd consecutive batter/throw a wild pitch/balk and then get the 3rd out, right?). Rowand flied out, the AL took home-field advantage yet again, and while that's probably not going to affect La Russa given that his team is below .500 and 7 1/2 games out in the worst division in baseball, alienating his star player probably isn't going to make for a pleasant second half in St. Louis. It's enough to make me wish for a rule change - perhaps from now on the honor of managing the All-Star teams should go to the previous season's Manager of the Year winners instead of the pennant winners. Joe Girardi is far from perfect, but I doubt he would have left Pujols on the bench last night.
Observations/Odds & Ends:
- Just about the only thing worse than Fox's usual stable of broadcasters (thanks, Tim McCarver, for reminding us all of Game 7 as Beltran hit a triple last night, and props to Joe Buck for showing us all how hip he is with those Entourage and Wedding Crashers references) is their belief that the viewing public thinks Eric Byrnes is entertaining. Having him in the studio for the playoffs last year was bad enough; did anyone really want to see/hear him reporting live from a kayak with his dog?
- I've never been a fan of the whole "God Bless America" in the 7th inning stretch phenomenon (really, would you expect a nonobservant Jew who thinks "America The Beautiful" should be the national anthem to like that?), but the extended technical difficulties and Paula Cole's subpar performance would have merited a thumbs-down even if I liked the idea of that song being performed at that time. The only saving grace it had over the similarly disastrous "This Is Our Country" performance before a World Series game last year is that there was no car commercial shoehorned into it.
- I thought it was pretty awesome that the San Francisco crowd loudly booed all 3 Dodgers during player introductions, and I thought it was even more awesome that Penny, Saito, and Martin all responded by tipping their caps. Rivalries don't subside during the offseason, so why should they during the All-Star break?
- Yeah, it's been said before, but it's worth repeating: Derek Jeter has the range of a garden gnome. I don't know how a shortstop doesn't get to Griffey's RBI single in the 1st.
- The MVP presentation just cracked me up. Why the hell did Jeanne Zelasko announce that Ichiro will be a free agent soon when Ken Rosenthal reported during the game that Ichiro was close to signing a 5-year extension with the Mariners?