Tag:2010 All-Star Game
Posted on: July 15, 2010 2:34 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2010 3:07 pm
 

Hey Gregg: Go back to the football fields

So my good buddy Gregg Doyel wants steroids back in baseball?

He wants artificially inflated behemoths flexing their muscles? He wants brawny Jolly Green Giants feeding us red meat and cheap thrills?

Hey, Gregg, we've already got that.

It's called the NFL.

I know, I know. They've got a steroids policy over there, too, and they had it long before baseball and yada, yada, yada.

What are we supposed to be, stupid? It's normal for guys to grow to 6-7 and run the 40 in two seconds flat?

You want juice, go watch Cowboys-Raiders. Or tour a Tropicana plant.

Leave baseball alone.

Go ahead, take your shots at the "purists". Compare the low-scoring games this summer to a Spain-
Netherlands World Cup match. Me? I think the sound of too many vuvuzelas have damaged your thinking.

Steroids and greenies? Really?

I mean, I know you've always lived just one area code away from the cuckoo's nest, Gregg, but I thought you were more responsible than this. What are you doing tomorrow, teaching the neighborhood kids how to make moonshine?

What I get tired of is, there is little appreciation for subtlety anymore. Anywhere. You can't go to a movie without things blowing up onscreen every two minutes. Everybody's yelling at everybody on radio and cable TV, from the ESPN shout-fests to CNN's Nancy Grace.

Must we be smashed over the head with a sledgehammer each way we turn in life anymore?

Must everything devolve into Short Attention Span Theater?

If you want to zing Tuesday night's All-Star Game, here's where you go: Joe Girardi's managing. To be given a 34-man roster and still be exposed by failing to have a pinch runner at the ready for David Ortiz in the ninth inning was flat-out embarrassing. If Girardi's Yankees play in the World Series this October, all he has to do to learn why they don't have home-field advantage is look straight into the mirror.

Baseball made several tweaks to this year's game and still couldn't get it right: What's needed is smaller rosters, not larger ones, and stars like Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki and Joe Mauer actually still being in the game when it's on the line in the late innings.

Even commissioner Bud Selig was rhapsodizing earlier Tuesday about the days when Hank Aaron and Roberto Clemente played the entire All-Star Game. Well, duh. That's how you juice this thing back to the level it once was.

Still, Tuesday night's game had some terrific moments. The best of which was Scott Rolen's intuitive read of a single to center and busting it all the way to third to spark the NL's winning rally. It was the kind of key play that too often was rendered meaningless during the Steroid Era as everyone sat around and waited for three-run homers.

No, other than Girardi's death-wish managing, the only folks who couldn't enjoy this, I'm sure, are the ones who complained that there still weren't enough things blowing up in Iron Man 2. Which, no, I didn't see. The first one was lousy enough.

Anyway, Gregg, I could go on from here, but my guess is I've lost you already, my friend. You're probably already salivating over Cowboys-Raiders.

It's OK, though. I still look forward to covering the World Series with you in October. And being the generous guy I am, I'll make you a deal: If a pitching duel breaks out, the Red Bull and No-Doz is on me. OK?

Oh, one other thing: I don't completely disagree with everything you wrote in this whack-job of a piece. The Tiger Woods line? Excellent.

Posted on: July 13, 2010 8:39 pm
 

Setting the stage at the All-Star Game

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A few things as we get set for the 81st All-Star Game:

-- National League pitching plans: Florida's Josh Johnson and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay will follow starter Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound. After that, manager Charlie Manuel plans to review the game situation, see where the AL lineup is and go from there. With lefties Joe Mauer, Robinson Cano and Carl Crawford hitting 7-8-9, you could see one of a couple of lefty relievers, Hong-Chih Kuo or Arthur Rhodes if the situation dictates.

-- AL pitching plans were unclear as for who would follow Tampa Bay's David Price to the hill. But in Price, Texas' Cliff Lee, Boston's Jon Lester and the Yankees' Andy Pettitte, the AL is loaded with lefties. Which could mean right-handers Justin Verlander and Phil Hughes will be interspersed with them.

-- Boston's David Ortiz on the legacy of the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner: "Unbelievable. When you give a team that many dreams, that many possibilities to win, that's something you've got to respect no matter what."

-- This is how stacked the AL is: Mauer, last year's MVP, is hitting seventh. Last time he did that? "The minor leagues," Mauer said. His reaction to hitting seventh? "Where do you want to put everybody?" Mauer said. "Somebody's gotta bat down there."

-- The pressure is on Padres closer Heath Bell if he pitches late in a close game. San Diego has provided three of the past four losing pitchers: Bell last year, Chris Young in 2007 and Trevor Hoffman in 2006.

-- Atlanta's Omar Infante, the most unlikely of All-Stars, is having a ball. His favorite moments? Tuesday afternoon in NL clubhouse, and Monday watching the Home Run Derby on the field, holding his one-year-old son, taking as many photos as he could. As for the game? "It's very important," said Infante, whose Braves are in position to benefit if the NL can win home-field World Series advantage. "Everybody's psyched."

-- The turf is in good shape here in Angel Stadium. But it almost was in even better shape. The rock band U2 was scheduled to play Angel Stadium in early June, after which the contract called for new sod to be laid at Angel Stadium. Instead of a new playing surface, however ... well, Bono underwent emergency back surgery, U2 canceled its tour and the turf remains the same.

Posted on: July 13, 2010 10:40 am
Edited on: July 13, 2010 10:47 am
 

George Steinbrenner: 1930-2010

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- He was the Babe Ruth of owners, the lion of summer, the scourge of anybody who dared step in his path when the New York Yankees were on the move.

Rival teams, fellow owners, free agents ... nobody had a chance when Steinbrenner was in full howl and packing that fat wallet.

All good things come to an end, but you could be forgiven if you figured Steinbrenner would own the Yankees forever, even in light of the health failures that caused him to recede into the background over the past few years and turn day-to-day operations over to his sons.

Ding, dong, The Boss is dead.

But imagining the Yankees without Steinbrenner is like picturing the Yankees without a baseball.

He was Yankee Stadium, the World Series and the Fourth of July all rolled into one blustering, colorful, maddening package. Fact is, he was born on the Fourth of July, which is just about perfect, and he died on the morning of the All-Star Game, which is among the top few most fitting dates for his passing, trailing, maybe, only the day after another Yankees world title.

He loved his country and he loved his Yankees as much as anything in life, sometimes to his credit (seven World Series titles won during his ownership) and sometimes to his detriment (in 1974, he pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's presidential campaign).

To those baseball fans who hated him, I would only ask this:

If you could have, would you have traded the owner of your club for an in-his-prime Steinbrenner if, with the package, came Steinbrenner's same zeal to win and gusto to make the hometown fans proud?

Of course you would have. No questions asked.

He was quintessentially American, an icon, a baseball all-timer and, as he would want to be remembered I'm sure, a true Yankee.

Posted on: July 12, 2010 10:47 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2010 10:55 pm
 

Rhodes first-time All-Star scholar at 40

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- While we've spent so much time this season paying attention to such hot young phenom pitchers as Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez, Tampa Bay's David Price, Florida's Josh Johnson and even non-All-Star Stephen Strasburg, don't think we're going to let Arthur Rhodes' debut All-Star appearance pass without fanfare.

Rhodes, the Cincinnati set-up man?

You bet. At 40, Rhodes is the oldest All-Star "rookie" ever in the National League.

But don't expect the rest of the NL staff to assign him the task that usually goes to the rookie in the bullpen: Hauling the game's supply of candy, gum and sunflower seeds to the pen in a hot pink Barbie backpack (or something, maybe, in the Dora the Explorer line).

"I don't think that will happen," NL third baseman Scott Rolen, Rhodes' Reds teammate, says. "That could get ugly in a hurry."

"I don't think I want to make him do anything," says the Giants' two-time Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum, who is just 26. "He's a tremendous guy. I grew up watching him with the Mariners.

"Plus, I kind of look like more the rookie, so I can't do any rookie hazing."

In all seriousness, Rhodes, humbled by the late-career honor, says he became emotional when Reds manager Dusty Baker informed him of the All-Star honor. Of course it turned into a moment Rhodes always will remember.

"Dusty called me into his office and told me I was getting traded," Rhodes says, smiling.

Destination?

"He told me I got traded to the New York Mets," Rhodes says. "And Brandon Phillips came in and Dusty said he had been traded too, and then Scott Rolen came in and he said he had been traded, too.

"Then Dusty said, 'You're all three going to the All-Star Game.' I got quiet. I couldn't say a word. I said, 'Thank you very much.'

"I didn't know it would take this long. I know I could have made it in 2001 [when Rhodes went 8-0 with a 1.72 ERA in 71 appearances for the Mariners, no doubt with Seattle-native Lincecum watching each appearance].

"Now it's 2010, and I made it, and I'm so proud."

Rhodes earlier this year equaled a single-season record with 33 consecutive scoreless appearances, something accomplished before only by Mark Guthrie (2002 Mets) and Mike Myers (2000 Rockies). Over 41 appearances for Baker's Reds in 2010, Rhodes has compiled a 1.54 ERA and a 3-3 record.

He's taken a lot of ribbing about being the oldest player ever to make his first All-Star appearance, especially the day it became official, when the Reds were in Chicago.

"I got teased every day when we found out," he says. "Teammates, text messages ... I'm proud to be a rookie in the All-Star Game, I'll tell you right now. I'm happy I'm here. You can call me Old Man All-Star."

As for as the possibility of being the designated donkey to haul the candy, seeds and other goodies to the bullpen, Rhodes, 19 years and eight teams into his decorated career, smiles.

"I think I've got too many years to be carrying all that stuff," he says before, a few moments later, adding, "This is the best thing that's happened to me in my whole career."

Posted on: July 12, 2010 10:10 pm
 

Torii Hunter: Babies yes, Rally Monkey not yet

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As the lone Angels' position player on the American League team, outfielder Torii Hunter has emerged as the unofficial All-Star host.

It's a job he'll handle willingly

"FanFest, a couple of things with TV stations, autograph signings, talking to kids, kissing babies ... it's going to be fun," Hunter said, wide grin crossing his face.

So far, though, no appearances with the Rally Monkey.

"I'm actually scared of the Monkey," Hunter joked. "He's pretty aggressive. When he's in a bad mood, he'll actually scratch you."

Hunter was bitterly disappointed that he had to bow out of last year's game in St. Louis with a groin injury. As a kid growing up in Arkansas, Hunter was a huge Cardinals fan. He loved Ozzie Smith and Vince Coleman. To a degree, last year's game in St. Louis was personal with him, given the ties to his boyhood memories.

So he's determined to enjoy everything about this year's game. Three of his children were trailing around with him Monday, and Hunter said he was showing them the ropes -- up to and including "kissing babies."

Part of it is that Hunter naturally is a friendly, outgoing guy who simply enjoys people.

Part of it is that he learned from another gregarious legend as he was coming up as a kid in the Minnesota Twins' system.

"I used to watch Kirby Puckett all the time," Hunter said. "He was always smiling and talking to people. Whenever people needed him, media, vendors, whoever, he talked to them. I watched that.

"That's why I always talk. That's why, if you come to me and need something, I'll say yes. I don't beg for it, but if you've got a kid coming up. ..."

And if that kid is unsure of himself, or needs a good influence ... Hunter is there.

 

Posted on: July 12, 2010 9:41 pm
 

On Derek Jeter, Bob Sheppard and summer

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Here's hoping that when Derek Jeter becomes a free agent this winter, the Yankees re-sign him to a 20-year deal.

OK, so that's a tad unrealistic, given that Jeter already is 36.

But the way things stand now, the longer Jeter hangs around, the longer we'll hear the voice of the late, legendary public address announcer Bob Sheppard.

Jeter requested that Sheppard record the introduction to his at-bat a few years ago when Sheppard's health began to decline. And today, at every home Yankees' game, it is the tape of Sheppard's voice ("Now batting ... number 2 ... Derek ... Jetah ... number 2") that introduces Jeter.

"Bob Sheppard is as much a part of our organization as anyone," Jeter said Monday before the American League All-Star team worked out at Angel Stadium. "He's part of the whole experience of going to Yankee Stadium.

"He's someone, who when I went to see games when I was younger, the way he says your name ... when he says your name, you know you've made it."

I kidded Jeter about my idea that he signs a 20-year deal, or more to the point, that the Yankees should give him several extra years just so we could continue to listen to Sheppard introduce him. But Jeter wasn't having any of that.

"I talked about my contract the first day of spring training and then said I wasn't going to talk about it anymore," he said.

I know, I know. But still, it's a thought isn't it?

If the rest of our summers were filled with sunshine, ice cream and listening to Sheppard introduce Jeter, that would be a pretty good thing. Maybe even Red Sox fans would be on board with that.

Posted on: July 12, 2010 8:28 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2010 8:32 pm
 

Will young power arms finally shift tide to NL?

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- How long has it been since the National League has won a freakin' All-Star Game?

Let's just say this: Last time the NL won, 1996 in Philadelphia, Bob Dole was running for president.

It's weird, it's bizarre, it's ugly and it's a subject the National Leaguers get tired of answering. Current count: The AL's unbeaten streak has reached 13 years, including winning the past seven in a row (since the humiliating 2002 tie in Milwaukee).

Yet silly as this sounds, there is a very real sense that the tide might be beginning to shift away from Junior Circuit dominance in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Reasons?

Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez. Florida's Josh Johnson. San Francisco's Tim Lincecum. Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo. All All-Stars this year. And, Washington's Stephen Strasburg, and San Diego's Mat Latos, who very well could debut as All-Stars next summer when the game hits Phoenix.

You know about Strasburg. And Latos was the next pitcher NL manager Charlie Manuel would have chosen in the event of one more injury scratch.

"It needs to turn for us, the way it's been going," says San Diego manager Bud Black, a coach on Manuel's NL staff this week. "There are some fine young power arms in the National League.

"Hey, the American League's no slouch either, with David Price and CC Sabathia. And Felix Hernandez can probably throw it as hard as he wants to."

No question. But there is more sizzle in the NL's pitching this summer -- especially given all the incredibly talented young arms -- than there has been in quite some time.

"Just looking at our staff, I know I wouldn't want to be a hitter on the other side," says Mets third baseman David Wright, who has been in the NL clubhouse for the past four losses. "We have some power arms, really, top to bottom. Just seeing their age and the ability and the upside and what they've accomplished already is amazing.

"I know how I feel with a bat in my hands in the box against these guys. Then when you string together the depth that the NL has with their young power arms, it's pretty impressive."

Jimenez comes into the game with 15 wins, a no-hitter against Atlanta this year and a 33-inning scoreless streak compiled during one especially torrid stretch in May and June.

Johnson leads the majors with a 1.70 ERA and has allowed no more than one earned run in 10 of his past 11 starts.

Lincecum has won back-to-back Cy Young awards, Strasburg is showing signs of having Cy Young stuff ... the list goes on.

"I know you've got Strasburg, Jimenez, Josh Johnson ... those guys throw hard," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter says. "They're filthy. I've been watching them on television."

In the NL, Wright has been watching most of them from the batter's box.

"You know that it's going to be a rough day when you're battling to draw a walk," Wright says. "Or you're battling to plate one guy and you know you have to be perfect as far as situational hitting just to plate a run, that you're not going to have that big inning where you can put up some crooked numbers.

"Where you have to battle and grind and fight and almost hope that the other team makes a mistake. You know what an uncomfortable at-bat it is. You know what they're capable of doing."

Add Philadelphia's veteran ace Roy Halladay, who will pitch for the NL for the first time following six All-Star appearances for the AL, and Atlanta's cagey Tim Hudson, who is making his NL debut Tuesday following Tommy John ligament transfer surgery (and two All-Star selections when he was pitching in the AL), and it's not an easy staff to face.

As for Jimenez and Johnson, the NL's two most dominant pitchers in the first half and the ones many AL hitters will see for the first time on Tuesday night, well, Wright says his least favorite to face is. ...

"Neither. We've been fortunate in that we've missed Josh Johnson the last few times we've played the Marlins, but it's no fun having him in the division.

"When you go in for a series in Miami, you always know which day Josh is pitching. You know you'd better win the game before that or the game after that or the other games because you're likely not going to win that one."

Whether the same will hold true for the All-Star Game, well ... it's got to turn one of these years, doesn't it?

 
 
 
 
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