|Justin Verlander comes out firing in Kansas City, but lacks command. (Getty Images)|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Bud Selig doesn't get it.
Justin Verlander does.
You don't make the All-Star Game fun by making it "count." You make the All-Star Game fun by trying to turn it into a show.
"We're here for the fans," Verlander said Tuesday night.
"I know the fans don't want to see me throw 90 (mph) and hit the corners," Verlander said. "They want to see the 100 mph fastball."
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The All-Star Game isn't about "We will win." The All-Star Game is about "Look at that!"
Verlander didn't go out there trying to give up five runs in the first inning. He did go out there trying to throw 100 (which he did), and he went out there knowing that because he was trying to throw 100, the results might not be good.
They weren't. He threw five 100-mph fastballs (and one more at 101), but he became just the fourth starting pitcher in All-Star history to allow five runs in a game.
He gave up a double to Ryan Braun and a triple to Pablo Sandoval. He walked Carlos Beltran and Buster Posey. He threw 35 pitches, just 19 for strikes.
And for perhaps the first time in his life, he left a start where he pitched poorly and really didn't care.
"I was able to laugh about it right away," he said. "Hey, I had fun."
And he did.
You have to understand, Verlander is as competitive as any pitcher in the big leagues. He hates to give up hits, let alone runs.
He walks into the clubhouse on the days he starts with a look of total focus, and he prepares for starts with headphones on so no one will even think about bothering him.
I've covered tons of Verlander starts, from the first one he made in the big leagues. I've never seen him treat a game like he treated Tuesday's.
And I had absolutely no problem with it.
He was determined to have fun, so he arrived at the clubhouse early, didn't don the headphones, and spent his pregame time chatting with his All-Star teammates.
He was determined to throw 100, so he didn't spend the first inning trying to settle into his delivery, the way he normally does.
In some ways, Verlander went back to pitching the way he did as a kid, worrying more about velocity than about his delivery and his command. But this was different because this time he knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew exactly what he was risking.
"That's why I don't [usually] try to throw 100 in the first inning," he said. "It doesn't usually work out. ... It's really hard for me to command [the 100 mph fastball] when I haven't established my delivery early in the game."
That's what Verlander normally does in the regular season. He throws 90-92 mph fastballs early in the game, establishing his delivery and conserving pitches. In one game this year, he even threw some 89 mph fastballs.
"I don't know where those came from," he said with a smile a couple of weeks after that game.
Verlander then builds velocity as the game goes on. He's much more likely to throw 100 in the ninth inning than he is in the first.
If the All-Star Game really mattered, Verlander would have pitched that way Tuesday. If the All-Star Game really mattered, maybe Verlander would still be in the game in the ninth.
It doesn't. It can't, no matter what gimmick baseball attaches to it.
Oh, and does it matter that Verlander gave up five runs in an All-Star Game?
Well, the only other starting pitchers to do that were Jim Palmer, Tom Glavine and Roger Clemens. Not bad company, is it?
Palmer did it in 1977, and went on to win 20 games and finish second in the Cy Young voting. Glavine did it in 1992. He also won 20 games, and finished second in the Cy Young. Clemens did it in 2004. He won the Cy Young that year.
And what about home field advantage in the World Series, which once again goes to the National League after Tuesday's 8-0 win? Doesn't that matter?
You could argue it did last year, when the Cardinals won Game 7 at home. But when Verlander's Tigers played in the 2006 World Series, they did have home-field advantage -- and lost to the Cardinals, as well.
No, the only real negative from what Verlander did Tuesday was that the five-run first ended up taking the life out of this All-Star Game early. That's too bad because by trying to throw 100 (and succeeding), Verlander was trying to put life into the game.
He was willing to take that risk. I'm willing to have him take that risk.
I know I'd rather see him throw 100 than 90.
And I'd rather see the All-Star Game as a show.
"It's a great experience," Verlander said. "I thoroughly enjoyed being here."
And what if he gets a chance to start another All-Star Game?
"I'd approach it the same way," Verlander said.
Good for him. He gets it.