This Week in Baseball: July 16th

All-Star Game

Angel Stadium looked like Baseball Heaven for the All-Star Break

It was a victory 14 years in the making, but for one night in Anaheim, the NL was able to claim superiority at the All-Star Game. The first thing most people pointed to was Joe Girardi’s potential managing gaffe with Ortiz on first and A-Rod on the bench, and claimed it lost the AL the game. Managers do not lose games, players lose games. True, managers can make it harder on their team than they should by not putting the right guys in the right situation, but the players still can execute, or not execute. Ortiz should have done a better job running the bases, and true, A-Rod should have been in to run, but it was still an excellent play by Marlon Byrd. It was one of those rare moments in a professional All-Star game where you see a good “baseball play” (substitute any sport for baseball). You don’t see great basketball plays in their All-Star game, nor good “football plays” at the Pro Bowl, but you can see good baseball plays at the MLB All-Star game and I love the All-Star game for that.

Brian McCann was the hero with the 3RBI double, but I am going to stickle for Marlon Byrd as MVP. Looking at the box score, McCann was the MVP, but one of the great things about baseball is that it is not reducible to a box score. Down 0-2 to fellow Chicagoan Matt Thornton, Marlon Byrd and the NL were seconds from squandering a truly fantastic chance. However, Byrd fought back, got himself a key walk and allowed McCann to come up and get the job done. Working counts and drawing walks often gets overlooked, but that was huge for the NL, and if he does not get that walk, I am not sure if the NL comes out on top. McCann’s 3RBI are certainly deserving of the award, but the most valuable player was Marlon Byrd.

Byrd is the word

However, in the bigger picture, this means that the Yankees will not have home-field advantage in the World Series upon their arrival. The significance of this is not huge this year as the Yankees are better than any of the NL contenders, and so are the Rays for that matter. Those are the only 2 AL teams capable of making the World Series (and maybe a healthy Red Sox squad, but I don’t see them making it), and whichever one it is will mop the floor with the NL representative. The only NL squad who matches up on paper are the Phillies, and it a complete toss-up if they are going to make the playoffs. Just going through the NL teams, you can tell that while they have enough to make it look interesting against the Yankees, they will be substantial underdogs (barring trade deadline mayhem). I would even say everyone would be underdogs to the Rays, but much less so, and the Rays hitting has been very streaky.

A few extra random notes about Anaheim’s performance at the All-Star Game:

  • The Home Run Derby was pretty weak this year despite more home runs than usual. Secretly, the Home Run Derby usually sucks. Becoming less secret, and more well-known.
  • The music blaring during the Home Run Derby was a bold and bad choice. I understand the event can be less than entertaining for the fans not sitting in home run territory, but it probably bothered the hitters somewhat and the actual music choice was very questionable. I think I heard a Lynyrd Skynyrd/Tupac mash up, but maybe it was something else. Not very baseball-y music.
  • The cross-promotion with the girl from Glee singing the National Anthem was a failure. Pitchy, flat, and everything I would expect from an actress who sings, rather than a singer who acts.
  • On the other hand, “God Bless America” was very good, so let’s call it 1 for 2, with that other song for the “everyday All-Stars” being a complete wash because it was completely unnecessary and just a reason to put miss Glee (Amber Riley I believe?) on stage.
  • All-in-all, I liked the All-Star Game this year, though I am not sure it was what baseball wanted. The TV ratings sucked, and people tune in for offense. I appreciated the good baseball, but most people apparently did not. The bad ratings need to be addressed going forward, but I am not sure if there is anything Selig can do about it.

The Rangers

I promise I do not go out of my way to put him in an Indians jersey. How many times can a guy this good get traded in his prime?

And the big move before the trade deadline was made by the New York Yan… wait… the Texas Rangers? Did that just happen? Did the Yankees just lose out on a trade to the bankrupt Texas Rangers? GO RANGERS!!!!!!!!! Ok, my feelings for the Yankees aside, hats off to them for pulling the trigger on Cliff Lee and getting themselves the ace they need. Lee’s stats at the Ballpark in Arlington are very pedestrian, but any time you can get a Cy Young contender to solidify and validate your place as a contender, you have to do it. Well done, Texas, and I just hope that Texas does not prove to be Lee’s undoing. I suspect it won’t. The Rangers have to be considered favorites for the AL West crown, though I would not count the Angels out just yet.

Triple Crown Miggy

I could have just as easily written this about Joey Votto, but I think Miguel Cabrera has the better chance. The AL Central provides very pedestrian pitching outside the White Sox and Tigers (Miggy’s team), and there is no doubting his ability. I do not think he will do it, but he definitely has a shot at it as he is right or near the top in every category with less talented guys above him for the most part. Keep an eye on it, and hope he can do it, but do not expect it of him. I think he is the AL MVP right now, but that is a discussion for another day. He would be the first since Carl Yastrzemski to win it, so you know it is a rare feat in today’s game.

Bob Sheppard

He really was the “Voice of God”. His voice was more majestic than Morgan Freeman, and it rang through those historic grounds for many years. He will really be missed, not only by Yankees fans, but by baseball fans.

Speaking of someone we may or may not miss…

George Steinbrenner

We lost The Boss, but let's remember him for all he was, not just the bright spots.

Where to begin? Let me start by saying the more agreeable things like, “Baseball has lost a very influential owner” and “The Yankees organization has lost a very important member of its family”. Both of those are very true, and Steinbrenner certainly has his place in baseball history secure.

(Yankees fans might want to stop reading here)

However, I am not sad to see him go. He is almost single-handedly responsible for the tremendous financial disparity in MLB, was a disgrace to baseball with his enormous ego and loud mouth for long stretches of this tenure, and was the epitome of classless in a very traditionally classy organization. Just because he died does not mean we will forget his transgressions. Consider him like Michael Jackson (as far as transgressions, not criminally): He had some very important contributions and will go down in history, but he had some very sordid details in there that we should not forget. Jackson’s transgressions were worse and should not be compared, but the analogy sticks.

I will not blame him for spending his money when he had it. Anything less would be cheating his fans, and that is one thing he never did. However, he was the one who opened Pandora’s Box of contracts, and introduced the almost Aristocracy-Bourgeois-Proletariat class system we see in baseball now into effect. Bud Selig has most of my ire for not closing the box, but let’s not forget who actually opened the box.

George Steinbrenner was a winner, but sometimes it came at the cost of respect and class. He hired private investigators to find a way to void Dave Winfield’s contract. He hired Billy Martin 5 separate times to show him who was “The Boss”, and it was not as if Martin was changing over those different times he was hired, it was just Steinbrenner flexing. We just got done lambasting a guy in LeBron James who chased winning without doing it in a classy way, and we are going to celebrate Steinbrenner for doing the same thing? He was good for the Yankees, but he was not good for baseball.

I will not go as far as Bill Lee and say that Steinbrenner will be skating if hell freezes over, but let’s not forget all the detestable things he did for baseball. Feel free to celebrate his accomplishments and achievements, but do so remembering the real man. Think of it being like how the new Pete Rose “documentary” was a sham for remembering Rose for being the Hit King without remembering his transgressions. If you really want to remember Steinbrenner, and I am not sure that I personally do for other reasons, remember to remember all of him, not just the convenient parts.

On a brighter note, should be a great 2nd half. I can’t wait.

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