Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MLB All-Star Game LiveBlog

One of the joys of now owning a laptop is that I can finally do a running blog. I have overcome the tyranny of having a PC in a separate room as my TV. What better way to bust out my inner Bill Simmons than to liveblog the Midsummer Classic? Live from San Francisco, it's the MLB All-Star Game! And this time (like the last four times), it counts.

8:00 -- The game opens with a patented lame Fox voiceover comparing actual stars and fulfilling your dreams, blah blah. It is partly narrated by some of the players doing the one line on-one line off gimmick. It suddenly dawns on me what I couldn't recognize most of baseball's stars if I passed them on the street. Some guys I met last year at work, but for many (the NL guys, mostly) I'm clueless. And I consider myself a big baseball fan. Yikes.

8:03 -- Nobody on TV has as consistently bad hair over the years as Jeannie Zelasko. How has Kevin Kennedy remained employed over the year? Most coaches or managers in broadcasting have some kind of championship pedigree -- Jimmy Johnson has Super Bowls, Lou Piniella has a World Series, and even Barry Melrose have had some playoff success. Kennedy has one division title to his credit (in 1995 with Boston, who were then promptly swept out of the first round) in four years of managing. It could be that he's kept his job because he's a good, that isn't it.

8:04 -- Eric Byrnes and his dog are out in a canoe in McCovey Cove. Poor guy -- by all rights he should've been named to the team, but was one of the most notable snubs of either league. Now, instead of playing in the game (or, conceivably, at least getting a few days off to spend with his family), he gets to go to San Francisco, listen to everyone give him backhanded compliments about being snubbed, and now gets to spend the ASG in a canoe. The only thing lower than his feelings right now is his second-half batting average.

8:06 -- Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter are talking to Willie Mays. This is actually pretty cool. Two of the greatest defensive players ever and Derek Jeter. I guess Fox was going for the 'icon' meeting, rather than the 'great center fielders' meeting. They should've had Ichiro in there.

Ichiro: Don't you guys hate Cleveland? Did it not bother you, Mr. Mays, when that Willie Mays Hayes person played for the hated Indians?
Mays: Uh, Ichiro, that was a movie.

8:10 -- Karros says Willie Mays is the 'first complete player,' with power, speed and defense. Uh, really? The first ever in the previous 70+ years of professional baseball? It can certainly be argued that Mays is the best of the five-tool players, but he wasn't the first, per se. Ty Cobb, for example, could run, hit for average and beat crippled fans in the stands. Top that, Mays.

8:11 -- Some guy is hitting off a tee in some kind of contest to win a million bucks. I was talking to my roommate about the merits of living in Calgary or Vancouver during the rules explanation, so I have no idea what's going on. Apparently the guy has failed horribly, and as penance will be urinated on by the Taco Bell chihuahua.

8:12 -- A Homer Simpson ASG promo just aired and the less said about it the better. The highlight was Homer citing C.C. Sabathia, Prince Fielder and David Ortiz as huge fatasses. I can't believe that there are still two players from the legendary Simpsons softball episode still in the majors. Griffey sure, since he was a young guy when that episode aired, but Roger Clemens. My God. I'm thinking a hypnotist actually did get ahold of him and convince him he's 27. And a douchebag.

8:16 -- Ha, Ron Washington is an AS coach? The Rangers are 38-50. Nice pick, Leyland.

8:18 -- Victor Martinez has his kid with him during the introductions. The boy isn't morbidly obese like Mark McGwire's boy or being tossed into the field of play like Dusty Baker's boy, so I can't really make fun. C.C. Sabathia is up next, and looks appropriately angered about being called a fat guy by Homer Simpson.

8:20 -- I think this is one of the least-controversial AS selection years in recent memory. Each season seems to have a few guys who are blatantly snubbed, but there are a lot fewer than usual this year. Good work from Leyland and LaRussa in picking the backup roster and to the fans for voting in relatively few dogs.

8:22 -- Carlos Lee is caught saying 'Oh shit,' just before the Dodgers contingent is introduced. The boos rain down from the San Francisco crowd. I love the tradition of the home fans ripping on their club's rival players. Poor Takeshi Saito looked like he didn't get the memo. He tipped his cap and did a little bow, but looked shell-shocked.

8:25 -- While there are fewer undeserving All-Stars this season, there are still the traditional slate of guys who are already starting to come back to earth after hot starts. If you have JJ Hardy or Dan Haren on your fantasy team, you're doing your damndest to sell high right now.

8:28 -- How is Prince Fielder's uniform too big for him? What size is that thing, XXXXXXL?

8:32 -- Chris Issak is singing the American anthem? Wow. Is he really the best-known San Francisco musician that Fox could dig up? This will require a Google search.

8:35 -- Now comes the onfield tribute to Willie Mays. This is one of the highlights of every ASG, and ol' Willie still looks in pretty good shape, unlike half-frozen Ted Williams in 1999. Willie throws the ceremonial first pitch from center field, and unfortunately they have a plate set up about halfway to second base. I thought for a moment that Willie was going to uncork one from center like in the olden days, which would've been just about the greatest moment in baseball history.

8:39 -- Willie is leaving the field in....a pink cadillac?! "I've got long sideburns/And my hair slicked back/I'm gonna do your town in my pink cadillac/I'm just a Honky Tonk Man (he's a Honky Tonk Man)/I'm just a Honky Tonk Man (he's a Honky Tonk Man)/I'm just a Honky Tonk Man/I'm cool, I'm cocky, I'm bad." Actually, forget that throw from center. If Willie had broken a guitar over Barry Bonds' head, THAT would've been the greatest moment in baseball history.

8:40 -- I can't wait for the All-Star Game in Tampa Bay so the Devil Rays fans can pay tribute to their living legend, Aubrey Huff.

8:46 -- Byrnes is out in the cove, just hating life. I didn't realize he was a San Francisco native. That just makes his snub even more humiliating. But that's okay, he gets to spend four years in a kayak with his bulldog and surrounded by a number of other drunken kayakers. Good times.

8:51 -- Cal Ripken Jr. and his increasingly egg-shaped body is reading the AL All-Star lineup and fumbling around. He's throwing in a few comments on a few players, but let's just say that Colin Mochrie won't be up at nights thinking about Cal's improv skills. Actually, Cal is starting to look like Colin Mochrie nowadays.

8:52 -- Ozzie Smith reads the NL lineup and does it a hundred times more smoothly. Eat it, Iron Man.

8:54 -- The game is on! The pregame ceremony is over, so see you later, folks!....ok fine, I'll keep it going. Ichiro gets a leadoff single, so the dream of a double perfect game is dead for another day.

8:56 -- "To me, Peavy is the nastiest starter the National League could've put out there tonight," says Joe Buck. I don't know about that. What about Norm Charlton? Or Rob Dibble? Or Randy Myers?

8:58 -- You know it's an exhibition game when Jeter grounds into a double play that it looks like he beat out, and Buck/McCarver don't say boo about it. If it had been a regular season game or the playoffs, Buck and McCarver would've gone wild over the injustice foisted upon their boyfriend, Baseball Icon And Symbol Of Everything That Is Good In The Game Derek Jeter.

9:00 -- Prince Fielder makes an error that allows David Ortiz to reach first. If Fielder had been in better shape, he could've made that play. Homer was right!

9:01 -- David Wright makes a diving stop and throws out Ortiz at second. Oh boy, maybe this will start another David Wright slobberfest from Buck/McCarver like last year's ASG turned into. Let me know now so I can stick my head in the oven.

9:06 -- Bonds gets his first AB, and pops out to right. Already the white-washing is beginning -- Buck is all like, "Say what you will about the steroid controversy, and the BALCO case, but Bonds is a great player." Great, so was Shoeless Joe.

9:09 -- They show a replay of Carlos Beltran making a great catch last Saturday in Houston. It was not unlike Willie Mays' great catch in the 1954 Series, except Beltran had to run up that ridiculous hill in center at Minute Maid Park. Still can't figure out how that one got included in the design.

9:11 -- Griffey singles and drives in Jose Reyes to give the NL a 1-0 lead. Reds fans everywhere hold their breath as Griffey runs to first, but he makes it there without any injuries to his hamstring, knee, shin or foot.

9:16 -- Remember how about I was saying earlier about guys coming back to earth? Brad Penny hasn't started falling yet, but it's coming. He started last year's ASG, but had a craptacular second half that almost cost the Dodgers the division title.

9:19 -- And Penny sets down the AL side in order. Uh, he's falling apart! I swear!

9:23 -- Fox has a feature piece on Prince Fielder. No mention of that first-inning error, or how he hates his father Cecil. Not just 'estranged,' but actually

9:25 -- Tim McCarver had never heard the word 'busker' before reading it in a recent story about Russ Martin in Sports Illustrated. He then spends the next minute describing what a busker is, since the rest of the civilized world needs to be re-informed or something we already know. Thanks, Tim. He doesn't know what a busker is, but two seconds later, when Buck asks him how many stolen bases he ever had in a season, he instantly answers 'thirteen.' Maybe McCarver has been a great analyst all along, but Buck just hasn't been asking him enough questions about himself.

9:26 -- It gets better. According to, McCarver's season high in steals was nine in 1966. Don't worry folks -- McCarver still doesn't know what he's talking about.

9:34: In-game interview with Haren, who said he was so nervous he could barely keep down a meal all day. Sounds like Nicole Ritchie! (rim shot) Is anyone else excited about her pregnancy? How big do you think he'll balloon up to? 115 pounds? 120? Maybe she'll become a real porker and break the 125 mark.

9:36 -- Ichiro gets an end-ot-the-bat single that he bloops into left field. I love Ichiro. Buck/McCarver are raving about it, and for once I don't mind.

9:37 -- Ken Rosenthal reports that Ichiro is on the verge of re-signing with the Mariners. Put away that chequebook, J.P. Ricciardi. I'm sure there's another injury-prone starter that you can sign and then brow-beat.

9:42 -- Jose Reyes hits a grounder that takes an odd hop in front of A-Rod, who then stands there and watches the ball carom away from him. Air....tight....defense. I wonder how history would've differed had Jeter been moved to third when Rodriguez came to New York. Maybe Jeter would've made a crucial error that would've cost the Yankees a playoff series, and then he'd be the target of Yankee Stadium boo-birds while A-Rod would be the golden boy.

9:44 -- They're doing an in-game interview with Jim Leyland, who sounds less enthused than any human being has ever been about anything. After no-selling two of Buck's jokes, Leyland finally lightens up and says he wants to pitch J.J. Putz six innings tonight since the Tigers play the Mariners after the break. Rim shot? It will take a huge effort for La Russa to out-dull Leyland, but I'm sure Tony will give it his best shot next inning.

9:46 -- We learn that Josh Beckett, who has made a number of trips to the DL with blister problems in his career, uses 'rodeo ointment' to help his skin. If you're ever at a rodeo and a man in chaps asks you to rub ointment on him, run.

9:51 -- Cole Hamels is in the game for the NL. Fun fact: Hamels is married to Survivor: Amazon contestant and Playboy model Heidi Strobel. Apparently they met when she threw the first pitch at a a minor league game. You've got to love Cole Hamels.

9:53 -- Jose Mota is doing dugout interviews for Fox? Wow. There's a random name from the past. That's even more obscure than Kevin Kennedy. Mota is talking to Bonds, who says that he and A-Rod are friends and part of the ballplayer's fraternity, and hinted that should A-Rod break the career home run record, Bonds would totally be there to watch him do it. Clearly a veiled shot at Hank Aaron, who has said he's not going to follow Bonds around to be there when the record is broken. Who can blame Hank Aaron? I think he should start paying current pitchers to start beaning Bonds with pitches.

9:55 -- Trying to score from second on a Pudge Rodriguez single, A-Rod is thrown out by approximately 100 yards at home by Ken Griffey Jr. Air...tight....baserunning. What the hell was A-Rod doing? I know he has a bad hammy, but even still, just hold up. The announcers are praising Martin's pickup of the ball, but Martin could've dropped the ball and done a Ronaldinho dribbling drill and still would've had enough time to tag out lolly-gagging A-Rod.

10:00 -- The announcers are going on and on about Bonds and how nobody will ever know for sure when and where he took steroids, if he ever did, and how baseball is doing all they can to combat drugs in the game. Hey, there sure is a lot of dust under this rug!

10:07 -- Chris Young went to Princeton? Wow. I wonder if he does crossword puzzles like Stanford boy Mike Mussina. I wonder if Young will curse his team to never win a Series, like Yankee boy Mike Mussina.

10:07 -- Young comes into the game the same time as Derrek Lee, which is kind of awkward since the two got into a semi-fight a couple of weeks ago in Chicago. Young is 6'10, Lee is 6'5, but the fight was awful. It was like seeing two nine-year-old girls get into a slap fight over a Barbie on the playground. If Young really wanted to get revenge, he'd make a "pickoff attempt" that "got away" and clock Lee in the chops.

10:11 -- Eric Byrnes has left his kayak for a boat, and is trying to throw a baseball in the water and make his dog chase it. The dog promptly swims in the direct opposite direction of the baseball. That's great TV.

10:12 -- Fortunately, this nonsense is cut short by Ichiro hitting an inside-the-park home run. He put one off the wall in right-center that took a weird carom and the speedy Ichiro was able to make it all the way around without much trouble. 2-1 American League on the first inside-the-park homer in ASG history. In other stat news, it took Ichiro exactly one-third as long to round the bases as Rance Mulliniks did during his legendary inside-the-park homer for the Jays in 1991. Watching Rance score that homer was like watching a man who has been thrown in the river by the Mafia try to run on the waterbed in spite of the cement block on his feet.

10:18 -- It's La Russa's turn for the in-game interview, and as least he's speaking with 0.02 percent animation in his voice, unlike Leyland.

10:21 -- It's a special one-hour edition of The Season: 07 Jays! According to the ad, the Jays will "begin their quest for October baseball." BWA HA HA HA HA HA

10:26 -- Vladdy Guerrero flies out to Griffey in right. La Russa is really sticking it to Reds fans by keeping Junior out in the field through six innings. There are so many dangerous blades of grass out there and could easily slice a calf muscle.

10:28 -- Carl Crawford knocks a solo shot to make it 3-1, American League. Hold the phone on that Aubrey Huff tribute in Tampa Bay.

10:31 -- Justin Verlander is in the game for the AL. Verlander's claim to fame this season and probably for the rest of his career was throwing a no-hitter last month, but I'll remember the game more for Verlander's hot girlfriend who ran on the field to hug him after the game. Nice work, JV.

10:34 -- Carlos Beltran gets a triple after a long fly takes another weird carom off the wall. What's with these odd bounces all around the park tonight? Griffey avoids being hit with the ball and/or having a meteor hit him and hits a sac fly to score Beltran. 3-2 American League.

Joe: "You know, Junior's career high for home runs in a season is 56. What was your high, Tim?"
Tim: "Forty-nine."
Joe: "Umm...."

10:36 -- McCarver and Buck are talking about how the Yankees and White Sox aren't out of it in the playoff hunt. I beg to differ. If either club makes the playoffs, I will post a picture of myself kissing a Derek Jeter or Jermaine Dye poster.

10:40 -- FOX runs a graphic comparing Russ Martin to Turtle from Entourage. That's kind of insulting -- Russ Martin can act.

10:41 -- It has taken me six innings to figure this out, but the logo cut into the grass in center is a baseball in water. I'm observant. By the way, it's the sixth inning already? For a game that features a million substitutions, this game is flying along.

10:45 -- An amusing clip airs of La Russa reading through the myriad lineup changes to the umpire. My favourite part was when La Russa spelled out Aaron Rowand's name, apparently presuming the umpire is a moron. Good thing that Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn't make the team.

10:49 -- FOX had to work hard to top their pick of Chris Issak for the anthem, but they've done it. Paula Cole is singing God Bless America! Where's Pacey? Amusingly, Cole's keyboardist is taking forever to set up, so we're cutting to several long shots of the ballpark. This is the most embarrassing thing to happen at the ballpark since I walked into the ladies' room at the Rogers Centre last Sunday. I'll explain later.

10:52 -- In terms of seventh inning stretch songs that aren't Take Me Out To The Ballgame, OK Blue Jays > God Bless America.

10:54 -- It's an extra long commercial break for the seventh inning stretch, so I'll explain that ladies' room story now. I'm at the game on Sunday, and after hiking up to the fifth level, I'm a bit sweaty. Ok, not a bit, I'm a regular Niagara Falls. Until you're bald, you just don't realize how much hair acts as an absorbent. Anyway, I had my trusty washcloth (a.k.a. my sweatrag) in my pocket, so I ducked into a bathroom to mop my head. As I'm standing in front of the mirror, a female park employee walks in and quickly leaves. I figure since she's a park employee, she's allowed to be in the men's room. She re-enters a moment later. So I stroll out to find my friends Dave and Ian in hysterics. I figure they're laughing about my use of the sweatrag, so I say, "Sorry for the delay boys, I'm on the rag." Not a bad spur of the moment line, I thought. But it turns out they were just laughing at my cluelessness for strolling into the ladies' room. Sigh. Maybe I need to get my eyes checked -- I could've SWORN that figure on the door wasn't wearing a dress. This would've been a lot less embarrassing if unisex bathrooms were more widely used. Stupid Ally McBeal! Why couldn't you have been more influential?

10:59 -- I feel like I'm jinxing a no-hitter here, but we're through seven innings and Tim McCarver hasn't mentioned Steve Carlton yet. This could be the real-life equivalent of Steve Nebraska's 27-strikeout perfect game in The Scout.

11:03 -- They show a little kid playfully smothering his younger sister in the stands. It's a junior Chris Benoit!

11:03 -- Ouch, too soon?

11:03 -- According to a profile, Big Papi's favourite football team is the Green Bay Packers (yes!) and his favourite hobby is cooking. "If his favourite hobby wasn't cooking, he would be Little Papi!" quips McCarver. Buck doesn't even give him a sympathy laugh and continues on talking about a book Ortiz has written. Silly McCarver! Quips are for Bucks! Stick to what you do best, like stealing, nine bases in a season.

11:06 -- Billy Wagner strikes out Grady Sizemore, and amazingly (in the eighth inning) that's the first K of the night for National League pitchers. We've come a long way from the days of King Carl Hubbell striking out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin all in a row at the 1934 ASG. I've also been waiting eight innings to bust out that bit of legendary ASG trivia.

11:07 -- V-Mart slams a two-run shot to extend the AL's lead to 5-2. This starts a discussion of Cleveland's pennant chances, and Joe Buck says that now the Tribe have a true #1 pitcher in Sabathia, which they didn't have in their mid-90's runs. Somewhere, a single tear rolls down Charles Nagy's cheek.

11:13 -- Jon Papelbon voted the maximum 25 times for his teammate Hideki Okajima in the MLB online poll. This is an example of that "wonderfully whimsical way about him that makes him a stopper," according to McCarver. Using the internet? Yeah, he's a real Wild Thing Vaughn.

11:14 -- Chase Utley's personality profile includes a note that he likes to dance at weddings. Uh....good?

Tim: I'll have to ask Chase if he limits his dancing to weddings.
Joe: I dunno.


11:24 -- Nowhere close to a save situation for Trevor Hoffman, but he's in the game for the NL. I have to wonder what happens when Hoffman makes a mop-up appearance like this in San Diego. You know, the Pads are losing badly and Hoffman is in just to get some work if he hasn't thrown in a while....does 'Hells Bells' play when he enters the game? That would tend to remove some of the intimidation. "Oh no, Hoffman is in the game, guys! He'll definitely hold us to our six-run lead!"

11:27 -- McCarver is talking about Hoffman when the camera cuts to some fan in an elaborate pirate mask, which gets Tim to crack up. Buck answers with, "You can't squeeze out a salient baseball point while looking at a grotesque pirate from the bottom of the sea?" Actually a pretty funny deadpan line from the Buckster.

11:32 -- A long chat about umpire Bruce Froemming, who is retiring after the season and thus umpiring his last All-Star Game. Almost as if on cue, Froemming is hit by a foul tip. "That doesn't feel good on a cold night," sez Tim. Like being hit by a baseball on a warm night is much better?

11:37 -- The AL is sending J.J. Putz into the game to close things out and make it 10 All-Star Games in a row for the American League. I guess it's technically an 11-year unbeaten streak thanks to that bullshit tie in 2002. If one image sums up Bud Selig, it's him standing with his hands on his hips in his box seat talking to the umps and managers in that game trying to figure out what to do, with boos raining down upon him.

11:42 -- With the NL down to its last strike, the crowd goes....mild. Damn these laid-back San Franciscans. Where's your National League pride?!

11:47 -- After Dmitri Young reaches on a should've-been-an-error grounder that eats up Brian Roberts, Alfonso Soriano jacks one to make it a 5-4 ballgame! DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK I'VE BEEN HERE FOR YEARS

11:51 -- Putz is yanked after walking J.J. Hardy. Leyland's quip about ruining Putz for the upcoming series may have been prescient. It's time for K-Rod to return to San Francisco after breaking the Giants' hearts in the 2002 World Series.

11:54 -- Hey, Jim Leyland is alive! He's yelling about a fourth ball to Derrek Lee that Lee may have gone around on. I thought he held up, but hey, I'm not a near-comatose manager of the AL champions. Leyland is even madder now since K-Rod just walked Orlando Hudson too, which has loaded the bases. Yikes!

12:00 -- With the bases loaded, two out, his team down by one in the ninth, Aaron "Spell My Name Right, Bitch!" Rowand.....flies out to right. AL wins 5-4, the streak is 10 in a row. Now it's homefield advantage in the Series for the Royals or Devil Rays.

12:05 -- Here's the list of All-Stars that didn't get into the game: Michael Young, Bobby Jenks, John Lackey, Gil Meche, Hideki Okajima, Roy Oswalt, Jose Valverde, Brandon Webb and Albert Pujols. Kind of odd to see Pujols not get in there, but I guess La Russa wanted to give his star a game off. Or, he hurt something the previous day during the Home Run Derby. Sell high, fantasy owners! By the way, I think it's kind of weak whenever a position player doesn't get into the game. The manager can't find a place for a defensive sub or a pinch-hitter? Come on, the guy has made the trip, he may as well make a token appearance.

12:11 -- Ichiro is named game MVP for his 3-for-3 night. Come on, Alex Rios caught the game-ending fly ball! If that's not an MVP performance, I don't know what is!

Well, that concludes this for the live-blogging experiment. Take that, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Or guy from Deadspin. Or a hundred other sports blogs around the world. Hmm, kind of puts it in perspective. How many ASG blogs did you write in your day, Tim?


Boy, if I work hard, this might catch on like saying 'One' when hanging up the phone.

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