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2010 All-Star Review

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The National League won its first All-Star Game since 1996.

Every sports fan has his or her own favorite event. Many love the Super Bowl. Others worship March Madness. Being a huge baseball fan, my favorite event is the fall classic, the World Series. But the MLB all-star festivities are a close second. This year’s All-Star Game was this past Tuesday and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share my thoughts about it.

Every year the day before the All-Star Game itself, the league decides to have a fun day of celebration with various baseball related events. The most popular of which is the Home Run Derby. The best homerun hitters are picked to compete against each other to see who can hit the most dingers before reaching ten outs (anything that is not a homerun).

Over the last decade or so, the derby seemed to reach unprecedented levels. Until the “steroid era,” players never managed to hit twenty homers in the entire tournament. Once the new century began, however, participants started killing the ball. In 2004, Bobby Abreu hit 24 homers in the first round alone. That record was beaten out two years ago by Josh Hamilton, who hit 28. Some people thought something was being done to the balls used in order to make them fly out better. But once Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa all had their steroid use exposed, the belief was that all the big hitters were on something. Now that the “steroid era” seems to be over, it will be interesting to see if the derby numbers return to normal levels.

Another thing that has changed in recent years is lately many of the premier hitters are reluctant to take part in the Home Run Derby. Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Josh Hamilton were all invited to make return appearances this year, but they all turned down the invitations, citing that the competition messed up their swings. As a result, this year’s Derby featured many new names. The biggest names and odds-on-favorites this year were Miguel Cabrera and tournament veteran David Ortiz, who made their first appearances since 2006.

Also in recent years, the Home Run Derby featured a change in the format of the competition. Instead of the top scores from the second round advancing to the finals, each semifinal hitter’s scores from the first two rounds were added together and the top two scores advanced to the finals.

This year’s derby did not see its hitters achieve astronomical numbers like years past, but to me it certainly did not disappoint. Corey Hart of the Milwaukee Brewers, making his Derby debut, started off with a bang, knocking out thirteen balls to lead all hitters. But it seemed to be a combination of beginner’s luck and having to wait a long time for his next turn, as he was shut out in the semifinals, failing to make the championship round. Cabrera showed a bit of tournament rust as he barely survived the first round and then fell well short of making the finals. In the end it was David Ortiz who stood tall. Big Papi, after starting in third place, knocked out thirteen and eleven homeruns in the semifinals and finals respectively to win his first Home Run Derby championship.

After the Homerun Derby ended, a celebrity softball game which took place earlier in the afternoon was aired. Over the years I’ve come to really enjoy this spectacle as many old stars of the past, such as Fred Lynn, Ozzie Smith, and Dave Winfield take part in the event. It is not a typical game as many of the older folks can barely move, thus making play very sloppy at times. However, once again this year, I enjoyed the softball game. Many homeruns were hit and this year marked the debut of Jennie Finch of the USA national softball team. I wouldn’t blame anybody who watched the game just to see her. Though she’s on the national team, I couldn’t help but feel bad for her after giving up around five homers.

The next night, the big names took center stage for the mid-summer classic. Like the Homerun Derby, the main event has also changed over the years. The typical play of the All-Star Game usually most of the players selected getting into the game for at least one inning, with the exception of maybe one or two pitchers. However, in 2002, another unprecedented occurrence changed the style of play. The game went into extra innings and both teams ran out of pitchers. Commissioner Bud Selig ended the game in the 11th inning and declared the game a tie. As a result of the controversy, the number of players on the teams was expanded and an agreement that the winner of the All-Star Game would receive home field advantage in the World Series was instituted to provide an incentive for victory.

One other issue regarding the All-Star Game is the controversy surrounding fan voting. While it is a good thing to get the fans involved, there must be some form of revisions. For instance, St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was voted into the game despite .227 batting average. While he does play excellent defense, such an average does not even warrant an All-Star roster spot, let alone a starting gig. Additionally, star players who have maxed out their potential and saw their stats sharply decline have been voted as starters in the past based on name value, such as Cal Ripken, Jr. and Ken Griffey, Jr. While this did not happen this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if it did in the future if revisions to fan voting are not made.

The American League had gone unbeaten the previous thirteen games but due to its spectacular pitching staff, the National League appeared to be the favorite to win this year. The game looked like many of the regular games this season. Unlike previous All-Star games, this one was dominated by the pitching staffs. This could be a cause for concern for casual or fair-weather baseball fans, but I really enjoy a game with good pitching. Former Indian Cliff Lee threw just six pitches in his inning of work. The American League got on the board first with a single run in the fifth inning. The National League answered back in the seventh with three runs scored on a double by Braves catcher Brian McCann. As foreshadowed, the National League pitching continued its dominance and finished out the game to win its first since 1996 by a score of 3-1. McCann became the first catcher to be named the All-Star most valuable player since the Indians’ Sandy Alomar, Jr. in 1997. Naturally I was disappointed that the only Tribe all-star Fausto Carmona did not get into the game, but with the expanded pitching staff and him having the least desirable statistics of the American League pitchers, it is definitely understandable.

Though the Cleveland Indians play in the AL, I was glad to see the National Leaguers finally win the All-Star game. If anything about baseball was not exciting to me, it was seeing the same team win every year. The game did not get great television ratings, but being a baseball fanatic, this is one event that will get my full attention every year.

Credit for image: http://www.altiusdirectory.com/Sports/images/mlb-all-star-game-2010.JPG

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Written by apokorny

July 16, 2010 at 7:46 pm

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