Every year I tune in to the All-Star Game to enjoy the best talent of the first half duke it out in a hard throwing, fancy accessory wearing competition. The overall ‘production’ this year was taken to new heights with a Red Carpet Show involving trucks escorting each All-Star and their families to the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Most of the day I was able to tune in on MLB Network, with the most entertaining segment going to Chris Rose and Kevin Millar’s interview with Stephen Vogt and Nelson Cruz (Vogt’s Chris Farley impression is dead on and Cruz’s eyebrows are flawless) on Intentional Talk.
As a result, I was a tad late joining Fox Sports for the pregame. Sorry, I got stuck watching Brian Kenny, Pedro Martinez, and Al Leiter doing a pretty entertaining interview with Josh Donaldson. Apparently, their MLB Network colleague Sean Casey caught one of Donaldson’s home runs last night during the derby and proceeded to talk a little too much trash to Josh during today’s morning batting practice about his power. This prompted Donaldson to tell him he doesn’t talk to anyone who’s been thrown out from left field running to first. Ouch.
Anyways, once I flicked over I figured I might as well document it from start to finish. Here’s how it went down:
4:23 pm – Wow, I guess Fox picked up a Kirk Herbsreit/Joe Buck lookalike named Kevin Burkhardt. Every cliché one-liner this guy is falling flat on makes me feel like I’m watching the announcers of ‘Celebrity Deathmatch.’ Hey look, Frank Thomas and Pete Rose (let all your hate go for about three hours) are here to save the show! Looks like Pete did something to his hair to make him look like the fifth Beatle and whomever tailored Franks gargantuan suit deserves a medal.
4:31pm – Harold Reynolds slid through to fill in while Rose headed down to the field so the first thing he leads with is his interview with Bryce Harper. Wow, Harper really surprised me when he said he hasn’t taken pre-game batting practice on the field all season, maybe he has grown up. Not two seconds after I wrote that, a question is asked about his hair and he responds with, “I double take in the mirror everyday, but you know look good, feel good, smell good, play good right. I mean I don’t know why every one makes a big deal, its pretty impressive.” Nope, take everything back; he’s still a douche.
4:39pm – The pregame crew makes their MVP Predictions with Reynolds taking Harper and ‘The Big Hurt’ going with Adam Jones. The funniest part might’ve been after Thomas justified his picked, Reynolds said every time Frank talks it’s like a hurricane. He probably said that because the big fella can’t stop huffing and puffing into the mike. $20 says he uses a CPAP machine while he sleeps. But besides that, Thomas I thought contributed the most interesting analysis of the bunch. Maybe things are looking up for Fox.
4:44pm – Take that back, here comes Joe Buck. Forget all the built up excitement. He gets the ‘ticking time bomb award’ because with Buck, you just get the feeling of when you know that one dude is bound ruin the party somehow some way, it’s just a matter of time.
4:48pm – This year the league introduced a new ‘Franchise Four Greatest Legends’ segment and it was actually really awesome. It’s basically a video paying tribute to the four best players on every team throughout MLB history. Some stuff I noticed included Nolan Ryan on three of the teams (Astros, Rangers, Angels) as well as not a lot of love for steroid guys. No McGwire, Sosa, or Clemens anywhere and even when Bonds was mentioned for the Giants it felt like it was forced. I think it may also spark some Hall of Fame discussion, because some of these supposed greatest legends – most notably Tim Raines for Montreal/Washington – have yet to be inducted. But hey, that’s for another day.
4:56pm – They finished with the (hometown) Cincinnati Reds and had Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Barry Larkin, and of course, Pete Rose all come to the middle of the field. Rose – who came out last – received an 80 second standing ovation, which despite what you may think, was cool to watch considering it may be the last one he ever gets.
5:01pm – After the old timers introduction, its time for the young guns. Going down the line I’m seeing a lot of new faces, 33 in fact. Kelvin Herrera is rocking a Dominican flag arm sleeve and I can’t say I’ve ever seen that before; respect. Holy crap Dellen Betances is tall standing next to both Stephen Vogt and Sonny Gray. I felt like I was watching Dolph Lundgren standing side-by-side with Jet Li in ‘The Expendables.’ AJ Burnett wins ‘the most likely to look the same in 20 years award,’ I mean seriously, does this guys age at all? It seems like the only way you can tell his age (38) is by counting how many more tattoos he’s gotten.
5:06pm – Jacob deGrom snags ‘the legendary flow award’ while Yadier Molina takes home ‘the best response to being booed by everyone award.’ Sorry Ryan Braun, you might’ve had a chance at that except you just sat there looking like the three kids that get pulled over in the opening scene of Super Troopers. Joe Buck tries to get back on the board by announcing Matt Holliday as the man with the best smile. Crickets. His Cardinal teammate Carlos Martinez did something to his hair not many do when going on national TV, holy Soul Glo.
5:13 – Ciara performed The National Anthem and I’m pretty sure she’s the first to ever do it in chucks. She pulled it off too. Man, Russell Wilson I got no idea how you’re going to do the whole celibacy thing, but my two cents, have the wedding next week. Also, she has an outstanding voice, so I don’t understand the back-up singers. Maybe it’s just an R&B thing.
5:19 – Next, the honoring of the four greatest living players: Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax, and Willie Mays. By the way, if you haven’t seen the selfie Barry Bonds snuck with his sleeping godfather, it’s gold. Koufax threw out the first pitch to Bench, which would’ve been a real sentimental moment if not for Joe Buck ruining it – a recurring theme if you haven’t caught on yet – by asking over the PA if Bench was going catch it bare handed, then yelling at Koufax to throw him a curveball.
5:32pm – First pitch is strike one, a good start.
5:34pm – Fourth pitch, so much for that. Mike Trout goes oppo taco of Zack Greinke. Not only was that the first leadoff home run at an All-Star Game since Bo Jackson in ’89, but that completed the ‘leadoff cycle’ for Trout with his past four first at-bats of the AGS being a single, double, triple, and now, a dinger. It was also the first run Greinke’s allowed since June 18th. It’s official; Mike Trout is the white Bo Jackson. And damn man, he’s got the neck for it too. The only other guy I’ve seen with a more defined collar is Takeo Spikes, seriously.
AL leads 1-0
5:42pm – Lorenzo Cain’s walk up song is Fetty Wap, which is fitting considering his first at-bat looked like he was swinging with one eye closed to end the first. The NL’s first AB’s were pretty ugly too. Seems like Todd Frazier used up all his magic last night. Quick note: I mentioned deGrom’s flow before the game and if he has the best hair (suck it Harper), then Dallas Keuchel has take home ‘the best beard award,’ its not even close.
5:50pm – In his second inning out there, I’m just now noticing how Zack Greinke grunts like Maria Sharapova every time he throws. Seems to be a slight resemblance as well. Bottom two, the NL gets on the board from a Johnny “the fattest shortstop ever to play” Peralta duck snort down the right field line. Also thought I heard him snorting as he ran down the line.
All tied 1-1
6:13pm – At this point, the game takes a break to celebrate the ‘Franchise Four of the Negro Leagues’ in the form of Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck O’Neil, Cool Papa Bell (unfortunately they are no longer with us). It’s ironic because I actually did a middle school project on these four guys (along with others) so I felt like I could really understand and appreciate their achievements in the game. My favorite of the four was Cool Papa Bell – besides the name – because of the amazing stories about him. In Ken Burns’ Baseball, Bell was described as being so fast that he once scored from first on a sacrifice bunt. His fellow legend Paige liked to say that Bell was so fast he could turn off the light and be under the covers before the room got dark. Apparently, he also stole home … from second, twice. Dope stuff.
6:17pm – The Ernie Johnson looking, bowtie-wearing Ken Rosenthal is interviewing Dallas Keuchel. Apparently, Keuchel was an Apparel Studies major while he was attending Arkansas Univeristy, wow. My dad said he should team up with Harper to start a hair and clothing line. Ba dum tssshhh.
6:30 – Damnit, Bumgarner’s coming in. It was inevitable. Well, since the first SF Giant (not named Posey) was sent to the field, I guess it’s about that time to send the first beer to my liver. I don’t discriminate, but for a baseball game, you can’t get much better than a cool Lagunitas Czech stye pilser. Also, first Rusty Kuntz mention by Harold Reynolds followed by an awkward silence. Sexual innuendos on national broadcasts are always a cheap laugh.
6:50pm – Kershaw comes in and gives up the lead. Granted he should’ve been out of the inning after the blatant missed strike three call on Pujols, but it just continues to prove he’s the Peyton Manning of baseball. In any type of big game, I’d rather have Air Bud. I’ve also noticed Verducci literally only talks when he can fit a statistic in there, which so far has been pretty annoying. It’s a real shame too since he’s a great personality on the MLB Network. Maybe Joe Buck just brings out the worst in people.
3-1 AL leads
7:15pm – My main man Stephen Vogt comes in and strikes out on three pitches for another solid Oakland A’s All-Star showing. Unfortunately he faced deGrom who went through that sixth inning like a hot knife through butter. K’d 3, 10 pitches on 9 strikes. It was like watching that one pitcher in little league who clearly should not be allowed to throw because for any kid to have a prayer they need to start their swing before he finishes releasing the ball.
7:20pm – Andrew McCutchen leads of the bottom of the sixth with an upper deck blast, God I miss his dreads. K-Rod comes in and he still has the identical motion he did 12 years, although he did pack on about 50 lbs. since then. He wins the ‘fattest chaw award.’ Also, Trout finally gets replaced, but by pinch runner Brock Holt?! Who the hell is this guy?!
3-2 AL leads
7:41pm – In Rosenthal’s second ‘riveting’ interview of the night, Adam Jones says Mike Trout is the “White Bo Jackson.” Hey wait, that’s what I said! Next pitch Machado doubles to right center and Reynolds drops the first “look at the flicka da wrist” of the night. So far Harold has one sexual innuendo and one Chedda Da Connect reference, not his best night. Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s big Prince again with a sacrifice fly.
5-2 AL leads
7:52pm – Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik are due up, which means I’ll head to the bathroom for the next 12 minutes. If Andre the Giant’s twin brother Betances doesn’t mow these two down, I’ll be seriously disappointed. When any kind of orange & black is spotted, I feel like I’m about to watch a Lord of the Rings scene with the Elf chick Arwyn, which of course is the time when every guy in attendance immediately sprints to the nearest urinal.
8:26 – Right after the feel-good story Brian Dozier goes deep, I have to go to a quick intermission in the form of chicken ravioli. I come back just in time to see Aroldis Chapman dosing Mike Moustakas at 103mph and Mark Teixeira at 102mph … The ravioli, $5. The Lagunitas, $2.50. The look on Teixeira’s face while he walks back to the dugout, priceless.
6-3 AL leads
8:31pm – The NL gets their final run when Ryan Braun scores after leading off the ninth with a triple. Man, he really turned on the juice right there. Ba dum tssshhh. Trout picked up his second MVP in two years, although this year, “Imma have to go with the truck” he said. Solid choice after he took home the corvette last year. Tough life.
6-3 AL Wins.
‘Twas a solid game this year and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nothing like watching the best in the game get after it and actually compete for a full nine innings. The Midsummer Classic is always a good time.
The final vote is upon us ladies and gentleman. It’s another opportunity for the fans to decide a roster spot (fair or unfair) at this year’s All-Star Game. You have five players from both the American League and the National League to choose from, all deserving candidates. The unique aspect I’ve found about this years Final Vote is that the players reflect the strengths of each league. All players selected to the final ballot in the AL are hitters and all but one player for the NL are pitchers. While the NL does have some quality bats, the association with hitting is typically tagged to the AL and vice versa with conversation about the best pitching taking place mostly amongst NL teams. Nonetheless, here are your choices:
Xander Bogaerts | BOS
AVG: .302 HR: 3 RBI: 37 SB: 4 AB: 295
Yoenis Cespedes | DET
AVG: .294 HR: 11 RBI: 45 SB: 3 AB: 320
Brian Dozier | MIN
AVG: .260 HR: 17 RBI: 42 SB: 7 AB: 323
Brett Gardner | NYY
AVG: .297 HR: 9 RBI: 39 SB: 15 AB: 293
Mike Moustakas | KC
AVG: .301 HR: 7 RBI: 31 SB: 1 AB: 289
Johnny Cueto | CIN
W: 5 L: 5 SV: 0 ERA: 2.84 IP: 104.2 K: 100
Jeurys Familia | NYM
W: 2 L: 0 SV: 23 ERA: 1.13 IP: 39.2 K: 41
Clayton Kershaw | LA
W: 5 L: 6 SV: 0 ERA: 3.08 IP: 114.0 K: 147
Carlos Martinez | STL
W: 9 L: 3 SV: 0 ERA: 2.70 IP: 100.0 K: 105
Troy Tulowitzki | COL
AVG: .321 HR: 9 RBI: 44 SB: 0 AB: 274
Now as for my picks, I’m going to stray away from the typical stat-by-stat comparison and rationalize myself through a different perspective. Since each All-Star roster is extremely stacked and have essentially an equal amount of talent, I believe the final spot on the roster should be seen as an opportunity for the fans to vote for the player most likely to give their team an advantage. While the likeliness of these two ‘last guys on the bench’ actually seeing the field is slim, if they did, they should be able to have a positive impact.
AL: Yoenis Cespedes | DET
You may have to forgive my slight ex-Athletic bias, but the fact of the matter is he’s the best hitter of the group. If you ask me to pick a pinch-hitter off the bench to provide an impact late in what will likely be a tight game, I’m not hesitating to tell ‘Yo’ to go grab a bat. Plus his skills are perfectly fit for an All-Star game because of his ‘wow factor.’ The midsummer classic is supposed to be a spectacle for the public to enjoy and for the last two years, America has been awed by his power in the derby (he did make the team last year as well). However, that shouldn’t be the only area he’s considered to be a ‘contributor,’ because he truly is one of the most complete players in the game.
NL: Jeurys Familia | NYM
This may be a little shocking, but hear me out. If it makes some of you feel better, I was torn between him and Troy Tulowitzki. Side note: I think Tulo should be starting over both Johnny Peralta and Brandon Crawford. However, my vote would go to Familia because he is perfect for this type of game (and I think in an All-Star Game, pitchers ultimately are more responsible for the outcome of the game). Most starting pitchers are not used to warming up for just one-inning of work and as a result, often struggle because they try to overthrow and can’t find a rhythm. Familia – who has been one of the most shutdown closers this season – wouldn’t have that issue and so would be my pick to contribute the most off the bench.
AL: Mike Moustakas | KC
Baseball fans everywhere saw how vicious the ‘Royal Blue Voting Attack’ was for the starters so I would find it hard to imagine them not finding a way to get their guy in. However, I think the guy that will give him a run for his money will be Brian Dozier who got snubbed again this year (last year was worse when he wasn’t even selected to play at his home Target Field). Plus, Dozier has been quietly one of the best hitting second-baseman this season (currently leads the AL in runs scored).
NL: Clayton Kershaw | LA
Kershaw hasn’t been bad this season; in fact by most pitchers standards he’s been very good (most K’s in the MLB). However, last-seasons MVP has his own standard, one that based off of his previous 4 years is un-worldly. At the same time, having an All-Star Game without Kershaw is just wrong. I compare it to this year’s NBA All-Star Game, where Kevin Durant had been hurt and not necessarily playing up to ‘KD’s standards,’ but in the end was justly named an All-Star.
No matter what happens, this years All-Star Game in Cincinnati is shaping up to one of the more exciting ones in recent memories.
We all know the feeling of fixing/cleaning/building something that requires long hours of commitment and preparation. Whether it’s pulling pounds of weeds from your backyard, pulling an all-nighter to finish a project due the next morning, or doing pushups day after day hoping to see a difference. No matter how long the rigorous task took, it always seems like someone would just take one look at the finished product and not give it the attention it deserves. Now they may compliment you, even tell you they’re highly impressed, but deep down you can sense they just don’t quite get it. Then after get a few brief moments of glory, poof, it’s gone.
This has been the A’s ‘modus operandi’ (model of operation) for essentially the past 20 years. Unfortunately, whichever player they’ve seemed to develop right in front of our eyes has eventually found success and stardom elsewhere.
This year’s green and gold commodity: Josh Donaldson.
Yesterday, he was announced as the leading vote getter at the 2015 All-Star Game. 14,090,188 different ballots were sent in favor of Donaldson receiving the starting nod at third base, a record number. This display of national affection has truly marked the rise of the once-snubbed catcher who was converted into a corner infielder. In only his third full season in the bigs, it seems like Donaldson is now blooming in the eyes of the media with his image steadily climbing. And it’s well deserved, this was a supposed bust-of-a First Round Pick who fought and clawed his way into the spotlight before taking his play to another level this season. In his first year with the Blue Jays after the blockbuster offseason deal which brought him over, he’s the leader among third basemen with an .879 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), 62 runs scored and 56 RBI, while co-leading with 19 home runs. He’s also 4th in the AL in WAR (wins above replacement).
It’s something all A’s fans hate bring up: the what-if, why me scenarios. Would Donaldson have been to do this in order to prevent the currently not-so-great A’s season? Especially since this particular trade was so difficult to swallow and honestly made the least sense of the Oakland fire sail.
But we shouldn’t use this as a typical feel-bad situation that has followed the franchise for years. I used to hate seeing former Oakland farmhands such as Nelson Cruz, Andre Ethier, and (the worst of all) Carlos Gonzalez get prematurely traded and flourish as All-Stars with other clubs. However, the fans never really got to see those three players for an extended period of time, making the relationship easier to forget about.
With Donaldson it’s different.
This was a guy whose ascendance came exclusively in the confines of O.Co Coliseum. His stellar defense and majestic swing exponentially improved hand-in-hand, all in front of our eyes. In just the span of one year, he went from being Brandon Inge’s back up to an MVP candidate; the season after solidifying himself as the best third baseman in the game. And then just like that, he was gone.
But it doesn’t mean we can’t still appreciate what he’s doing now. In a season where the A’s haven’t picked up as many W’s as hoped for, Donaldson’s performance this season should be celebrated as a victory, not an ignored as a defeat. While the many memories he makes in Toronto will always constantly remind Oakland fans about the fantastic ones he made in the Bay Area, our reaction should be nostalgic.
We all know it wasn’t his fault he got traded, but seeing him have success isn’t a reason to feel poorly towards our franchise. Instead, focus on appreciating the times we got to see him play every day because those were the days representing the hard work. 158 games, two years in a row, Donaldson gave his all on the left side of the infield. Now he’s gone and you can’t alter history, but don’t let your final memory of him be the one where he changed jerseys.
Because that’s how too many A’s are remembered…
And I think that’s what needs to change.