One position player on each league's All-Star roster didn't get to play in tonight's 78th All-Star Game. And I'm pretty miffed about both players getting snubbed.
American League manager Jim Leyland played starter Derek Jeter at shortstop for the first four innings of the game, and substituted in his own player, Carlos Guillen, for Jeter during the 5th inning. Fine, no problems there.
Fast forward to the top of the 9th: Guillen, who has already played four innings, is supposed to lead off. Trevor Hoffman is coming in to pitch. Seeing as how Jeter and Guillen have already gotten a nice share of playing time on the night, it would logically make sense to let Michael Young, the 2006 All-Star Game MVP, have a chance to play, right? And remember, Young won that MVP award with a pinch hit, game-winning RBI triple off Hoffman in the 9th inning last year. You'd think he'd deserved a shot, right?
Apparently, Jim Leyland didn't think so. He left Guillen in to bat, who promptly grounded out, and then left Guillen in the field for the bottom of the 9th inning.
You know, I like Jim Leyland. I wanted the Rangers to hire him after the 2005 season in place of Buck Showalter. But that doesn't mean I can't criticize his managerial decisions.
And I think leaving Michael Young on the bench, especially under these circumstances, was a really sorry thing to do.
It would have been one thing if the game had been tied, and Leyland was thinking that he might need Young as a pinch hitter in extra innings, or perhaps as a defensive replacement. But the National League was trailing 5-2 at the time, and it appeared as though the AL had the game all but wrapped up, so I'm not buying into this excuse.
And if the circumstances hadn't been lined up so perfectly for Young to get an opportunity to play, I probably wouldn't be quite as upset. But Guillen had already played nearly half the game, and it would have been really nice to have just let Young get one at-bat, considering what he did for the AL in last year's All-Star game.
I might ordinarily feel like I'm blowing this whole thing out of proportion; after all, it's only a glorified exhibition game. But Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News appears to be even more frustrated than I am with Leyland's refusal to play Young:
At least AL manager Jim Leyland didn't let Michael Young have a shot at becoming the first repeat All-Star MVP in history. The award ended up in the hands of Ichiro Suzuki, whose inside-the-park homer turned the eventual 5-4 win in the AL's favor.
No reigning All-Star MVP should be treated the way Young was.
That last line pretty much sums up my feelings on the whole situation. Shame on you, Jim Leyland.
The other notable snub from tonight's All-Star Game was Albert Pujols, and I have a feeling you're going to be hearing a lot more about this over the next few days.
With two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, Dmitri Young singled and Alfonso Soriano homered, cutting the AL's lead to 5-4. J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez combined to walk the bases loaded, leaving a fairly obvious opportunity for National League manager Tony La Russa to pinch hit Albert Pujols in place of Aaron Rowand, and perhaps deliver the NL their first All-Star win in 10 years.
Instead, La Russa let Rowand bat, who harmlessly flied out to right field to end the game.
Let's be clear about one thing here: this was complete and utter stupidity on La Russa's part. But hey, let's be fair here and let Tony have a chance to explain why he left the best player in baseball on the bench during the most critical at-bat of the entire game:
La Russa explained that he held Pujols out in case he needed a player to fill in should the game have gone more than nine innings.
Oh, ok. So he doesn't really have an explanation. First of all, in a one run game, a base hit to the outfield probably wins it, so barring a walk, HBP, error or some bizarre infield hit, the game was either going to be won or lost on that final at-bat. In other words, that final at-bat was much more likely to decide the final outcome of the game than it was to tie it.
Of course, now Pujols is angry at LaRussa for leaving him on the bench:
"It's the All-Star game. He can do what he wants," Pujols said Tuesday night. "He does whatever he wants. If I wasn't expecting to play, I wouldn't have come up here."
And La Russa has fired back:
"If he wants to get upset, he can get upset," La Russa said. "Whatever he wants to do, he can do. It's America. That wasn't the most important thing tonight."
So not only did Tony fail to give his team the best chance to win tonight and tick off his star player, but he cheated the game of baseball and its fans with that ending. Heck, I was rooting for the AL, and even I feel cheated.
You're an idiot, Tony La Russa. A complete joke. And that isn't based solely off of what happened tonight, either.
Some other assorted (non) highlights of the evening:
- FOX's mind-numbingly long and pointless pre-game show. The Willie Mays tribute was pretty cool, but the pink Cadillac bit was really over the top.
- The "Taco Bell Swing For A Million" batting contest, where a contestant named John Groff got 30 seconds to hit three balls off a tee. Hitting the ball 230 feet would have won $100,000, 255 feet $250,000, and 280 feet $1,000,000.
His first swing barely knocked the ball off the tee, his second swing carried just past the pitcher's mound, and his third swing fell well short of the 230' marker. Not only was he loudly booed by the crowd, but FOX didn't even acknowledge that the segment happened, with the ditzy Jeanne Zelasko immediately cutting to a skit involving the Simpsons. What a trainwreck.
- Cal Ripken's very awkward reading of the AL starting lineup. Either he was having trouble with the teleprompter, or he had been having a bit too much fun at the ballpark pub before going on the air.
- The botched National Anthem.
- Eric Byrnes and his bulldog in a kayak out in McCovey Cove. Heck, that was probably the best part of the whole broadcast.
- Tim McCarver's typically useless commentary.
Oh well. At least the game didn't end in a tie.