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Joey Votto and Justin Verlander squared off on Tuesday night, and it reminded us why the All-Star Game can be interesting for a few seconds, at least.
The Nielsen ratings for the 2012 All-Star Game should be underwhelming. Here's a reminder why that (still) doesn't matter.
Justin Verlander was rocked early and often while starting Tuesday's All-Star game, giving up five runs off four hits and two walks. His unexpected implosion wasn't the sole reason the American League lost -- the lineup failed to score a single run, to state the obvious -- but it certainly set the tone for disappointment.
So, what happened? Why did one of the game's most consistent pitchers suddenly fall to pieces? As he explained after the game, he's not used to exerting maximum effort from the opening pitch.
"That's why I don't try to throw 100 (mph) in the first inning, but this is for the fans," he said. "It doesn't usually work out too well for me.''
Verlander usually opens games throwing in the low to mid-90s before dialing up his velocity, often into the triple-digits, as the game progresses. But letting loose early disrupted his rhythm, and he was never able to get into a groove.
Even though the loss gives the National League home-field advantage in the World Series, Verlander doesn't regret trying to put on a show.
"I know this game means something and you don't want to give up runs, but we're here for the fans," he said. "I know the fans don't want to see me throw 90 and try to hit the corners."
The fans weren't the only ones in awe. Even though Verlander didn't get the results he wanted, his American League teammates were still impressed.
"Hitting 100 in the first inning? Normally you see the guy throw 93, 94 in the first and then hit 100 in the eighth. We saw him hit 101," Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said. "The funniest part was [Prince] Fielder said to him, `Hit 101' and the next pitch he hit 101. Is it that easy?"
The San Francisco Giants are hot on the trail of the Los Angeles Dodgers, just a half of a game behind them in the National League West standings. Should the team make the playoffs and reach the World Series, Melky Cabrera will certainly be in line for more accolades, having secured home-field advantage for the National League with his MVP performance in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game.
After the game, Cabrera talked about what it would mean if his team wound up on baseball's biggest stage. He was being modest:
It would be great, but I just have to keep focused and just keep doing the same thing that I've done in the first half, keep doing it in the second half and hopefully I can help my team make it to the playoffs.
When asked about how he felt about his return to Kansas City, where he played his 2011 season, Cabrera said, "Again, I'm just very thankful for the fans that voted for me to come here." Even after being traded following a good season, Cabrera's main concern is to just play baseball wherever he is given the opportunity.
Cabrera is hitting .353/.391/.519 with eight home runs and 44 RBI at the break.
To relive the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, stick with our StoryStream.
Prior to 2012, the last time Kansas City hosted the All-Star Game was 1973, when Kauffman Stadium was known as Royals Stadium. The MVP of that game was Bobby Bonds, who played for the San Francisco Giants.
In 2012, the All-Star Game returned to Kansas City, and Melky Cabrera was named as the game's Most Valuable Player. He is the first Giant to win the award since Bonds in 1973. That is the other Bonds, not Barry Bonds, because, 1973, obviously.
Cabrera came through with the game's first hit, a single off Justin Verlander with one out in the top of the first. He subsequently scored on Ryan Braun's double. Later, in the fourth inning, Cabrera batted against Matt Harrison with a runner on and launched a two-run homer. That made the game 8-0, so Cabrera's dinger was hardly clutch, but it's Cabrera who finishes with the sexiest digits in the box score.
Given that Billy Butler didn't do anything and that the AL lost by eight, Cabrera also made for a crowd-pleasing MVP selection, as he previously played for the Royals and those fans love most players who have worn the uniform.
Cabrera was awarded with a sweet car for winning. Based on salary, Cabrera earns about $37,000 per team game played. Today's athletes are so spoiled. We are the 99 percent!
The 83rd All-Star Game wasn't much of a game, as the National League rocked Justin Verlander for five runs in the first inning and cruised to an 8-0 victory.
During and after Monday night's Home Run Derby, the one big story was the reception Robinson Cano was given by the partisan Kansas City crowd after leaving Billy Butler off of his Derby team. Cano, of course, was booed when he was introduced, and cheered when he failed to hit a single dinger. An airplane dragged a banner above the stadium supporting Butler and saying that Cano got it wrong.
So these Kansas City fans kind of like Billy Butler. And Tuesday, they got a chance to show it a little less mean-spiritedly. Butler drew, by far, the loudest pregame ovation when he was introduced. And when he stepped up to bat in the bottom of the seventh, you could've heard the roar from somewhere east of Kansas City to somewhere west of Kansas City.
Butler grounded out on six pitches. Who knows if we'll see him bat again? But he grounded out sharply, and after he finished jogging to first and turned to jog back to the dugout, he received yet another rousing ovation. These Royals fans are mighty supportive of their own. Which is kind of the whole thing with their treatment of Cano -- it wasn't about hating Cano. It was about supporting Billy Butler, who's apparently even more of a fan favorite than you might have known.
Butler owns the fourth-highest batting average in Royals franchise history, among qualified players. He's ninth in slugging and eighth in OPS. Sixth in OPS+. One point ahead of Mike Sweeney. Suck it, Mike Sweeney.
Mets fans were understandably upset that R.A. Dickey didn't get to start the All-Star Game. To make matters worse, he wasn't going to get in the game in the third or fourth innings, either, because either a) Buster Posey is a delicate flower who shan't catch knuckleballs, or b) a real American who knows that knuckleballs are a part of a Bolshevik plot.
But Dickey did get into the game, coming into the sixth inning. Now if there's a list of players the baseball-loving world was excited to see, Dickey is at the top. But Mike Trout might be at the top, and when he came into the game, he showed why:
I'm not sure if that was the second knuckleball Mike Trout has ever seen in his life ... but it could have been. How many opportunities to players get to see a knuckler in high school or the minors? I'd put the over/under on knucklers seen by Trout at five.
After striking out Mark Trumbo, Dickey hit Paul Konerko. He got out of the jam, though, by getting Miguel Cabrera to hit into a double play. Dickey leaves unscathed, and we got to watch Mike Trout. Win/win.
You want to see something nobody has seen before tonight? I mean, aside from Justin Verlander giving up nine runs in the first inning?
Yes, Mike Trout steals bases all the time. He's funny like that. But Dickey, you might be surprised to learn, hardly ever gives up stolen bases.
Hardly ever? Never. This season he'd pitched 120 innings without allowing a single stole base -- 0 SB, 2 CS.
Which is weird, because Dickey's a knuckleball pitcher. Just another one of the rules that don't apply to him, it seems.
Bryce Harper wasn't voted into the All-Star Game, nor was he immediately selected as a reserve, but he became a reserve after some players in front of him became unavailable. Bryce Harper is already an All-Star, technically and truthfully. He played and reached base. A thing happened, and there was a tweet about it.
Who knows how much truth there is to that? There's presumably not zero truth to it, because Fielder wouldn't have a reason to lie. Bryce Harper -- a not-even-in-the-majors-yet Bryce Harper -- was one of the reasons Fielder almost signed with the Washington Nationals as a free agent. Doesn't that seem crazy? That seems crazy!
Bryce Harper, all 19 years of him, made his debut as an All-Star in the top of the fifth inning, and walked. Buster Posey followed with a fly ball to left field.
Except Bryce Harper isn't a ho-hum sort of baseball player. He hasn't learned to ho-hum yet. So when Josh Hamilton squeezed Posey's fly ball for an out, Harper lit out for second base, and he made it too.
The next batter hit a grounder to the the pitcher, and Harper got caught in a rundown. This doesn't work in the major leagues as well as in high school, and Harper got tagged out.
In the bottom of the inning, Harper trotted out to left field. With David Ortiz on first base, Mike Napoli lifted a routine fly ball to routine left field. Harper trotted in for the catch, stopped still ... and probably heard the ball hit the ground, 10 feet behind him. He'd lost it completely in the lights.
R.A. Dickey is a pitcher on the National League All-Star team, and his calling card is throwing a ton of knuckleballs. You've probably heard about that, although if you haven't, wow, I bet your mind just got blown. Knuckleballs are super difficult for catchers to catch, and R.A. Dickey's catcher isn't a National League All-Star, so Dickey brought along his own catcher's glove for All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz to use when he's catching him today.
A glove comparison:
The glove on the left side of the photo is a normal catcher's glove, constructed in the normal way from the normal source. The glove on the right side of the photo consists of 98 percent of the skin of a mammoth scientifically bred and nurtured for the very purpose of being slaughtered upon adulthood and turned into a baseball glove to catch knuckleballs.
If you don't know Neil deGrasse Tyson, this is as good a place to start as any. He's a professional smart guy. How smart? Take the smartest person you know, then duct-tape him to the second-smartest guy you know. He's even smarter.
And apparently, he's watching the All-Star Game. He's on fire:
You can play baseball on the airless Moon, but only if you find a way not to suffocate & if you don't care about curve balls.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 11, 2012
In the 1960s, when we still dreamed, we named a dome, a baseball team, and even the artificial turf they played on "Astro"— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 10, 2012
If baseball reported averages to 4 decimal places instead of 3, then a three-hundred hitter would be batting "three thousand"— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 11, 2012
Does it disturb anyone else that "The Los Angeles Angels" baseball team translates directly to "The The Angels Angels"?— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 11, 2012
Slowest pitch in Baseball to reach catcher? 30 mph, thrown at 45-deg angle. Any slower and at any other angle hits the ground— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) July 11, 2012
On fire. Nerd worlds colliding is the best.
There was a whole lot of action in the top of the first inning, and then a whole lot of nothing going on. After half of an inning it was 5-0 National League, and after three full innings it was 5-0 National League. Nine consecutive American League batters had been retired. National League batters had been retired too although I can't care enough to look up how and in what order.
Matt Harrison came on to pitch the top of the fourth for the AL, and in introducing him Joe Buck and Tim McCarver talked about how Harrison had been "unhittable" for the past two months. He immediately surrendered two well-hit flies that turned into outs. Then the damage started. Rafael Furcal tripled, Matt Holliday singled, Melky Cabrera homered, and Ryan Braun tripled. Another Mike Maddux mound conference helped Harrison to record the final out, but holy shit you guys it's already 8-0. The NL hadn't scored eight runs since 1998. It hasn't scored more than eight runs since 1969. The All-Star Game usually doesn't have this many runs.
The NL's already up to three triples, and the current MVP favorites might be Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval's got a three-run triple, and Cabrera has a single and a two-run dinger. Previous All-Star Game MVPs include a number of very talented baseball players past and present, so that makes for good company.
Matt Harrison pitched the fourth inning in an All-Star Game. Here's this .gif of somebody for some reason.
I think we can all agree now that Justin Verlander is something of a mirage. Was never really that talented. His career All-Star Game ERA is now tied with Van Mungo. This is the second Van Mungo reference on Baseball Nation today, which is why you come here. And now that we know Justin Verlander isn't that good, we can just move on.
But Joe Nathan is really talented, and it's easy to forget that. Mariano Rivera (rightfully) gets all of the press, but Nathan's been one of the best closers of his generation. When he got hurt, it seemed like people figured out he was done for. Maybe he'd have a decent comeback for a while, but the old Nathan was surely gone. He was pretty bad last year, remember.
Nope. Even better. And he retired the National League in order in the second inning, with a little help from Jose Bautista:
And apropos of nothing, here are Joe Buck and Tim McCarver arguing like an old married couple:
I’m not sure what the fans would most like to see: a) the home-team American League winning the All-Star Game, or b) Robinson Canó looking bad.
Monday night, of course, the fans in Kansas City were all over Robinson Canó during the Home Run Derby, because Canó, as American League captain, chose Mark Trumbo instead of (among others) Billy Butler.
Now, this was hardly Canó’s fault, as precedent suggests that the captain choose the sluggers who have the best chance of, you know, hitting home runs. And Billy Butler hasn’t exactly established himself as premier power hitter.
But when Canó’s name was announced, the fans booed. When he made outs during the Derby, the fans cheered. And then it became a thing. Talk about your tempest in a teapot.
The fans booed Canó when he came up in the bottom of the first inning tonight, though perhaps not as lustily as last night. At one point during his at-bat, chants of Bill-y But-ler broke out. And when Canó made an out, the fans cheered. Apparently they’re not real concerned about Game 7 of the 2012 World Series.
Justin Verlander was named the starting pitcher for the American League in Tuesday's 2012 All-Star Game. Whenever Justin Verlander gets a start for the Tigers, people think he might throw a perfect game or a no-hitter until the bid gets broken up. Tuesday, the bid was broken up by the second batter.
Carlos Gonzalez led off and struck out swinging because the Rockies get no-hit every time they play a game on the road. But then Melky Cabrera stepped up and lined a single on a first-pitch fastball at 98 miles per hour.
And that wasn't it! That wasn't even close to being it. Ryan Braun followed with an opposite-field double that scored Cabrera, as Jose Bautista had trouble tracking the ball in the sun. After Joey Votto struck out watching an 81 mile-per-hour curve that followed a triple-digit fastball, Carlos Beltran and Buster Posey drew consecutive walks. A Mike Maddux mound conference did nothing to settle Verlander down. Pablo Sandoval subsequently cleared the bases when he pulled a low curve for a triple, and then Sandoval scored on an infield single by Dan Uggla. Uggla hit the ball to Derek Jeter's right, and Jeter attempted his trademark jump-throw, but the throw was bad and Prince Fielder is bad at handling bad throws and Uggla was safe and Sandoval was safe.
5-0 National League. The inning finally ended, but the NL batted around and the AL hasn't even seen the batter's box. Previously in Verlander's All-Star Game experience, he allowed one run over two innings, which is completely meaningless.
For what it's worth, you know how in the NHL All-Star Game nobody plays defense, and how in the Pro Bowl nobody plays defense? I wouldn't say the MLB All-Stars go at 100 percent, but Verlander threw a number of fastballs that clocked in at or above 100 miles per hour. These guys aren't not trying.
The story of the All-Star Game to this point has been boos. Robinson Cano was booed because of that thing he did over there or whatever, and people were upset. The people of Kansas City are clearly subhuman pig-men, so it makes sense to look at who got booed and who got cheered during the pre-game introductions.
Some of the biggest cheers of the pre-game ceremony went to Chipper Jones, who was the first player introduced. Huge, we'll-miss-you cheers! The next player introduced was Michael Bourn, and it was as if everyone choked on a Ricola at the same time. It was the loudest quiet indifference in baseball history over the last hour.
But for the most part, Royals fans were very nice. R.A. Dickey, Andrew McCutchen, and Bryce Harper got the loudest cheers of any of the non-Missouri players. Remember when Harper was booed by Dodgers fans in his debut. Everyone likes him now. Looks like you'll have to ditch that Bryce Harper parody account you were starting up. No longer relevant.
After those three, Matt Holliday, David Freese, and Lance Lynn got the loudest cheers on the National League side, which highlighted the large St. Louis contingent at the game. And of course, Billy Butler got a huge, raucous ovation for being on the Royals, and Melky Cabrera and Carlos Beltran got big cheers for putting up with the Royals in the past.
Yes, Robinson Cano was booed like crazy. But other than that, do you know who the big villain was? Chris Perez. That's the only other player the Royals fans harangued and lustily booed.
Yu Darvish might have been booed, too, but I think those were a bunch of Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuus.
In conclusion, Kansas City loves everybody except for Chris Perez and Robinson Cano. Oh, and they've never heard of Michael Bourn. Now here's a GIF of the camera panning from tall guy to short guy to tall guy:
Just a quick ranking of tonight's starting position players, ranked 1-18 (with Wins Above Replacement over the last calendar year my initial filter, but adjusting for Disabled List time) with National Leaguers all italicized and stuff.
1. Joey Votto
2. Ryan Braun
3. Josh Hamilton
4. Robinson Cano
5. Jose Bautista
6. Melky Cabrera
7. Adrian Beltre
8. Curtis Granderson
9. Dan Uggla
10. Carlos Beltran
11. Buster Posey
12. Derek Jeter
13. David Ortiz
14. Pablo Sandoval
15. Prince Fielder
16. Carlos Gonzalez
17. Mike Napoli
18. Rafael Furcal
Looks pretty even to me. What was striking, when looking at WAR over the last year, is how many of the best players -- by that particular measure, anyway -- aren't even on the All-Star rosters at all, let alone starting the game. There really are a few guys at the top of the sport -- those top four or five guys, for example -- but once you get past them, there are dozens of great players who bounce around from season, in terms of statistics if not abilities.
Care to guess who's got the fifth-best WAR in the majors over the last calendar year?
Hint: He's a Kansas City Royal.
Answer: Alex Gordon. Granted, his ranking's due largely to a fantastic fielding number, which certainly looks a bit questionable.
Really, the most striking thing to me about the numbers is that Miguel Cabrera's not starting this game and Prince Fielder is, solely because Cabrera moved to third base to accommodate Fielder. But Cabrera goes in that group with Votto and Braun and Hamilton, and Fielder does not.
We've got what you need to know about Tuesday night's broadcast of the All-Star Game, and also some of the stuff you might just want to know.
Where earlier we provided for you the American League starting lineup for the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, now we provide for you the National League starting lineup, because it wouldn't make sense to have one without the other. This NL lineup was built by the voters and arranged by Tony La Russa, who isn't even a manager anymore! I mean, he still manages things on a daily basis, like when he gets up and what he eats, but he doesn't manage baseball. I'm surprised he even remembers how to make a lineup, but maybe he had help. After all, where there are All-Star Game managers, there are All-Star Game bench and base coaches. I bet La Russa had one of them other guys make this.
Carlos Gonzalez, DH
Melky Cabrera, CF
Ryan Braun, LF
Joey Votto, 1B
Carlos Beltran, RF
Buster Posey, C
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Dan Uggla, 2B
Rafael Furcal, SS
Matt Cain, SP
There is just no let-up in that lineup. If this team existed during the regular season it would probably be the best team, especially since it would take a lot of the other teams' best players. That wouldn't be fair! Especially to the Giants. The Giants would be terrible.
It's the day before the 2012 MLB All-Star Game, meaning it's the day we find out all about the respective leagues' starting lineups. I don't think I need to tell you that what follows is absolutely inconsequential, completely insignificant, and if you take issue with anything in here and try to argue about it you are doing it wrong. You are doing sports wrong. This is an All-Star Game. This is a starting lineup for an All-Star Game. This is as newsworthy as somebody's status update that gosh it sure is great to see the family after so many weeks, what a wonderful Saturday on the back patio! Here is the American League starting lineup, as built by the voters and as arranged by Ron Washington.
Derek Jeter, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Josh Hamilton, LF
Jose Bautista, RF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Napoli, C
Curtis Granderson, CF
Justin Verlander, SP
Boy, what an outstanding starting lineup that is, with Curtis Granderson batting all the way down in ninth. It's almost as if this is a starting lineup of All-Stars.
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