Posted: Wednesday July 12, 2006 2:14AM; Updated: Wednesday July 12, 2006 11:37AM
Barry Zito needed only eight pitches to get through his one inning of relief work.
Comments, questions or obviously unfounded criticism? To e-mail Donovan, use the form below.
PITTSBURGH -- Allow me, if you will, to rattle off a few ways in which Tuesday's All-Star extravaganza proved once again that the All-Star Game is -- repeat after me -- an exhibition game and should not be used, by any thinking fan's rationale, to determine which league gets home field advantage in the World Series.
National League manager Phil Garner and American League skipper Ozzie Guillen used 50 players in the game at PNC Park, including 15 pitchers. You don't do that -- you can't do that -- in a real, meaningful baseball game.
The starting pitchers worked themselves into a relative lather, throwing 30 pitches (Detroit's Kenny Rogers) and 36 (the Dodgers' Brad Penny). Relative, I say, because a cool half-dozen pitchers came into the game and didn't raise their pitch counts to 12. Oakland's Barry Zito, who has been known to walk a batter or two, threw eight pitches, notched his three outs and called it a night. By the time the game ended, in a merciful 2:33, he was nowhere in sight.
For a second I thought Mark Redman was getting into the game. Redman doesn't ever pitch in games that mean anything. (With that, I announce a moratorium on Redman cheap shots until ... I don't know, later this week.)
The too-often long-winded commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig, stopped the game before the fifth inning for an awards ceremony. Which, I might point out, doesn't happen in real games, or games that really count. Poor Bronson Arroyo of the Reds was left standing awkwardly on the mound, just watching. He spent more time there than anyone all night. And he threw only 10 pitches.
White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko veered so far out of the baseline going from first to second in the seventh inning that we nearly lost him. Konerko was just being a sportsman, not seeing any need to take out Pittsburgh's Freddy Sanchez on a cinch double play. But Sanchez double-clutched badly, meaning a hard slide there could have broken up the double play. The Americans were down by a run at the time.
The Mets' Carlos Beltran, who actually played the whole game (the only one who did, and the first All-Star to do so since '97), thought about stealing third base on 1-1 pitch with two outs in ninth inning and his team down a run. Luckily for him, Milwaukee's Carlos Lee fouled off the pitch. But a possible third out at third base to end a meaningful game? Eh, he probably had a flight to catch.
After Tuesday, we also now have maybe the most important reason that the All-Star Game shouldn't be tied to the World Series, beyond the fact that it's just an exhibition: The AL always wins. At this rate the NL will never get home field advantage in the Series. Ever.
The American League won its ninth straight All-Star Game -- we will continue to ignore the tie in 2002, if that's OK -- in a dizzying and ultimately entertaining fashion, beating the National League 3-2 with a two-out, two-run comeback in the top of the ninth inning. With it, the AL snags the home field advantage for the World Series -- which, in all honesty, probably doesn't mean a whole lot anyway when the AL keeps sweeping the Series.
Still, the AL won. The thing we'll remember, though, isn't the victory so much, or the link to the Series or the managerial moves or -- please -- the in-game droning by Selig. Instead, a few plays will stick out, plays that make the game entertaining in its own right and make any contrived gimmicks unnecessary.