Brian Fuentes (right) didn’t need his spiky-haired sidekick to mow down the AL in the All-Star game.
I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I like the new All-Star game format. Whether it’s because of this whole ‘this time it counts’ crap or whether it’s in spite of it, the last three All-Star games have been among the most exciting I have ever seen.
And that can’t be a coincidence.
Do I agree with the whole home field advantage in the World Series for the winner thing? No way. But the end result — games that truly do qualify as mid-season classics — seems to justify the means.
Tuesday night’s game was truly phenomenal — baseball the way it was meant to be played. From dominating pitching (Brad Penny was searing; Brian Fuentes made those lefties — especially Ichiro Suzuki — look just sick; and short of David Wright’s solo blast, the entire AL staff looked untouchable, and they didn’t even need to employ Jonathan Papelbon, who has been touched by no one all season long) to power displays (Vladimir Guerrero going oppo on a 98 mph heater at his eyes; and can this kid Wright crush the ball or what?) to serious reach-down clutch performances (how about Paul Konerko, Troy Glaus and, of course, Michael Young all coming through with two outs and the game in the hands of one of the best closers in history?).
Wow. Me likey. I think even my wife was ready to explode, even though her true love (Nomar Garciaparra) didn’t make an appearance.
An interesting observation from this game was to see what a difference a year makes. At least for the Orioles it does.
Last season, the O’s were enjoying a renaissance. They entered the break playing .540 ball, good for second place in the AL East, just a couple games back of front runner Boston. Baltimore’s double-play combo — shortstop Miguel Tejada and second sacker Brian Roberts — were both voted in as starters. The club also sent third baseman Melvin Mora and closer B.J. Ryan to the game. Tejada turned in an All-Star MVP effort. And life was good for O’s fans.
Flash forward a year. The Orioles are now 41-49 (.456), mired in fourth place in the East, a ridiculous 14 games off the pace of the Red Sox. Roberts and Mora were not invited back to the party. Ryan grabbed the cash the Jays showed him and left town, and then rubbed salt in the wound by returning to the All-Star game this year even more dominant. That left just Tejada as the only encore performer in 2006. But he wasn’t voted in and, as a reserve behind Derek Jeter, Tejada didn’t enter the game until the sixth inning, playing flawlessly in the field, but going hitless with a cheesy comebacker in his only at-bat.
Even in this year’s Home Run Derby, an event which Tejada won in 2004, he turned in a lacklustre performance, managing just three jacks and not making it past the first round.
It is just me, or have the Orioles gone completely south since Rafael Palmeiro tested positive?
One year ago, the future looked very bright in Baltimore. Now, not so much.