Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ichiro Shines As Pujols Sits

All-Star Edition There isn't much the National League can do about losing every year to the American League in the mid-summer classic, though possibly getting your best hitter to the plate in a critical late-inning situation might help. While the AL won for the 10th consecutive time (not including the ridiculous tie in 2002), the Nationals put up a good fight, almost until the end. After Alfonso Soriano got the NL within a run at 5-4 with a 2-run homer in the 9th, the Francisco Rodriguez had walked the bases loaded with 2 outs as Aaron Rowand stepped into the batter's box. Not to knock Rowand; he's a decent player with good numbers, but manager Tony La Russa had Albert Pujols (right) sitting on the bench. Bases loaded. Rowand at the plate. Pujols on the bench. It didn't add up. It still doesn't add up, and it will never make sense. La Russa's refusal to insert arguably the best hitter in the National League deserves to be immortalized in the annals of the game as one of the most obvious coaching blunders of all time. Rowand, after looking at a perfect rght-down-the-middle-please-hit-me fastball from Rodriguez, Rowand swung at a high, outside pitch and lofted it to right field. End of game. Over. Fat lady singing. Following the game, La Russa explained that he was saving Pujols for extra innings, convinced (apparently) that Rowand would tie the game. He was wrong. For his part, Pujols was pissed, being one of just two position players not to get into the game. The fans were significantly short-changed, and the National League limped away - as they always seem to do - with another loss. Ichiro Suzuki (right) was named MVP for his 3-3 performance, which included the first ever All-Star game inside-the-park home run, in the 5th inning with Brian Roberts aboard. The stunning blow off the right field wall gave the AL a lead which they would not relinquish, at 2-1. Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford added a solo shot in the 6th and Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez coaxed out a 2-run job in the 8th. Ken Griffey Jr. was the star for the NL, with a single in the first inning which plated speedy Jose Reyes (who had stolen second) and a sac fly in the 6th to get Carlos Beltran home from 3rd. All told, it was an exciting game that was ultimately tarnished by some horrible coaching by a manager who once graced the cover of Sports Illustrated emblazoned with the words, "The Mastermind" (shown at left with my new, improved version at right). Maybe, now that La Russa has demonstrated his puerile fallibilities, SI can give him a cover shot with the headline, "Never Mind."

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