As always, the best news that came out of this year's All-Star Game, a 6-3 American League win, was that no one was injured in the making of "This Time It Counts."
You all know how I feel about "This Time It Counts," and I'm pretty sure most of you feel the same way. Vote in the poll at the bottom of this post.
Nevertheless, the game had its entertaining moments, including three home runs. Mike Trout's first-inning blast off Zack Greinke was the first leadoff home run in an All-Star Game since Bo Jackson off Rick Reuschel in 1989, and the first one in the top of the first inning since 1977, when Joe Morgan led off the game at old Yankee Stadium with a homer off Jim Palmer.
Morgan, in fact, was a reminder of the passage of time when he came onto the field during pregame ceremonies honoring the Reds' "Franchise Four" walking with a cane. Think what you want about Morgan as a broadcaster, but he was a genuinely great player who was exciting to watch. His 689 career stolen bases rank 11th all-time. But he will be 72 in a couple of months. Tempus fugit, indeed.
In fact, the pregame ceremonies were one of the more interesting things about the game. The "Franchise Four" for every team, results of fan voting earlier this year, were announced. The Cubs' four of Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Ryne Sandberg can't really be quibbled with, though I could have seen one of the stars of the Cubs' early-1900s World Series teams included. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan was named to the Franchise Four of three teams, the Astros, Rangers and Angels.
The introductions of this year's players were even more interesting, in a way. You think Reds fans hate the Cubs? They politely applauded Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, but loudly booed every single player associated with the Cardinals, even Albert Pujols, who hasn't been a Cardinal in four years. There's bad blood between those teams, who have had more than one bench-clearing incident over the last few years.
For Rizzo and Bryant, the game was mostly an anticlimax. Rizzo grounded out and flied out in his two at-bats as DH, and Bryant walked and flied out in two plate appearances, and also played left field, which was a bit of a surprise.
Fox-TV spent quite a bit of time promoting Bryant, Trout, Bryce Harper, Jacob deGrom and other All-Stars who are under 25, figuring one of them will likely become the new "face" of baseball. I'd bet on Trout or Harper, who are already established stars. But it did seem as if there were a transition between generations in this game, which featured more players under 25 than any All-Star Game in recent memory. That can't help but be good for the game.
You'll notice I haven't said much about the game. Dodgers pitchers Greinke and Clayton Kershaw gave up half the A.L. runs and Trout scored two of them, giving the game a bit of a SoCal feel, but the A.L. put it away against N.L. Central pitchers Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Melancon in the seventh and eighth. The crowd reserved one final boo for Ryan Braun, who likely won't ever be cheered anywhere outside Milwaukee the rest of his career. Braun tripled leading off the ninth and scored a consolation run for the N.L.
So the A.L. champion will get to play Game 7 of the World Series at home, if it gets that far. Eventually, perhaps MLB moguls will figure out that they can make a compelling and exciting All-Star week without this contrived "meaning" to the game.
The Cubs will resume their season in Atlanta on Friday. The second half of the Cubs' season is meaningful for the first time in several years. Before it begins, I'm heading to Lansing, Michigan to see the South Bend Cubs play starting tonight, so I'll have recaps of each of their three games right here.