SweetSpot: 2012 All-Star Game Diary

Admit it: You didn't predict Melky Cabrera would be starting and batting second in the All-Star Game, did you?

And he hits a soft one-out single to left field! That's the last time I make a crack about Melky. Joe Buck just recited a story about Alex Rodriguez calling Cabrera a six-tool player, saying the sixth tool is "he's proven he can play in New York." Is this a bad time to point out that Cabrera never had a season with the Yankees where he was a league-average hitter?

Ryan Braun drills a double over the head of right fielder Jose Bautista to score Cabrera and his orange shoes, bringing up a Justin Verlander-Joey Votto showdown, arguably the game's best pitcher versus the game's best hitter. Votto is working the count even in the All-Star Game. It goes 3-1 and Votto fouls off a 99- and 100-mph fastballs, before Verlander drops in a curve. Votto heads to the dugout. That pitch wasn't fair.

Carlos Beltran works a walk. Verlander is up with his fastballs. They're 100-mph fastballs, but they're still up. If Buster Posey comes through here, American League is in danger of digging a huge hole before it even comes to bat. Reminds of All-Star Games when I was a kid and Jim Palmer would get rocked in the first inning.

Posey walks on four pitches. Bases juiced. Would it be wrong if Tony La Russa pinch-hit David Wright here for Pablo Sandoval? Just kidding, Giants fans!

And ... wow. Sandoval just sat on 1-1 curveball and punched it off the wall near the right-field foul pole for a three-run triple. It's 4-0 and somewhere a 10-year-old in Kansas City is probably crying. Or Ron Washington.

Make it 5-0. Derek Jeter can't make his patented jump throw on Dan Uggla's grounder in the hole and Prince Fielder (shockingly!) can't scoop the one-hopper.

Chris Grandstaff, one of my editors and a Tigers fan, nails it: "This is old Verlander. Thinking he has to throw it 99 on every pitch. Lately, seems like he saves that kind of cheese for the eighth inning and actually tries to pitch early on."

Famous bad All-Star starts:
  • Roger Clemens, 2004: Pitching in front of his then-hometown fans in Houston, Clemens gave up six runs in the first, including home runs to Manny Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano. Danny Kolb pitched the second inning for the NL. Thought you'd like to know that.
  • Tom Glavine, 1992: 1.2 innings, nine hits, five runs (four in the first). Gave up seven consecutive singles in the first and only got of the jam by striking out opposing starter Kevin Brown.
  • Jim Palmer, 1978: 2.2 innings, three hits, three runs, four walks. The AL actually rallied to tie this game before the NL scored four runs off Goose Gossage in the eighth inning.
  • Jim Palmer, 1977: 2+ innings, five hits, five runs, three home runs. I told you about Palmer! Joe Morgan and Greg Luzinski homered in the first and then Steve Garvey homered in the third.
It's easy to be cynical about the All-Star Game. Of course it is.

As a 10-year-old kid in 1979, I sat in the left-field bleachers at the Kingdome in Seattle for the All-Star Game. I still vividly recall the details from that game -- most memorably hometown hero Bruce Bochte delivering an RBI pinch-hit single and receiving a thunderous ovation from 59,000 fans. I remember watching in 1987 when Mariners pitcher Mark Langston got in the game and pitched two perfect innings, leading Vin Scully to exclaim "This kid is something!" I remember talking to a father and son in Denver in 1998. They'd scrimped and saved to buy tickets; this was the biggest outing of the year for them.

I keep this in mind while watching this event every year. Somewhere, a 10-year-old kid will be in the stands in Kansas City, hoping Billy Butler will deliver a big hit. A young fan in Washington will be rooting for Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper to get into the game and help his team win. The game means nothing. It means something. It means everything.

Let's do a running diary and hope we get a fun game. After all ... World Series home-field advantage is on the line!

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OK, commence with the overanalysis. First off, Ron Washington's lineup is ... umm, interesting. I understand why Derek Jeter is hitting leadoff -- he's an actual leadoff hitter and Washington probably wants to show him respect. But, Jeter is also the weakest hitter in the American League lineup. Since the game matters, Jeter should be hitting ninth. Willie Mays used to bat leadoff for the National League all the time. A smarter lineup would just have Robinson Cano hitting leadoff with everyone else moving up a spot. Instead, you get Jeter hitting first and David Ortiz hitting seventh.

A few things I'd like to see in this game but probably won't:

1. Tony La Russa should try and get two innings apiece from Matt Cain and R.A. Dickey. I don't agree with the "every pitcher gets one inning" philosophy. After all, the game counts! (Last time I'll say that.) But with home-field advantage on the line, you should look to maximize your chances of winning. The more pitchers you use, the more likely one just won't have it. Plus, saving pitchers gives your more flexibility to match up late in the game if you have to and saves guys in case it goes extra innings. For example, the NL would prefer not to use Wade Miley -- who struggled in his last two starts before the break -- with the game on the line.

2. The same holds true for Washington. The back end of his staff is arguably shakier than La Russa's -- Chris Perez, Yu Darvish, Ryan Cook and Matt Harrison -- so he should probably try to get two innings out of David Price or Jered Weaver or Felix Hernandez.

3. Joey Votto should play the whole game. No offense to Bryan LaHair, but you don't want him up in a key situation facing a left-hander. Use him only as a pinch-hitter against a right-handed pitcher if needed.

4. Stop with the position-for-position subs. The trend now is just to have the backup second baseman replace the starting second baseman and take his place in the batting order, regardless of where the lineup is at. For example, if you're putting Andrew McCutchen and Jose Altuve in the game at the same time, McCutchen should go in the lineup spot that's due up earlier. This isn't that hard to figure out.

5. Situational pinch-hitting. Again, this is all about maximizing resources instead of just getting everybody in the game. If Rafael Furcal's second at-bat comes with two runners on base, use Chipper Jones or Matt Holliday or LaHair to hit for him.

That's it for now. Check back after each inning for more random commentary, thoughts and analysis.