Saturday, July 19, 2008

MLB All-Star thoughts

By Rick Morris

^ The Josh Hamilton story from the Home Run Derby was great and heartwarming. Some pundits, apparently looking to play contrarian at all costs, have questioned whether he is more deserving of praise than a player who has kept his nose clean from Day One. I say that that is asking the wrong question. Anybody that doesn't get it should go read the Prodigal Son story from the Bible. Josh Hamilton certainly isn't more worthy of admiration than somebody who never screwed up, but he has the chance to be an inspiration to those who have. There are some heartless people who want to point to the fact that he was the top pick in the 1999 MLB Draft as evidence that he willfully threw away the chance for fame and fortune when he turned to drugs. These idiots are ignorant of the fact that, despite his gifts and the extreme likelihood of material success, he had a large void in his life, one that he filled with drugs then and has filled with his relationship with God now. Jeff Allison, who walked a similar path as a 2003 first-round draft pick who was derailed by drugs, has stated that he is using Hamilton for inspiration and Hamilton, when informed of that this week, offered to do whatever he could to help -- proof if proof were yet needed that sometimes a story is every bit as great as it appears on the surface.

^ The Hamilton-Edinson Volquez deal has been hailed as one of the rare ones that worked for both teams, and that will be the case as Hamilton will probably win more than one MVP award for Texas and Volquez looks up to the challenge of pitching in that tough park in Cincy and taking home some Cy Youngs. But in light of Hamilton's showing this week, it's just a wee bit ironic that Volquez helped cost the NL their first All-Star win since 1996 by serving up JD Drew's game-tying shot.

^ Nothing against Justin Morneau, an outstanding young player, but I was pretty cheesed off when he won the Derby, because MLB really needs to start adding an accumulative factor to the scoring. There's nothing sillier than seeing someone like Hamilton actually get penalized for his amazing first-round run when he's too pooped in the finals to be able to make solid contact. Having said that, Morneau proved what a class act he really is by acknowledging that the night really belonged to Hamilton for his otherworldly display.

^ The pregame ceremonies were nice, but the repetitive nature of these events diminishes them all collectively. When the NBA convened their 50 Greatest Players at the 1997 All-Star Game, that was something. When Ted Williams was given that awesome tribute at the 1999 MLB All-Star Game, that was something (and man, am I angry that's not on YouTube -- I've got it on VHS, but I would love to embed it here). But it's human nature for people to get somewhat jaded when these events become more commonplace. I wouldn't expect anyone at Fox Sports to understand that, though, because they're all about anything that they think can squeeze up the ratings another .0001%.

^ Now that Drew won the MVP of the All-Star Game due to his game-tying home run, you just know that the Phillies are going to be the NL team that gets rooked out of home field in the World Series. It can't possibly go any other way, right?

^ I can't really argue with Drew winning the MVP, much as it irks me as a "skill elitist" to see this career underachiever gravy-train his one season of not stealing a paycheck into such an award. This game had more of a paucity of deserving candidates than any that I can remember. Perhaps it would be too mean, but I almost think Dan Uggla should be nominated as MVP for the AL team! Poor Uggla. Unless the player is a jerk like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, you hate to see anybody have as many bad moments as that, over and over and over again. Given what that ballpark meant to him and his dad, I'm sincerely glad that none of his miscues cost his team the game.

^ Memo to Terry Francona: They're starting pitchers, not china dolls. Feel free to leave them in for more than an inning at a time, then you won't look like a putz having to contemplate putting position players on the mound in extra innings because "They didn't give me enough players!" Given the crapstorm that he endured when the game was tied in 2002, if I were Bud Selig and Francona came crying to me for a solution to his self-imposed problem, I'd have jammed some wasabi right up his nostrils.

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