Some cried about juiced baseballs, yet pitching won out once again.
CLEVELAND – Admit it. You expected a homer-crazed All-Star Game at Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
After watching the fireworks in the HR Derby Monday night, especially Vlad Guerrero Jr. bashing a record 91 home runs during the event, you had to.
Instead, we got a typical baseball game, a typical All-Star Game, and another win by the American League over the National League.
In the 90th All-Star, the AL won, 4-3, on a beautiful night for baseball.
Yes, that’s 19 victories in the last 23 Midsummer classic for the AL, dating back to 1997 – the last time the All-Star Game was played at this very ballpark in Cleveland.
And get this. There were just two homers in the game, one by each side. Wait. We thought the sky was failing and fans were in danger of getting hit with all the homers raining down over the fence into the crowd.
Where are all the people who were pooh-poohing the HR Derby, crying about all the homers leaving the park in batting practice?
They said it was rigged and that MLB was playing the role of WWE and forcing the storyline and the action.
Where was Astros’ ace Justin Verlander, the AL starter, who ignited a firestorm at the All-Star Game press conference on Monday by saying that the balls used in MLB games this season are “a f—ing joke” and that he believes “100 percent” that the league implemented juiced balls to increase offense.
Oh wait, Verlander had a 1-2-3 inning, including two strikeouts.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) July 10, 2019
Looks like that HR monster didn’t get him.
By the way JV, if you’re counting homers, you should count strikeouts by pitchers this season, too. They are also on a record pace. Exhibit A came last night. AL pitchers set a new All-Star record, striking out 16 during a nine-inning game.
For sure, Verlander isn’t off his rocker. We get it. MLB now owns Rawlings, who supplies the game with its balls, so the conspiracy theorists are out.
And yes, homers are flying out of American ballparks at a historic rate. In the first half, there have been 3,691 home runs. At that rate, there will be 6,668 home runs, which would easily break the current record of 6,105.
But here’s the issue. Why is it a problem if both teams are using the same ball. Everyone is on equal footing. Does Verlander not like the ball when his Astros teammates go yard and help him win games?
And until further notice, the team that pitches and plays better defense is normally the last team standing in October. Name the softball that has won the World Series?
And what baseball fan doesn’t like homers? Honestly speaking, the national pastime was saved by two home run-hitting studs, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, in 1998. That’s a fact.
The home run isn’t a dirty word.
Here’s another problem with putting too much stock in hitting homers. During the Steroid Era – most say 1995-2004 – the era also produced some of the best pitching baseball has ever seen. It wasn’t a one way thing and pitchers didn’t have a chance against juiced hitters.
Here’s a stat for the analytical geeks. According to SB Nation, in all of baseball history, there have been 11 qualified pitcher seasons with more than 7.5 WAR per 200 innings and nine of them came in the Steroid Era. Better yet, MLB’s peak offensive era came also at its pitching best.
Remember Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. The first three are in the Hall of Fame. They all pitched in the dreaded HR era fueled by HGH and other drugs.
And we didn’t mention Mariano Rivera, considered the greatest closer ever. He also pitched in that era. He wound up the first unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and with good reason. His career era of 2.21 and 1.00 WHIP are the lowest in the live-ball era among qualified pitchers.
So homers are a big part of today’s game, but good pitching stops good hitting.
By the way, the All-Star Game ended with Yankees’ closer, Aroldis Chapman, doing what he does best, closing the game with flat-out smoke. He struck out J.T. Realmuto, Max Muncy and Yasmani Grandal.
Amazing. No homers.