My annual anti-All-Star Game rant


I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time getting my All-Star rah-rah on. I hate to fall in line with all of those other cranks, but the fact is that the All-Star Game ain’t what it used
to be. Which would be fine — exhibitions can be fun — but the whole home field advantage in the World Series thing goes and messes it up even on that level.  Home field matters, and here we have Charlie Manuel putting Andre Ethier in center field and writing Ryan Howard in the cleanup spot against a lefty for some damn reason.  That’s galling enough all things being equal, but seeing as though my Braves have a non-trivial chance of winning the pennant this year I’m starting to take it personally. And I love me some Charlie Manuel, so getting irked at him is not a fun experience at all.

You know my other complaints before I give voice to them: there are too many players. Too many pitchers coming in to fire gas for an inning and thus
lowering offense so much that even a pitching guy like me finds the proceedings boring. How much better would the game be if they’d simply cut down the rosters a bit and get rid of the every-team-must-have-a-player rule? We’ll never know because it ain’t gonna happen, so I should probably just stop my grousing now.

I guess what really gets me here — and stop me if my nostalgia is interfering with, you know, the facts — but I really do feel like the All-Star Game mattered a lot more back in the day, even if it didn’t count for anything as important as home field advantage. Maybe not to the players. I don’t buy that “they cared more back then” line that people fall for. Everyone likes to trot out the Rose-plows-into-Fosse story, but (a) I think Rose would be knocking over guys if he played now too; and (b) I think guys tried hard then and now in equal measure. Some care, some don’t, They just played more innings back then so it looked like more cared.

No, it’s to the fans that it doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. It used to be that the only chance we had to see of a lot of guys was during the All-Star Game, but now we have multiple national games a week and if you have the Extra Innings package or you can see any player just about any night.  And that was the thrill for me, really, seeing guys like Dave Parker or Mike Schmidt in my American League TV market back in the early 80s. There’s really no novelty to it anymore.

I’m prepared to admit that I’m falling into baseless cliche here, and if I am, tell me so.  But for the past several years of blogging about baseball I’ve been unable to escape the feeling that the game I love devotes a night to unorthodox and aesthetically unsatisfying play with the added annoyance of something actually important being decided, and I just can’t abide it.

I’m a sucker, though, so as always, I’ll watch it. But as I do I’ll be asking myself: why?

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.