American League beats National League 5-3 in 2014 All-Star Game; Mike Trout named MVP

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — In a season where offense has been hard to come by, the hitters weren’t all that fooled in the 2014 All-Star Game. At least not early on. And heck, even if they were, word on the street was that some pitchers were throwing meatballs to some hitters on purpose, so it’s hard to know what to take away from this one. We can say this much for absolute certain: the A.L. beat the N.L. 5-3.

Well, obviously we can take all of the Jeter stuff away. In an age when simplicity and dignity are often secondary concerns, Jeter’s exit from the Midsummer Classic was very welcome indeed. No speeches. No excessive stoppages of play. The tributes — at least the ones we could see in the ballpark — did not skew maudlin and treacly. It was much like we saw in that Nike commercial the other day: a lot of hat-tipping and nodding and that felt right.

But he was not named the MVP, contrary to what so many thought would happen no matter how he did. Rather, the MVP Award went to Mike Trout. Who, unlike was the case the past couple of years, won it thanks in part to the superior numbers even if he didn’t have the superior story.

As for the game itself, the Americans struck with three early thanks to Trout tripling in Jeter and Miguel Cabrera blasting one over the fence in the first. The Nationals struck back in the second thanks to back-to-back doubles by Chase Utley and Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy, who is second in the National League in doubles with 32 so far, doubled again in the fourth to plate Dee Gordon and tie it up at three. Mike Trout struck again with an RBI double in the fifth which also advanced Alexei Ramirez to third. Ramirez then scored on a Jose Altuve sacrifice fly to make it 5-3, American League.

At that point things went the way they always tend to go at the All-Star Game these days: constant substitutions, an increasingly scary assortment of fresh relief pitchers who know they have two days off after this and a lot of shaky defense. No one broke through for anything after the fifth. The one nice thing from the tail end of the game was John Farrell giving Minnesota Twin — and Minnesota native — Glen Perkins the ninth inning. Perkins set the N.L. down 1-2-3 for the save.

Some random facts:

  • Jeter ends his All-Star Game career 13 for 27. It was his third All-Star Game with multiple hits, having done so in 2000 and 2004 when he went 3 for 3.
  • Lucroy’s two doubles ties an All-Star record. It’s one held by many, as nine dudes have done it overall, but Lucroy joins Albert Pujols, Barry Bonds, Paul Konerko, Damian Miller (really?!), Ernie Banks, Ted Kluszewski, Joe Medwick and Al Simmons in that club.
  • Adam Wainwright — who maybe shouldn’t have started! — gave up three runs in the first inning. In 19 starts this year he allowed just four first inning earned runs total. Of course, in those 19 starts he wasn’t facing multiple potential first-ballot Hall of Famers like Jeter, Cabrera and Trout.
  • Mike Trout is loving life in All-Star Games. He went 2 for 3 with two RBI here and is 4 for 7 with two doubles and a triple in his three All-Star Game appearances. Now he’s the MVP.

But the only stat that actually counts — at least, the only one we’re told to say counts — is the win. Which goes to the A.L. And, along with it, home field advantage in the World Series for the A.L. pennant winner.

The Nats are going to sign Francisco Rodriguez for some reason

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The Nationals bullpen is a tire fire. They’re about to add another tire. Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Washington is about to sign free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez.

K-Rod was released by the Tigers last week after posting an ERA of 7.82 over 28 appearances this season. He has a 1.658 WHIP, is allowing 11.9 hits per nine innings and is posting his highest walk rate in five years. Also worth noting: the Detroit Friggin’ Tigers decided that he was not good enough to be in their bullpen.

So, yeah, good luck with that Washington.

The Giants chemistry is suffering because a guy they all hated is gone

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I’ve spent years arguing with people about team chemistry. You know the battle lines on all of that now: people who talk a lot about team chemistry tend to attribute winning or losing to good or bad chemistry, respectively. I tend to think that characterizing chemistry is a retroactive exercise in which teams that win are happy and then cite their happiness as the reason and vice versa. Jim Leyland agrees with me, for what it’s worth, so I’m pretty happy with my take.

Not that I’ll claim a monopoly on wisdom here. I’ve never played on a professional baseball team. I don’t know what it’s like to try to prepare to play baseball while surrounded by jackwagons who don’t get along with anyone. I can’t imagine that makes life easier. Indeed, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, I will grant that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I dismiss team chemistry arguments for the most part, but if I ran a team I’d at least try to get rid of bad seeds if their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play. You want your workers happy, folks.

All of which makes me wonder what the heck to do about this passage from Ken Rosenthal’s latest column. It’s about the reeling San Francisco Giants. They have all kinds of issues — their offense is putrid, their pitching isn’t much better and they’ve been without their ace most of the year — but today Rosenthal looks at their team chemistry. It’s a quiet and subdued clubhouse, he notes, and it has a lot of people wondering if something is wrong there. What could it be?

Sandoval, who was an often noisy and boisterous presence during his time with the club, departed as a free agent after that season. Pence has suffered a number of injuries in recent years and declined offensively, making it difficult for him to be as vocal as he was in the past. Some with the Giants muse that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who created an odd sort of unity because most of the players disliked him.

Read that last sentence again. And then go on with your talk about how team chemistry is a legitimate explanatory concept regarding what makes teams win or lose as opposed to a post-hoc rationalization of it.

Not that it’s not a good article overall. There’s some interesting stuff about the Giants’ bullpen culture. And, of course, we now know why no one signed Pagan last winter.