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.
Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.
But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.
Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.
There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.
Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.
Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.
We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.
The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.
Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.
In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.
Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.
He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.
Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.
Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.
At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.