Mike Trout shines as the American League beats the National League 6-3 in the All-Star Game

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CINCINNATI — Mike Trout is the best baseball player in the game today. You can doubt this if you wish, but you’d be wrong to do so.

No matter what you think about that, Trout led the charge for the American League on Tuesday night, reaching base three times, scoring twice, launching a home run and showing off some serious speed as the American League beat the National League 6-3. It was the American League’s 16th win in the past 19 All-Star Games and ensures that the AL representative will have home field advantage in the World Series.

After the game Trout was named the All-Star Game MVP for the second straight year. It’s the first time any player has won the MVP Award in back-to-back years and the fifth time a player has won the MVP Award more than once. As part of a sponsor tie-in, he got to choose between a brand new Chevy Silverado truck or a Camaro for winning it. He picked the truck this year, after taking a Corvette last time around. He doesn’t turn 24 for a couple of weeks. He’s gonna have a lot of trucks by the time his career is over.

Trout, batting leadoff, came to the plate four times on Tuesday night, making him the first player to have four plate appearances in an All-Star Game since Jose Reyes did in 2007 and the first AL player to do so since Ichiro did in 2004. But of course, when you’re the best player in baseball you should get to play more than anyone else. And he had a good night, homering in the first inning, beating out what should’ve been a sure double play in the fifth and eventually coming around to score. In the seventh he drew a walk and his pinch runner, Brock Holt, came around to score. He finished the night 1-for-3 with a walk, a homer and two runs scored.

The American League had other heroes of course. Brian Dozier homered. Manny Machado doubled in Holt. Prince Fielder singled in a run. Lorenzo Cain doubled one in. But on the offensive side of things, it was the Mike Trout show.

The National League wasn’t totally silent on this night, but their biggest highlights were more sound and fury than anything else. Jacob deGrom struck out the AL side in the sixth on ten pitches. Aroldis Chapman did the same in the top of the ninth on fourteen pitches, hitting triple digits over and over and over again. The AL hitters had no idea what to make of him. If an AL team picks him up at the trade deadline, it’s gonna be trouble for that team’s opponents in the late innings.

On the offensive side the Senior Circuit scored on a Jhonny Peralta single in the second, an Andrew McCutchen homer in the sixth and a Ryan Braun triple plus a sac fly in the ninth. But that was all they’d get.

The winning pitcher: David Price, not that a pitcher’s win matters much in a game in which no pitcher threw more than two innings and most only pitched a single frame. The loser: Clayton Kershaw, who gave up two runs in the fifth. This game didn’t matter too much and the NL’s loss had many helpers, but I’m sure someone will still try to hang the “can’t win the big one” label on Kershaw as a result. It’s a shame, but that seems to be his lot in life lately, at least in the minds of people who like contrived narratives more than actually analyzing baseball.

Whatever the case, that’s it from the Mid-Summer Classic, folks. See you in the American League pennant winner’s home park for Game One of the 2015 World Series. And in San Diego for the 2016 All-Star Game when we’ll do this silly thing once again.

Astros take their third bite at the apple in response to Assistant GM Brandon Taubman’s comments

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Last night Sports Illustrated reported that, following the Houston Astros’ Game 6 victory over the Yankees on Saturday night, Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman shouted at a group of three female reporters, “Thank god we got [Roberto] Osuna! I’m so [expletive] glad we got Osuna!” Taubman reportedly repeated the phrase half a dozen times. The Sports Illustrated report was later corroborated by no less than four reporters apart from the Sports Illustrated reporter who were in the clubhouse and witnessed the incident.

The comments and their context strongly suggested that Taubman was, at best, making light of the criticism the Astros received for trading for Osuna following his domestic violence suspension resulting from very serious domestic violence charges lodged against him in 2018. To some it smacked of Taubman taking something of a victory lap over the Astros’ controversial — and poorly handled — acquisition of Osuna and came off as extraordinarily insensitive and abjectly tone deaf.

The Astros originally declined comment before the report was published. Late last night, after the story went live and once it became apparent that it cast Taubman in a bad light, they issued an angry and defensive statement, calling the Sports Illustrated article “misleading and completely irresponsible.” Again, despite the fact that the report was corroborated by multiple eyewitnesses. The team’s statement was itself then subjected to intense criticism today.

The Astros are now taking their third bite at the apple, releasing the following statements:

It’s worth noting that nowhere here do the Astros apologize or even reference last night’s statement which, in essence, called Sports Illustrated reporter Stephanie Apstein a liar. A statement which they no doubt would’ve let be the last word if it hadn’t been met with such pushback. Which suggests that the above statements — of the “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” non-apology apology variety — are more about damage control than sincerity.

It’s also worth noting that Taubman’s comment takes the oh-so-common tack of referencing the fact that he is a “husband and a father,” which is irrelevant given that at issue were his acts and words, not his identity. We are not what we believe ourselves to be in our heart of hearts. We are what we do. We are how we treat one another. That’s all that matters. Attempts to deflect from that basic fact of humanity are, just that, deflections. And patronizing ones at that. Taubman’s statement would’ve been way better if it had stopped after the second sentence.

As for owner Jim Crane’s statement, it continues the Astros’ tack of wanting to have it both ways. There is no rule that says they could not have traded for Roberto Osuna. What made the whole episode unseemly, however, is how they claimed to have a “zero tolerance” policy against domestic violence and claimed not to be breaking it when they clearly did so because, hey, Osuna was cheaply had. Which means that they actually have a “some tolerance” policy — as do a lot of teams — but they wanted to act like they were better than that and deflect criticism from those who took issue. Here again, Crane wants it both ways by using what should be a straight apology for one of his top employees’ boorish behavior as an opportunity to once again claim that they are better than they truly are when it comes to domestic violence.

If you don’t have to care about an issue and you, in fact, don’t care, well, fine. You may catch hell from people for that stance, but you can do what you want. If, however, you want credit for being on top of an issue, do the work to earn it. If you fall short of your or society’s expectations, apologize and try to do better. What you cannot do is fail and then try to use your failure as a means of turning the tables on those who criticize you while claiming that, actually, you’re really really good on the topic.

Major League Baseball has also weighed in:

“Domestic violence is extraordinarily serious and everyone in baseball must use care to not engage in any behavior — whether intentional or not — that could be construed as minimizing the egregiousness of an act of domestic violence.  We became aware of this incident through the Sports Illustrated article.  The Astros have disputed Sports Illustrated’s characterization of the incident.  MLB will interview those involved before commenting further.”

The comment came out at almost the exact same time the Astros’ comments were released, which suggests to me that they were coordinated. Which, hey, they’re all trying to end the conversation about this before the first pitch of tonight’s Game 1. I will not hold my breath for anything to come of MLB’s “interviews” of those involved.

As for the Astros, here is some free advice: “I. Am. Sorry. I. Was. Wrong. I. Should. Not. Have. Done/Said. That.”

Apologies are easy. We’re taught how to do them when we’re two years-old. Only when we start thinking we’re better than everyone do we start qualifying them to the skies to the point where they lose all meaning