2014 MLB All-Star Game: Biggest Takeaways from the Midsummer Classic
The 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game lived up to the billing on Tuesday night. Thanks to a combination of dominant pitching, superb hitting, excellence defense, thoughtful baserunning and a tribute for the ages, the sport did a great job showcasing the best it has to offer.
In the midst of a 5-3 win by the American League, Derek Jeter stole the show, Mike Trout was the best player on the field and the National League's decision to start Adam Wainwright over Clayton Kershaw will be a narrative that has legs through the end of October, especially if the AL captures a World Series-deciding game at home.
After watching the festivities at Target Field, here are the biggest takeaways from the annual Midsummer Classic.
#RE2PECT for Derek Jeter
Target Field, Fox Sports and Major League Baseball rolled out the red carpet for Derek Jeter at the All-Star Game. From pregame introductions to a standing ovation before his first at-bat to a long, emotional goodbye from the crowd, teammates and opponents, the sport sent Jeter out in style in his last All-Star event.
For his part, Jeter shined. In two at-bats, the Yankees' captain struck two hits to right field, continuing a nearly two-decade legacy of hitting the ball the other way. The first hit, a leadoff double to start the game, ignited a three-run inning for the American League. They would never trail.
After a third-inning single off Cincinnati Reds starter Alfredo Simon, Jeter was lifted from the game prior to the start of the next defensive inning. The 14-time All-Star will retire with a .481 batting average in the event, the second-best mark of all time, per The Associated Press (via ESPN).
Adam Wainwright Botches 1st Inning, Quotes
Adam Wainwright is a brilliant pitcher and fierce competitor. In the span of a few hours at Target Field, neither of those labels were easy to assign to the St. Louis Cardinals' ace. After surrendering Jeter's first hit, leading to a three-run first inning for the AL, the NL starter spoke as if the first baserunner was a gift, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
“I was gonna give him a couple pipe shots," Wainwright said. "He deserved it. I didn’t know he was gonna hit a double or I might have changed my mind.”
In spite of a semi-retraction during an in-game interview with Erin Andrews of Fox Sports (via Drew Silva of Hardball Talk) in the eighth inning—where Wainwright claimed that he misquoted himself—the damage was done. Not only did he take away from Jeter's moment, but the aftereffects also doomed the NL.
The decision to start Wainwright over Clayton Kershaw was puzzling. Hindsight is 20/20, but Tuesday's results didn't sway many in the debate over which pitcher is the NL's finest and truly deserving of the start in the game.
Mike Trout Is the Next Face of Baseball
Mike Trout isn't a top prospect or young player about to emerge into a star. Regardless of MVP balloting in 2012 and 2013, Trout's talent, value and status as the best all-around player in the sport has been abundantly evident since he arrived to Los Angeles in April 2012.
On Tuesday night, Trout officially became more than just a star on a field of stars. With Jeter set to exit the sport at the conclusion of the 2014 season, baseball needs to find its next face. After a two-hit, two-RBI performance and All-Star Game MVP award, it's easy to see which player is next in line for Jeter's mantle.
While performance is instructive, Trout's status as the next face of baseball is a bigger and deeper endeavor. Alex Rodriguez had talent and production eerily similar to a young Trout but was overshadowed by Jeter and a personality ill-fit for the spotlight. Barry Bonds held similar traits but was uninterested in the pomp and circumstance.
Jeter was a unique star both on and off the field. Trout has the talent, personality and drive—along with playing in a major media market—to become the next face of baseball when Jeter departs.
Tony Gwynn's Passing Was Wrongfully Ignored
After a night loaded with positive moments, plays and talented athletes, it feels strange to harp on an uncomfortable negative. In this case, the lack of awareness and empathy from the broadcast opened the door for criticism.
When baseball legend Tony Gwynn passed away in June, the baseball world mourned the loss of a special player, unique person and genuinely good guy. It would have been academic for Fox Sports to carve out two or three minutes of a nearly four-hour game to pay homage to a player who participated in 15 All-Star Games during a legendary career.
Instead, the three-man broadcast booth of Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci ignored the topic and focused on the here and now. While the decision may have simply been an oversight, it was wrong.
The San Diego Sporting News Twitter feed was also disappointed:
"MLB failing to honor Padres legend Tony Gwynn during tonight's All-Star Game is an absolute embarrassment to the game of baseball."
Gwynn was a fixture in making the All-Star Game such a great event. Honoring his life, legacy and passing was the least that baseball could have done during the gathering at Target Field.
AL Bullpen Was the Difference
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig spoke with Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports during the game about how baseball has evolved under his watch. On a day-to-day and game-by-game basis, no difference is as stark as the amount of dominant relief pitchers in every bullpen.
In this All-Star Game, the American League used that to its advantage. When manager John Farrell took the ball from Scott Kazmir with two outs in the sixth inning, he knew he had a dominant collection of hard-throwing relievers to close out the game.
From Koji Uehara to Greg Holland to Sean Doolittle to Fernando Rodney to Glen Perkins, the National League reserves stood little chance over the next 3.1 innings. In total, the quintet of relievers combined for the following numbers: 3.1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 6 SO.
Great bullpens shorten games. For the AL, it shortened a victory and gave the league home-field advantage in the 2014 World Series.
What was your biggest takeaway from the 2014 All-Star Game?