Here is the un-official mid-way point of the Major League Baseball season.
It's the All-Star break!
We've got a day of long balls, followed by a day of a game that is supposed to mean something, followed by the one true day in America where the sports world stops.
Nothing happens in any major sport. MLB, the NBA, NHL, NFL, NASCAR, and the PGA are all idle.
That is, it really feels like a day that never ends. I'm working on that day this year, so who knows about that?
But all idleness aside, the All-Star game is fun for me. I love watching it and the derby. It may be the same thing every year, but it's still enjoyable. It may be the same setting and idea, but it's always different.
You can't duplicate a baseball game or an event, you just can't.
We'll get to the derby later, but there was a final vote to be taken and I'm quite baffled at how it finished.
It seemed like both Pablo Sandoval and Ian Kinsler were going to make it. All was going to be right in the world, with both of the biggest snubs from both teams making it.
Then all of a sudden, Phillie and Tiger nation came alive, and put in Shane Victorino and Brandon Inge.
Nothing against either one, but Sandoval and Kinsler both had legit cases to not only be in the game, but even start it.
Monday night was pretty great to see some of the players in the final vote do some active campaigning. Sure, websites will plug the crap out of their player and teams will wear shirts to show their support.
But nothing is better than the player taking the matter into their own hands.
Pablo Sandoval hit a grand slam, Mark Reynolds had his first walk-off RBI of his career, and Shane Victorino was 4-for-5 with five runs scored and four RBI in the Phillies' massacre of the Reds.
But as I said last week, the best part of the All-Star game and the rosters being announced is the debate about snubs and undeserving picks that will follow. The final vote is just another popularity contest for someone like myself to pick on.
Jonathan Sanchez Throws No-No
Tony Gwynn Jr. said, "We definitely didn't want to get no-hit" after Tim Lincecum no-hit the Padres going into the seventh inning.
Little did Gwynn Jr. and his teammates know that the next night, Jonathan Sanchez would do just that to them.
Sanchez's no-hitter was remarkable, because in all essence, he was perfect that night.
It won't go down as a perfect game in the record books, but he was as untouchable as you can get without actually being perfect. The lone blemish was not even Sanchez's fault—an error by Juan Uribe.
Sanchez struck out 11 hitters in his performance, doing something that most of us thought he was capable of.
What's great is the trade talk swirling around Sanchez before the start. and the talk afterwards about whether or not his stalk went up high enough for Giants to deal him.
Sanchez became the pitcher with the fifth most games below the .500 mark to throw a no-hitter since 1950. I mean, we've seen Clay Buchholz do it as a rookie, and Jon Lester do it a year after overcoming cancer.
But we haven't seen a pitcher come out of the bullpen and in his first start, be this dominant. If Randy Johnson didn't get hurt, this wouldn't have even happened.
And now with Matt Cain down, despite the height that Sanchez's stock might have soared to, you can't deal him. Besides, has his stock even risen because of one performance? Sure it's gone up, but teams aren't going to be busting down the door to get him just because he had one very dominant game.
Teams wanted him before, and they'll still want him now, but the demand hardly became very heavy.
Still, it's a great feat for the young Sanchez. Just imagine if he can do that "be dominant" thing more often like Lincecum and Cain. That would make the Giants even more dangerous than they already are.
You can say what you want, but...
You can say what you want about Jose Contreras, but when he is on, he is probably one of the toughest pitchers in the game. His forkball-type pitch is completely un-hittable and for some reason, he always has it working against the Indians.
Here are my thoughts that aren't long enough to drag out or just too stupid for someone to even think of. They are randomly scribbled notes in my notebook, duh.
—The Phillies had an interesting week that started off on Monday. They had a ten run first inning that helped them to a 22 run output against Cincinnati. Johnny Cueto recorded just two outs and his ERA rose from 2.69 to 3.45.
—Paul Janish, an infielder, ended up pitching in this one and he went a full inning, giving up six runs off four hits and two walks. He did strike someone out, though. His ERA this year is 49.50—Cueto is relieved.
—Later in the week on Saturday, the Phils put up a five-run ninth against Pittsburgh to close out a come from behind win. Ryan Howard hit a three-run homer that pretty much made me say, "Heyyyyyyy...it's the Pirates."
—Nomar Garciaparra made his return to Fenway Park, the first time since he was traded years ago to Chicago. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
—Brett Anderson was the story in that game, as he threw a complete game shutout with just two hits given up and nine strikeouts recorded.
—Anderson was one of many pitchers that seemed to have gone the distance this past week. Jarrod Washburn did it the same night giving up just one hit in his shutout.
—Wandy Rodriguez did it on Wednesday and he lowered his ERA to 2.96 in the process. Has anyone noticed that?
—Back to Monday—Jason Marquis went eight innings and gave up no runs. Sorry, one inning short doesn't count.
—It seems starting pitchers either did very well and went deep into the games on Monday, or they got shelled. We saw Cueto's ERA take off like a rocket ship, and there's no topping that. But Kevin Millwood's went from 2.80 to 3.34.
—Monday was the last day for my old pen. Say goodnight.
—Last year, Karl Ravech would say that Torii Hunter became an Angel the night he hit a walk-off home run. on Tuesday, Pat Burrell became a Ray.
—A common theme among the week was not just the complete games, but the three home run nights. Paul Konerko had one on Tuesday that included seven RBI.
—Andruw Jones did it a night later.
—Franklin Gutierrez is having himself a ball lately. On Tuesday he had three RBI and he raised his average up to .295. Two nights, later he hit a three-run homer in the eight to give the Mariners a win. The Indians still messed up.
—Tony Sipp won his first major league game this past week, but he didn't even know until some players told him after the game. The umpires determined he pitched the best because David Huff went only four innings. The sad part is, he recorded two outs. That's the Indians' bullpen for you.
—Only Tim Wakefield could strike out eight hitters and give up ten hits.
—Only Brian Bannister could go seven and two-thirds of an inning, give up a run off three hits and lose. Okay, not only Brian Bannister, but Brian Bannister pitching for the Royals.
—David Dellucci is 0-for-17 since arriving in Toronto.
—The Dodgers-Brewers game on Friday was a crazy one. Five of the seven home runs were solo shots and there were only ten total runs scored in the tenth inning.
—Last week's noteworthy trades include Ryan Church to Atlanta in exchange for Jeff Francoeur. The man they call "Frenchie" was 2-for-4 with two RBI in his debut for the Mets.
—Jack Hannahan also went to Seattle from Oakland. Inter-division trades are a rarity, and we had two in one week. Yuniesky Betancourt went to Kansas City. Last year this would have been from one bad team to another, which also doesn’t happen very often.
—I recognize hit streaks of 20-games or more, and I think a 45-game hit streak deserves some pub. Even if it was done in the minor leagues, Jamie McOwen lost his streak. It was the longest in the minors since 1954, when someone hit in 69 straight.
—Chris Coste was claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros. Coste is a legend in my eyes, along with Sal Fasano.
—Only the Yankees could hit five home runs and only score eight runs. Only the Angels could score 14 runs and hit two home runs.
—Michel Hernandez was charged with an error when he touched his ball with his mask. Joe Maddon got ejected for pitching a fit over it. I personally don't see him actually touching the ball. I also personally don't see what the big deal was.
—That game was all sorts of weird because the Rays were wearing their psychedelic Devil Ray uniforms. Oh my god, the horror.
—Trade Carl Pavano? Would someone want him for a stretch run, and would the Indians get an offer that doesn't completely rip them off because of Pavano's history?
—One more Tribe note. Kerry Wood recorded two saves in one week for the first time since May, when he did it on the 20th and 23rd.
—J.A. Happ isn't getting enough credit for being 6-0 with a 2.90 ERA. He now has.
—I'm not even going to pretend I know how to say Toronto pitcher Marc Rzepczynski's name. Who has two z's in their name anyway?
—Milestones of the week include two guys doing the same thing. I feel like I said this two weeks ago, and yes, I did. Josh Beckett and Ted Lilly both recorded win number 100.
These Are My Links, You Shall Click Them
It's been a week since Joe Morgan told a story and of course a Joe Morgan story is now under intense scrutiny. Looks like he's safe for now.
This is too funny to even explain. Just read the story. Only in America.
This starburst sucks too much to claim copyright infringement.
Remember the Phillies beat down of the Reds earlier? In case you forgot, something better than the highlights.
More impressive than Jayson Werth's fifth deck home run in Toronto, only because it went further.
Jayson Stark's first-half review is by far the best column every year. It's always a must-read.
My own condolences go out to the McNair family for the passing of former Titans Quarterback Steve McNair on July 4th. I'm just as much a football fan as a baseball fan (just as much, though baseball is first), so I can throw this baseball and football related tidbit in.
Did you know Steve McNair was drafted as a baseball player?
Roundabout of Randomness
A couple of injuries this past week that are rather depressing. Mark DeRosa is on the disabled list after barely playing for his new team in St. Louis. I was pulling for DeRo in his new home, so this is depressing.
I again make the joke, though. At least it wasn't as depressing as Chris Perez's first few games with Cleveland.
Jay Bruce broke his wrist for the Reds—as if they needed to lose any more offense. The Giants' biggest thing is more offense, but if Matt Cain is going to be out for an extended period of time, it doesn't matter—because he's very good.
That latest injury opened up Zach Duke to be put into the All-Star game. This was much deserved on the part of Duke. Injuries to Torii Hunter and Jonathan Broxton have also opened up the chance for Nelson Cruz and Trevor Hoffman to make the game.
Jayson Werth is also on the team after Carlos Beltran's injury isn't going let him compete in the game. Dustin Pedroia is also out for the All-Star game, but he's not injured—His wife is expecting a baby. Congrats to the Pedroia family.
Carlos Pena is taking his place.
I believe Werth and Pena are only the picks because their managers are in charge, but I'll back-off. Werth makes it three Phillie outfielders on the NL team, which makes it the first time since 1995 since three outfielders made an All-Star team. Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, and Manny Ramirez did it for the Indians.
What do Justin Verlander, Josh Beckett, Mark Buerhle, and Adam Wainwright all have in common? They are all All-Star pitchers who worked on Sunday. Are they going to be ready for the game on Tuesday?
Is Joe Maddon in some trouble if the game goes extras despite the addition of another pitcher? I don't envy his position. If I was Beckett, I'd make myself unavailable after going the distance and looking good doing it.
All-Star pitcher Roy Halladay is on the trading block, and so far it seems like the Phillies have the most interest. They've also got the most interest in free agent Pedro Martinez, but that's a different discussion for a different day.
Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi has opened up a bit of a crazy box by saying Halladay is available and I have to even wonder if he's serious. Could he just be doing this to maybe entice some teams and build hype, or is he really serious about trading his ace? The haul for Halladay will be huge if he does.
Has anyone seen Bartolo Colon? For awhile, the Chicago White Sox, and even his agent, didn't. Kenny Williams went as far as saying if he didn't show up for his rehab start on Thursday, they would basically cut ties with the big pitcher. Colon showed up, though, and Ozzie Guillen made some jokes, as usual.
The tagline of my life really should be "You'll never know what you're going to see next week." I say this because I always use that phrase when it comes to the game of baseball. That and I have really no clue what I'm going to see next week.
Last week, we saw a Pirate win a game for the Nationals, and a National enter a game when he is still a member of the Pirates. Joel Hanrahan ended up winning a completed game that was suspended between the Nationals and Astros. He was sleeping at the time.
Nyjer Morgan entered the game for Elijah Dukes, who was in the minor leagues. Morgan was a Pirate when the game started.
Alan Embree won a game without throwing an official pitch. He picked off a runner to end an inning, the Rockies scored, and the Rockies changed pitchers. He was credited with the run.
"It was a very interesting night for me, kind of humorous in a way because I've played for a long time and never seen anything like that."
See what I mean? I really do love baseball.
On a crappy note. Embree was struck by a nasty liner on his leg and he underwent surgery to end his season. As he said, he's been playing for a long time and he's almost ready to hit the big 40.
One of the weeks that makes me love baseball is upon us. It's the All-Star break and first on the docket is the Home Run Derby. The National League has their four first baseman in the thing, while the American League is stretching.
Even Ichiro declined, and the biggest names are Brandon Inge and Joe Mauer.
Neither were very lethal power hitters before this season, which means one of them will win.
I've got my money on Nelson Cruz, though. He's got the raw power to just hit balls very hard and very far. I'm sure he'll become a trendy pick, though.
Nino Colla is Talking every Monday of the baseball season, or whenever time needs to be wasted, provided objects don't get thrown.