BY JAY CLEMONS
Marlon Byrd: AP
We were thisclose to witnessing the most mundane All-Star Game since 1987 -- which would've subsequently wrought the lamest Revelations in Fantasy Clicks history -- until fate stepped in with a three-fold bouquet of goodness: First came Brian McCann's bases-loaded double in the 7th inning, giving the National Leaguers a decisive 3-1 lead. Secondly, the pitcher who gave up the big hit was White Sox setup man extraordinaire and Centreville, Mich. native Matt Thornton -- the same Matt Thornton who, legend has it, surrendered a base hit to former SI.com shaman/current Golf.com wonderboy Jeff Ritter back in high school (circa 1994-95). Last but not least, did you happen to catch the melodrama of Alex Rodriguez demonstratively yelling at teammate Robinson Cano after the game's final out -- a harmless Ian Kinsler flyball -- that sealed A-Rod's DNP for the night?
Hmmmm, put it all together and we suddenly have plenty of Revelations to discuss:
National League 3, American League 1
What I Liked: Josh Johnson, Justin Verlander, Jose Valverde, Andy Pettitte and Adam Wainwright were the only hurlers to register two or more strikeouts in limited action (duh). But Johnson -- my preseason NL Cy Young pick (with Wainwright as the runner-up) -- was the game's only fireballer to stymie six consecutive hitters without yielding a walk or hit. Of course, all this happened in the 3rd and 4th innings, promising Johnson no realistic shot at winning All-Star MVP.
What I Liked, Part II: San Diego reliever Heath Bell only threw one strike the entire evening and didn't get a chance to officially collect a save; but his performance in the 5th -- getting Torii Hunter to fly out with a runner in scoring position -- capped the American League's run production at one for that inning. Hard to believe, but Bell still has a decent shot at earning a real save against an AL opponent this season, provided the NL West-leading Padres can hold off the Rockies, Dodgers and Giants to win the division ... and then advance all the way to the World Series, just like 1998. Be honest here: Who had these Padres in the Fall Classic back in the spring?
What I Liked, Part III: Since we're giving out incidental kudos ... David Wright, Carl Crawford and Elvis Andrus deserve praise for tallying steals on Tuesday -- although Andrus technically was caught stealing, after oversliding the bag and getting tagged out by Brandon Phillips. D'oh!.
What I Loved: Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd easily wins the Most Resourceful Player To Not Get A Hit award. Yes, he went 0-for-1 on the night, but he also scored the crucial third run on McCann's game-breaking double and then made one of the savviest defensive plays in All-Star history by gunning down David Ortiz in the 9th, just milliseconds after John Buck's bloop-single-turned-force-out-at-second-base.
What I Loved, Part II: The Mets' Wright had a fantasy-friendly outing -- going 2-for-2 at the plate and stealing a base -- prompting me to scream the following: Fantasy owners ... run, don't walk, to stealthily acquire Wright in a deal before your league's trade deadline. On the heels of a soul-crushing season of 10 HRs last year ... The Man has bounced back in a big-time way this season, amassing 14 HRs, 65 RBIs and 15 steals, while posting stellar percentages of .314 (batting average), .392 (OBP), .532 (slugging) and .924 (OPS)!
What I Loved, Part III: McCann was the obvious choice for MVP at game's end, but his night almost ended in abject failure (relatively speaking). On Thornton's first pitch to the catcher in the 7th inning, McCann uncorked a mile-high popup that eventually dovetailed into the first-base-side stands, with Paul Konerko and Robinson Cano giving chase. For the life of me, I have no clue how McCann's Bunyan-like swing didn't end up his last. That ball initially looked more catchable than the infamous Bartman play.
What I Loved, Part IV: Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton deserves major kudos for getting Kinsler out in the 9th ... with the specter of A-Rod possibly kneeling on deck. It's not that I was surprised to see Broxton clinch the NL's first victory in 14 years, I was merely flashing back to the last time a Dodgers fireman (Eric Gagne) had an All-Star meltdown against a Rangers hitter (Hank Blalock, circa 2003).
What Made Me Scratch My Head: How did Ryan Braun NOT break his wrist on that diving catch? The laws of physics (or wrist inertia) suggest that Braun should be out 8-12 weeks with a significant injury -- instead of flying to Atlanta for the Brewers-Braves weekend series.
What Made Me Scratch My Head, Part II: I referenced this at the top, but why was A-Rod so mad after the game? Was he upset that Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't insert him to pinch-hit in the 9th? Was he flummoxed by Ortiz's baserunning faux pas on Buck's woulda-coulda-shoulda bloop single? Inquiring minds want to know.
What I'm Going To Remember 30 Years From Now: Let's be honest, the game was comparatively dull in the pantheon of Midsummer Classics ... and all the Sheryl Crow/Harrison Ford/Julia Roberts/Charlize Theron sappy videos for people they've never met cannot erase that feeling for the TV-viewing public. But hey, let's give it up to Major League Baseball for having a SoCal All-Star Game every 30 years. That's the kind of Pleasantville-like symmetry that'll make us temporarily forget about the one sports league that actually needs a salary cap, and yet does nothing about it.
Today's findings are too random to encapsulate in one seamless, sports-themed paragraph. Hence, the list:
1. Bad News Bears (1979) -- The made-for-TV version of the classic movie bearing the same name was eminently forgettable. But don't blame the casting directors. Alongside the Oscar-nominated Jack Warden, aka Buttermaker, check out future stars like Corey Feldman (Lost Boys, Stand By Me), Tricia Cast (It's Your Move, The Young & The Restless), Kristoff St. John (The Young & The Restless), Meeno Peluce (Voyagers ... and the real-life brother of TV's Punky Brewster) and Catherine Hicks (the mom from 7th Heaven).
2. Underoos (1979) -- It seems trite now, but I actually donned a pair of Incredible Hulks before going to bed in the late 1970s.
3. Random NFL (1977) -- I believe the Detroit Lions are still the only franchise to not have professional cheerleaders roaming the sidelines on fall Sundays. When I was in high school, I totally dug the concept of amateur pep girls (including one from Birmingham Seaholm High School who remains on the brain to this day); but as a married adult in his 30s, perhaps it's time for a change. As a bonus to this clip, check out legendary announcer Don Criqui on CBS ... before he became NBC's official voice of The Orange Bowl.
4. 7-Up at Spring Training (1982) -- The all-star battery of catcher Gary Carter and his daughter, Christy (awwwww).
5. Lowenbrau TV spot (1984) -- No way that guy executes a reverse dunk in a business suit, at the age of 38, after two hours of eating, drinking and reminiscing with his classmates. And how did the guys get their hands on a basketball in the first place?
These hitters should fare well against average-to-subpar pitching in Week 15 (July 12-18):
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (@ Cleveland)
Brennan Boesch, Tigers
Carlos Guillen, Tigers
Austin Jackson, Tigers
Magglio Ordonez, Tigers
Brandon Inge, Tigers
Johnny Damon, Tigers
Torii Hunter, Angels (vs. Seattle)
Mike Napoli, Angels
Brandon Wood, Angels
Juan Rivera, Angels
Bobby Abreu, Angels
Howie Kendrick, Angels
Brandon Phillips, Reds (vs. Colorado)
Joey Votto, Reds
Scott Rolen, Reds
Jay Bruce, Reds
Drew Stubbs, Reds
Jonny Gomes, Reds
Orlando Cabrera, Reds
Martin Prado, Braves (vs. Milwaukee)
Brian McCann, Braves
Omar Infante, Braves
Troy Glaus, Braves
Yunel Escobar, Braves
Melky Cabrera, Braves
On the flip side ... here's a list of hitters who are likely headed for slow starts in Week 15 (July 12-18), due to poor pitching matchups. I'm not saying "Don't start 'em" ... just be wary of these guys, who'll face at least two high-quality hurlers this weekend:
Matt Kemp, Dodgers (@ St. Louis)
Andre Ethier, Dodgers
Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
Casey Blake, Dodgers
James Loney, Dodgers
Rafael Furcal, Dodgers
Russell Martin, Dodgers
Chris Young, Diamondbacks (@ San Diego)
Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks
Adam LaRoche, Diamondbacks
Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks
Kelly Johnson, Diamondbacks
Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks
Jose Reyes, Mets (@ San Francisco)
David Wright, Mets
Ike Davis, Mets
Angel Pagan, Mets
Jason Bay, Mets
Rod Barajas, Mets
Carlos Beltran, Mets (rumored to be returning this weekend)
My deepest sympathies and condolences go out to the Steinbrenner family for the death of Yankees patriarch George Steinbrenner, who died at the age of 80 on Tuesday morning. Like most native Detroiters, I have a healthy loathing for the Bronx Bombers, but please don't mistake that disdain for a lack of respect toward The Boss. Steinbrenner's abrasive passion for winning, and subseuqent hatred of losing, are traits that every major American sports owner should possess these days. Plus, every owner should allow themselves to be comically spoofed by Seinfeld and Larry David ... should the opportunity present itself. Godspeed, Calzone Man!