ANAHEIM -- The last time the National League won an All Star Game,
"The coach would pitch you the ball, and if you couldn't hit it, they let you use a tee," Heyward explained. "I admit I used the tee a few times."
That's how long it has been since the National League won this thing: Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves, who was voted as a rookie to start in the All-Star Game this year, needed a tee to make contact.
In baseball, more than any major sport, every team can be beaten on a given day -- unless, of course, that team is the American League and that day falls in mid-July. This season, the Red Sox have lost six games to the Orioles, the Rays have lost four to the Marlins and the Yankees have lost three to the Mariners. So what does it say that the American League has not lost to the National League in 13 years? Is the gap between the two leagues wider than the one between the Red Sox and the Orioles?
Of course not, given that the National League has won four of the past nine World Series and took a respectable 118 of the 252 inter-league games this summer.
"It's just one of those freakish things," said Braves catcher
Last year they blew the game in the eighth inning and the year before that in the 15th. They led in the ninth in 2006, the eighth in 2003 and the eighth in 2002. Their luck does not seem to be improving, either. Now that Heyward is actually old enough to play, he is out with a bone bruise. The curse of The Vet, site of the 1996 All-Star Game, lives on.
The NL can blame its hitters -- since 1998 they've averaged just over three runs per game -- and its closers. In the past four years
"If I told you I remember a whole lot about that I'd be lying," said Yankees pitcher
So long, in fact, that the game featured four players who have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame --
No one ever cares who wins All-Star Games until one side wins a rash of them and then pressure mounts -- on the losers to snap the streak and the winners to keep it going.
"I don't want people to say, 'You ended it,'" said Angels center fielder
With the emergence of NL pitchers
And yet, the World Series favorites are obviously still in the AL. If upstarts like the Reds or Padres can sneak through the NL playoffs and into the World Series, they will need every edge they can get, including home-field advantage decided by the All-Star Game.
"You watch," said Bell. "The NL wins. The Padres win. You're going to wish you put money on it."
He predicts that he will not throw a single breaking ball Tuesday night -- "I'm going after every guy," he said -- and that Dodgers outfielder
Bell was joined on stage at the NL press conference Monday by his 67-year-old father,
The AL will have
The NL just has a simple message from Jimmie Bell: "Don't quit."