The story that will draw the most page views and generate the catchiest headlines will be the Fox network dropping the ball on a perceived intentional slight to the greatest San Diego Padre of all-time. As per usual with these types of stories, one member of the audience notices a failure and within hours, it has turned into an internet-wide conspiracy by a national news network. There is no explanation as for why Gwynn (or Ralph Kiner, or Don Zimmer for that matter) was neglected for at least a moment of silence, but that much is in the past.
As far as the future is concerned, the path to raising baseball’s most prestigious trophy runs through the American League. With the same nonchalance that Mike Trout (a.k.a. a modern day Willie Mays, a.k.a. the greatest player on planet earth) announced, “I’ll take the ‘Vet!” the American League declared their supremacy riding the sport’s two perennial faces and their golden boy shortstop.
Should the Tony Gwynn saga not satisfy your tabloid needs out of an exhibition game played in Minnesota, there is the notion that Adam Wainwright grooved a pitch to Derek Jeter in the first inning for an opposite field double. The only person who will know whether it happened or not is Wainwright himself, and that is how it should remain—although I find it hard to believe that one of the most ferocious competitors in baseball would ever groove a pitch to anyone.
With mere speculation floating throughout the northern Minnesota air, there are some concrete facts to take solace in. As Cincinnati Reds fans, there was a sinister smile that snuck through clenched teeth as all five runs scored by the junior circuit came off St. Louis Cardinals pitching. Adam Wainwright and Pat Neshek would combine to record four outs, but would allow five runs and six hits.
Only four starters would take to the hill for the senior circuit, with Alfredo Simon being one of them. Sandwiched in between the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the “Big Pasta” walked a tightrope of an inning in the third.
Surely, Simon did not groove anything to Jeter in his second plate appearance. A fastball in on the hands was dumped into right field for a leadoff single. The Yankee Captain would scoot over to second on a wild pitch with the heart of the American League order coming to the plate. Soon-to-be-announced MVP Mike Trout just narrowly missed a two-run home run after blistering a ball to the warning track in left field that was hauled in for the first out. The Seattle Mariners’ $240 million man went down swinging to Simon, before Miguel Cabrera hit the hardest ball of the inning—right into the glove of Troy Tulowitzki.
Winning 12 games prior to the All-Star break to tie for the league-lead is impressive, but retiring Mike Trout, Robinson Cano and Miguel Cabrera in order for a scoreless inning may take the cake.
While a pre-game premonition of Devin Mesoraco delivering late came on the precipice of fruition, he would instead go down waving against Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. Getting Mesoraco to swing and miss at a splitter that seemingly froze in mid-air before it reached the plate, Devin’s first All-Star Game at-bat ended with three strikes rather than a roundtripper.
Two innings later, teammate Todd Frazier would be presented with the opportunity to knot the game even at five with one swing of the bat against Seattle Mariners closer Fernando Rodney. Unfortunately, Rodney would miss wide with all four pitches, walking Frazier. New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy would strike out to end the National League’s final best threat, but the Toddfather would get only that single plate appearance.
Stages of fright, shock and anger overthrew the collective psyche of Reds fans as the night drew to a conclusion once Aroldis Chapman came limping off the field. A few weeks ago, Chapman was said to have strained his hamstring and it even kept him out of action for a day. On Tuesday night, he showed that the ailment was not quite back to 100 percent healthy, hobbling into the dugout after a second consecutive groundout to end his two-thirds of an inning of work. (Go figure, Aroldis Chapman is the all-time record holder for consecutive appearances with a strikeout, but he appears in the All-Star Game and gets two groundouts. Thankfully, exhibitions do not count.)
For a team with World Series aspirations, the possibility of having to play in an American League city to open and close the Fall Classic is a daunting task. Needless to say, that will not slow the club on their insatiable pursuit of a National League pennant.
The Redlegs will take back to the diamond Friday night in the Bronx against the New York Yankees. Starters for both clubs are still to be determined, but first pitch will be taking place at 7:10 p.m. as beautiful skies are en route for the opening series of the proverbial second half.