If he could climb Mount Rainier and spread his message from above, Rob Manfred certainly would have done so. Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball, had reason to celebrate his sport on Tuesday. Attendance increased 8 percent over last season as the pace of play became more lively, more bold on base, TV ratings improved and championship favorites surprised.
“What do they call it? It’s a virtuous circle, isn’t it?” Manfred said Tuesday afternoon ahead of the 93rd All-Star Game. “The rule change is good. The players stay positive. The players are positive towards them, so the fans are even more positive towards them.” So that’s really great for us. ”
In some respects, however, Manfred conceded that baseball had just reached a breaking point. The World Baseball Classic in March ended with a dream showdown. The best player in the world, Shohei Ohtani, struck out his Los Angeles Angels teammate, the honorable Mike Trout, as Japan won the championship.
“Sometimes we get lucky,” admitted Manfred. “The culmination of Ohtani and Trout, it can’t be planned.”
A few hours later, with the upper right-field upper deck still bathed in the glorious Seattle summer sun, baseball almost got lucky again. A two-out walk in the bottom of the ninth gave the Mariners young centerpiece Julio Rodriguez a chance to win.
Like everyone from Snohomish to Spokane, Rodriguez had a home run in mind.
“Yeah, I was really trying to win, to be honest,” he said. “Seeing the player take the lead motivated him to hit a good pitch and win the game.”
Unfortunately, the offer never came. Rodriguez was intent on playing his hometown hero, but he was taking a walk. Craig Kimbrel of the Philadelphia Phillies struck out Jose Ramirez of Cleveland to give the National League a 3-2 victory over the American League.
It was the first victory in the National League since 2012, but there was no post-game toast by the league president. That position was abolished years ago, and now there are few league distinctions, with all teams playing against each other in the regular season.
“I don’t think they care much about it anymore,” said NL Phillies manager Rob Thomson of the NL’s losing streak. “If I was in the game, I would have liked to win, but I don’t think it meant much.”
The All-Star Game is primarily a celebration of sports and an opportunity to appreciate the feats of the major’s greatest showmen. In fact, the game’s first two hitters, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman, hit deep drives that turned into dashing aerial catches by the Cuban outfielders. Adris Garcia shunned the sun to take Acuña on the right, while Randy Arrozarena, his former teammate in the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm system, surged to catch Freeman’s ball in the left-field shadow.
“It’s my first time coming to an All-Star game and I’m happy to share the field with my daughter’s godfather and brother, Adris,” Tampa Bay Rays guard Arrozarena said through an interpreter. “So it was fun.”
Arozalena, runner-up to Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in Monday’s Home Run Derby, did his signature arm-folding pose on the post-catch caution course. Garcia of the Texas Rangers pounced again at the warning line in the fourth.
“I trust the whole world that Adris will play like that,” AL starting catcher Jonah Haim of the Rangers said. “Usually when he jumps, I catch it.”
Haim was one of six Rangers on the field at the same time when Nathan Iovaldi started in the American League in the second inning. The only other teams to do so were the 1939 winning team, the Yankees, and the 1951 Starcross Brooklyn He Dodgers.
“It’s really special,” Haim said. “The All-Star Game field has thirds, shortstops, second, right, pitchers and catchers, and if you look around, there’s nothing better than that.”
The Atlanta Braves tried. In the bottom of the fifth, the entire infield played together. It may have been an evocative visual, but for the third year in a row, MLB has outfitted teams in generic Nike uniforms, making their best players as indistinguishable as possible.
So it was only fitting that Tuesday’s Player of the Year was perhaps the least-known of all All-Stars. Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Diaz hit a two-run homer to beat Felix of the Baltimore Orioles. 8th place Bautista.
Diaz, 32, signed with Colorado in 2020 after five outstanding seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was the lone representative for the bottom-placed Rockies, but entered the roster with a .277 batting average and nine home runs.
“It’s unbelievable,” Diaz said through an interpreter when asked about being fired by the Pirates and winning All-Star MVP honors. I stayed confident and stayed positive. I am happy just to be here now. ”
Not only did he turn up, he walked away with a crystal bat named after Ted Williams, but the prize went to all the headliners, including Ohtani, who struck out and walked in two at-bats. I couldn’t put it in.
Yes, Ohtani said he heard the crowd shout “Come to Seattle” while he was hitting. This is a recruiting plea from 47,159 paying fans who want Ohtani to move as a free agent this offseason.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” Ohtani said through an interpreter, later adding, “Every time I come here the fans are so passionate and really into the game. So very much. It’s impressive.”
Ohtani spent the offseason in Seattle and said the city was beautiful. He wouldn’t say whether his fellow All-Stars had pitched more subtlely to make him a teammate.
“I would like to keep it a secret,” he said.