All Star Recap. Most Unlikely MVP ever? Unpacking a Nail-Biting Midsummer's Classic
Well well well. That was fun. The 2023 Midsummer Classic was everything we could have hoped for. It had homers, phenomenal catches, elite pitching, and of course, drama at the end. The 2023 All-Star Game was absolutely perfect from my perspective. Sure, there were a few pitchers and hitters that were supposed to play that elected not to due to injury or for extra rest, but man, that was fun. Let's unpack a few things about it.
First of all, Seattle did a fantastic job at hosting. Everyone I spoke to about it or listened to about it said Seattle was one of the best host cities for the All Star Game. Most of those athletes and analysts are used to the scorching hot and humid temperatures that are sprinkled across the US during July, but Seattle was a picture perfect 75-80 degrees all weekend long. Perfect baseball weather. And the fans were absolutely wonderful. The rise they gave for Julio Rodriguez during the HRD on Monday night was every bit what fans expected, and they provided an excellent atmosphere during the game itself on Tuesday. Hats off to you, Seattle. You've gained a fan of your city. And I am typically a notorious rain and cold weather hater, as my family and girlfriend would say.
The Home Run Derby was fantastic. T-Mobile Park (I prefer Safeco Field still), was a gorgeous backdrop for a record-setting number of homeruns by the 8 hitters. Being the completely unbiased Orioles fan that I am, Adley Rutschman hitting SWITCH in the Home Run Derby was absolutely brilliant. To hit 20 homers from the left side (a number that he wasn't predicted to hit to begin with), he just decides to flex on everyone and go to the right side, hitting 8 OUT OF 10 homers from the opposite side. Crazy stuff. And while Luis Robert may still have gotten him in the first round, Adley's performance was easily a huge highlight. Julio Rodriguez put on a MASSIVE show hitting a record 41 homeruns in a single round against Pete Alonso Monday night. The crowd got incredibly into it, and made watching that round electric. And of course, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won the Derby, making him and Vlad Sr. the only father-son duo to ever both win the HRD. Great stuff on Monday night (although I think they need to go back to counting outs instead of time).
Now to the game itself. While I am primarily a baseball fan, I still consume my fair share of all major and minor sports. Having watched most All-Star events for all of them, MLB's is easily the best. It is quite literally a showcase of the best after the best after the best. Each inning a new pitcher takes the mound and the lineups get switched halfway through the game, keeping it fresh for fans and increasing entertainment and camaraderie for the players. Cole and Gallen were each great in the first inning, and Sonny Gray also made my list by dealing against the 3 batters he faced in the 3rd. The amazing catches by Randy Arozarena and Adolis Garcia off of Acuña and Freeman to start the game were hilarious, and extremely exciting to watch on TV.
Seeing the players have so much fun and be so relaxed on the field is refreshing. Most of these players don't show as much emotion as we get to see in the ASG. Seeing Cole smile as the 2 brilliant catches were made in the first was great, and watching Arraez react to getting his steal overturned on Replay was also fantastic. The All Star Game is just a fun watch, and credit to Joe Davis and John Smoltz as well, who always bring more to the game with their commentary.
My O's had a great showing, with Adley catching the last 4 innings and hitting a line-drive to the right fielder in his only at-bat, and Austin Hays going 1 for 2 in his first All Star Game. Yennier Cano showcased his elite stuff in the 6th, striking out Matt Olson (who leads the NL in Homeruns, mind you) and Nick Castellanos (who came up to bat after the amazing Stand Up to Cancer promo, so who knows what he can do). Sadly, the Orioles closer could not say the same.
Elias Diaz played spoiler to my guy Felix Bautista in the 8th, after Bautista showed inconsistencies early after walking Castellanos and throwing a wild pitch. Felix is usually what I like to call "effectively wild". And even with that going for him, Diaz was right on him. To his credit, he was ready for that hanging splitter he got from "King" Felix (don't get me started on Mariners fans and Felix this weekend), and smashed it over the left field wall for a go-ahead homer that would stand the end of the game, giving the NL their first win since 2012, 3-2. Diaz was one of the more unlikely choices for ASG MVP, but nonetheless, it was deserving. And what a moment for that guy. He's had an elite first half, and is set up for a great rest of the season with the year he's been having.
Both Hader and Kimbrel looked sharp for the NL, and the game even provided some drama, with Julio Rodriguez coming up to bat as the winning run in the 9th. He walked, but even still, the fans LOVED it. What a great way to end the game.
Enjoy the rest of the All-Star Break, Baseball fans. Friday brings a new slate of games with an all new episode of 4 Guys, Still No Clue dropping Monday morning. The second half begins, and everything is still to play for. Thanks for reading this far. Love you all!