More Cowbell Than You Will Ever Need III -- All-Star Game Edition!
The outcome of the NBA Finals is still a foregone conclusion and there are no new episodes of "The O.C." until September, so I've got to find something else to write about. That's when I turn to baseball, even though I see no reason why all of my TV staples can't be on the air all summer long. Reality TV has no off-season, "Survivor" was one of the biggest summer shows ever and a veritable cultural touchstone, so why can't "The O.C." follow this sort of example? If it's the "90210" of the aughts, then it needs to develop a summer season. "90210" didn't make the jump from cult hit to cultural phenomenon until that 1991 summer season, AKA the Summer of Dylan and Kelly. For those who weren't around at the time, this was seriously heavy stuff -- for Generations X and Y, in terms of serial drama and overall hype, we're talking about "Who Shot JR?", the Undertaker's Higher Power, and Game Five of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals all rolled into one. You couldn't go anywhere without hearing "will they or won't they?" gossip about Dylan and Kelly. All aspiring young TV shows should follow the pioneering lead of "90210". Why am I the only person who understands this?
At times like these, baseball becomes a welcome summer distraction. Which means it's time to do my part as a card-carrying member of the Red Sox Nation and help my team repeat as champions by casting my All-Star ballot. The outcome of the All-Star Game directly determines home-field advantage in the World Series, which means that the fans effectively choose which league gets to host Game 1. Has any sport, at any level, ever given the fans that kind of power? It's one of those ideas that's so simple and ingenius that you know it'll never last. On my list of the 50 Greatest Moments in My Life that Didn't Involve Larry Bird, the final out of the 2004 All-Star Game ranks at #35, because it directly led to the Red Sox winning the World Series. I spent my first thirty-odd years on this planet fearing that me, my dad, and my kids would die without ever seeing the Sox win it all, so how could a moment like that possibly rank outside the top 40? It couldn't. Can you believe that this idea, the one which directly led to all this happiness and joy, came from the brain of the same guy who cancelled the World Series in 1994? Thinking about these things keeps me awake at night. I can't sleep! Not only that, amongst the "this time it counts" furor, Bud Selig quietly managed to put an end to home-team bias voting. In my case, I could vote for nine Red Sox players, but it's more in my interest to include other teams' stars so that the Red Sox have the best chance of hosting four World Series games this fall. So like I was saying, the idea is ingenious and therefore, it can't possibly last. It just can't. They'll be reviewing the rules this offseason, and they're bound to eliminate this one. I'm certain of it. My buddy Hench was so certain of it, he sold his car and used the money to get 3-1 odds in Vegas that they'll go back to alternating home-field advantage from year to year. That's basically found money for Hench. Vegas usually doesn't miscalculate the odds like that. They just don't.
Now, let's take a look at the ballot that I'll be submitting 24 more times on mlb.com during the next couple of weeks:
DH: David Ortiz, Boston. Over the weekend, I watched my "Red Sox: 2004 World Champions" DVD four times and each of those times, I rewound and watched Ortiz's ALCS Game 4 homer another five times. Why name your kids Ginobili when you can name them Papi? Did I mention that I love this DVD? I might not be able to get through the rest of this column without stopping to watch it again.
1B: Justin Morneau, Minnesota. Nobody stands out at this position in the AL. Somehow, all the best first basemen are in the NL this year. In these instances, almost anyone is an equally good and bad pick, but nevertheless, you have to pick somebody. It's the gambling equivalent of Vinny Testaverde and Matt Hasselbeck facing each other in the playoffs -- you'd rather bet on neither guy, but you've got to convince yourself to actually bet on one of them. All the rules of gambling get thrown out the window and you need to go with your gut. So I'm going with Morneau, who's a young slugger that's looking like a perennial All-Star for the next decade if he can stay healthy (although, between Larry Walker, Corey Koskie, and Eric Gagne's injuries, it hasn't been a good year healthwise for Canadian ballplayers. Did I just jinx Morneau? I hope not. I feel good about my pick, I do. I do? Yes, I do).
C: Jason Varitek, Boston; SS: Miguel Tejada, Baltimore. In contrast, these are a couple of no-brainer picks. There's absolutely no discussion needed, and you'll only hear arguments coming by way of New York, courtesy of people who will try to convince you that Derek Jeter's latest faceplant catch is worthy of a lifetime exemption into the role of AL starting shortstop in the All-Star Game. As for Varitek, he can do no wrong this season. He's been the glue that has held together an otherwise fragile Red Sox team. I mean, if you were playing a game of pickup softball with your friends, and you could "draft" any AL ballplayer as your first pick, then who would it be? Faced with that situation, I'm sure that nine out of every ten people would pick Varitek first. That's the mark of a guy having a dominant, MVP-calibre season. What more proof do you need?
2B: Brian Roberts, Baltimore. Speaking of players who can do no wrong, Brian Roberts lives in his own universe of doing no wrong. Roberts should skip the All-Star Game and head to Vegas instead, because you've got to take advantage of these types of hot streaks while you can. You know that scene in "Swingers" when Vince Vaughn says "you're so money" to Jon Favreau? That's Brian Roberts right now -- he's so money that he doesn't know what to do with himself. Opposing pitchers can't figure him out, and before they have a chance to adjust, the series is over and the Orioles have left town faster than you can say "Brady Anderson". How can anybody dislike Brian Roberts right now? All this, and he's a Yankee killer. How can you not like this guy?
3B:ARod, New York. A lot of people are bound to be upset about this one. I was filling out my ballot and the Sports Gal walked by, shrieked "you're voting for Slap-Rod! How can you live with yourself?". Now she's hidden the TiVo remote and I haven't been able to find it all day, which is why I'm taking the time to write this blog post. But remember that scene in Goodfellas when Henry (Ray Liotta) goes to Pauly (Paul Sorvino) to beg for help after he got busted for drugs? Pauly gave Henry a wad of money and turned his back on him. Even after a lifetime of loyal service, Henry knew that he was a dead man sooner or later, so he went ahead and testified against the mob. What does all this mean? Just like Henry and Pauly, I have tremendous respect for A-Rod. He's clearly having the best season by any AL third baseman. I can vote for him now, employ him to help the Red Sox get home field advantage in the World Series, and turn on him in a heartbeat come October. Baseball is a dirty business.
OF: Johnny Damon, Boston; Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles; Manny Ramirez, Boston. Guerrero needs no justification. Manny is Manny, I've got to show some home team favoritism (and cleanse myself of any remaining guilt over that ARod vote). And he's obviously the best bet to deliver one of those Kruk-Unit All-Star moments that become 1000 times more famous than anything that will happen in the game itself. If we're lucky, he'll catch his spike on a pigeon or hot dog bun while running after a routine fly ball. But Damon is something else. His career is indestructible. He has survived the Kansas City Royals, Moneyball, a biography titled "Idiot", appearances on "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" and "Rob and Amber's Wedding", and a head-on collision with an outfield wall. Despite all of this, Damon's hitting .340 and is enjoying the best season of his career. Is there any precedent for this? By all rights, Damon should have gone the route of Buster Douglas after all these extracurricular adventures. He's like Jimmy Piersall without the mental anguish. He's too insane to be crazy. Everytime I see him crash into a wall or nearly trip over his hair while rounding third base, I hear Vince McMahon's mid-90's-era ringside commentary coming out of my TV speakers. "Un-bee-leevable. Johnny Damon is un-bee-leevable. Look at that! What an athlete! He's coming home ... he's safe, no he's out, c'mon ump!". You'll be telling your grandkids that you saw Johnny Damon play. You will.
Coming up on a future edition of More Cowbell ... my NL All-Star ballot. Until then, go rent "Caddyshack" in case Tiger runs away with the US open by 3PM on Saturday.