National League wins, Steinbrenner lost…

George Steinbrenner aka "The Boss"

    The National League beat the American League in the 2010 AllStar game tonight 3-1 snapping a losing streak dating back to 1996 for the NL. Today was also the day that the Baseball Gods chose to take one of the most iconic and controversial figures the game has ever known. George Steinbrenner passed away today at the age of 80 years old with his reigning World Series champs the New York Yankees in first place in the AL East with the best record in baseball. The loss of Steinbrenner cast a pale over the sunny California setting as this game got underway. 

  The story of the early innings tonight was all about pitching for both sides with neither team able to break-through till the fifth inning when Robinson Cano drove in the first run of the game for the AL with a sacrifice-fly. It looked as if the American League would continue its dominance of the mid-summer classic until the NL loaded the bases in the seventh inning bringing up catcher Brian McCann from the Atlanta Braves. McCann is not only a good defensive catcher but also that most precious of all commodities i.e. a catcher than can hit. McCann lashed a double down the right field line with two outs, to clear the bases and put the NL up for good. McCann was named the MVP of the game, and the win could very well give his team who currently sit in first place of the NL East home field advantage in the World Series. 

   Ichiro the lone representative of the Mariners did make a nice running catch in the first inning, but went hitless tonight. Former Mariner pitcher Cliff Lee pitched a 1, 2, 3 fourth inning for the AL but was only one of a number of great pitchers who got a chance to shine tonight. This game was a low scoring affair as anticipated, but seeing all of the best players in the game on one field was a treat for fans everywhere and a needed break for Mariners fans who have suffered through a tough first half. 

  As big as today’s game was, the big story in Baseball was the passing of George Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner and his Yankees represent everything that the Seattle Mariners are not and his passing will probably not be mourned to deeply in this part of the country. Yet Steinbrenner was a larger than life type of guy who had a huge impact on baseball since purchasing the Yankees in 1973. Steinbrenner from Cleveland originally wanted to purchase the Indians with the family money amassed in the shipyard business. Spurned in Cleveland, Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees for less than 8 million dollars and built them into a franchise worth over 1 billion dollars today. Steinbrenner was never the richest owner but unlike many owners including our much wealthier owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, he was never afraid to spend whatever it took to win. 

  And win he did, The Yankees won 7 World Series Championships under the watchful eye of “The Boss”. Steinbrenner was an incredible character who once said that in life “Breathing is first, winning is second”. He was perhaps best known and hated in some circles for his pursuit of free-agents including Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Winfield and Randy Johnson which had the effect of driving wages up beyond the means of most teams. Many people including some of his players and managers did not care for his style and he actually hired and fired manager Billy Martin five times! Former Mariners manager Lou Piniella both played and managed for Steinbrenner and said today that The Boss was “Like a father figure to him”. The stories about this man could fill my next week’s worth of posts, but my favorite goes back to the thrilling 1995 Mariners season against the Yankees where I was lucky enough to attend all three home games. My memories of that series are fading but I clearly recall looking up at the screen at the Kingdome after Griffey had just scored the winning run to see George Steinbrenner going crazy in his booth. Then as I wandered outside with the rest of the crazed mob I happened to be 20 feet away from a black limo that King George jumped into right in front of my eyes storming off in a visible rage. 

   George Steinbrenner always had a flair for the dramatic much like his hero General George Patton, and that night in 95 was no different. But now love him or hate him, he is gone… making his final exit on the day of the All-Star game. George Steinbrenner has impacted the game of baseball and all those involved in it in ways we may not fully ever comprehend. As much as he represents many of the traits such as arrogance, impatience, controlling and vengeful that represent the worst aspects of the human condition, he also wanted to win at all costs… and he did. Personally I  wonder what the state of the current Mariners franchise would be like if we had an owner with one half the amount of passion, daring and desire to win as George Steinbrenner gave to his team and fans….Sadly I doubt we will ever know. Goodbye George you were one of a kind….http://jeffsmariners.com

Big Papi home run derby champ

David Ortiz aka Big Papi

  David Ortiz won the home run derby down in Anaheim tonight beating out an impressive field of mashers including Hanley Ramirez also from the Dominican Republic who finished second. Ortiz otherwise known as “Big Papi” had a slow start this year and there was even talk in the media that he wouldn’t stay on the roster for the rest of the campaign. But unlike Ken Griffey Jr, Ortiz was given a chance to redeem himself which he has, and tonight he showed the whole world that he still has what it takes to carry a team on his broad shoulders. Ortiz is a gentle-giant type of guy with a warm smile and a huge heart to go along with his powerful swing. It is worth mentioning that Corey Hart from the Brewers hit 13 dingers in the first round of the competition before fading in the second round.

   It was nice to see the players with their children out on the field tonight as they put on a show of raw power, timing, and graceful swings before the AllStar game on Tuesday. The All-Star game was first played in 1933 in Chicago and the National League holds a 40-38-2 lead overall despite the fact that the American League has won 12 of the last 13 games. The All-Star game brings all the best players together for one game in a celebration of our National pastime. It is also a time to reflect on the games past great players and take a break from the grind of a long season.

  In light of the dismal season the Mariners are having in 2010 it was a bit painful to see Cliff Lee suited up along with Adrian Beltre who is having a great year for the Red Sox. Another former Mariner Arthur Rhodes now with the Reds is getting his first start in the mid-summer classic at the age of 40 which is a wonderful story. And just as I was beginning to feel sorry for myself and our languishing Mariners, Bobby Valentine mentioned Ichiro and that he should be in the home run derby! Also right after the camera panned on the great HOFer Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan mentioned the possibility of Ken Griffey Jr. showing up and how past greats were voted on to the team in their last seasons. But alas Griffey is gone but not forgotten by those that follow this game from around the country, which made watching Lee and Beltre a little more palatable.

  Ichiro will be our sole representative on the AL squad this year and will be batting in his familiar spot as lead-off hitter. Ichiro was named the MVP in a memorable All-Star game in 2007 when he hit the only inside the park home run in the history of the annual game. Ken Griffey Jr. was MVP himself way back in 1993, and Randy Johnson was the starting pitcher back in 1997 while he was in his prime pitching for the Mariners.

  So this game which will decide the home-field advantage for this year World Series may not be all about our beautiful section of this country, but it will be a fun and great tribute to the game and its best players. Yes the Mariners are still in the cellar of the AL West, but for one night it is time to put all of our misery aside and enjoy this wonderful game, and try to remember it is indeed just a game. Http://jeffsmariners.com

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