I was planning on writing an article about R.A. Dickey being named the National League's starting pitcher the 2012 MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City. It was going to be absolutely brilliant. I had it all planned out:
The second sentence of New York Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey's autobiography, Wherever I Wind Up, goes something like this, "I will never be a Hall of Famer and will never lead the league in strikeouts, and am in no imminent danger of joining the 300 Victory Club."
But he will start the 2012 All-Star Game.
Alas, NL skipper Tony La Russa tapped San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain to start the game instead. It wouldn't be the first time La Russa has messed up my writing plans. Shortly after the St. Louis Cardinals won the 2011 World Series, I was writing an article imploring La Russa to "please come to Boston" to manage the Red Sox. But just as I was putting the finishing touches on said article, La Russa called a press conference to announce his retirement as a big league manager. La Russa, of course, has come out of retirement to manage at the All-Star Game. While I think it's great that he's been bestowed with this honor, hopefully this will be the last game he manages because I can't afford to have him keep throwing me curveballs.
But back to the man they call R.A. The 37-year old right hander might not be starting the mid-season classic but I'm sure he wasn't expecting to be named to the squad when he reported to the Mets' spring training camp in Port St. Lucie. I'm sure Dickey would have been content to go through the season without being sent down to Triple A for the umpteenth time. Instead, Dickey has gone 12-1 with a 2.40 ERA with 123 strikeouts. While Dickey doesn't lead the NL in strikeouts, he is second only to Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals who has 128. Dickey threw back to back one-hit shutouts, becoming the first pitcher to do so since Dave Stieb did so with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1988 and the first NL pitcher to do so since Jim Tobin hurled back to back one hitters with the Boston Braves in 1944. The consecutive one-hitters came in the midst of a 44 1/3 scoreless innings streak. Dickey would be named NL Player of the Month in June. But it's not good enough to start the All-Star Game -- at least not for Tony La Russa.
Then again, Matt Cain did throw a perfect game. Of course, Philip Humber threw one too and he has a 6.01 ERA which just goes to show you don't necessarily have to be good to be perfect. In addition to the perfectos, we have witnessed no-hitters this season by Jered Weaver, Johan Santana, and Kevin Millwood along with the cast of A Chorus Line. I actually saw Santana throw a complete game, four hit shutout against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field in the start prior to pitching the first no-hitter in Mets history.
I also saw Bryce Harper, the 19-year old rookie sensation for the Washington Nationals run from first to home to score the go ahead run against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He resembled Secretariat in his mad dash home. It was every bit as impressive as when he stole home after being plunked in the back by Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels. Meanwhile, 20-year old rookie Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is making people forget they signed Albert Pujols for a quarter of a billion dollars. Albert Who?
In the space of ten days, Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill hit for the cycle twice, becoming the first big leaguer to do so twice in a season since the Babe. Not Babe Ruth but Babe Herman, who accomplished the feat in 1931 with the Brooklyn Robins. Incidentally, Herman is the only big leaguer to hit for the cycle thrice, doing so in 1933 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Can Hill climb that hill and get his third cycle? Well, as long as he isn't vicious about it.
Let us not forget Josh Hamilton hitting four homeruns in a single game. Notwithstanding an off-season relapse, Hamilton is doing everything in his power to convince the Texas Rangers to include him in their long-term plans. Hamilton, who is a free agent at the end of this season, will remain a fan favorite no matter where he plays. Hamilton received a record 11 million votes for this year's All-Star Game. No doubt a lot of that has to do with his performance in the 2008 MLB Home Run Derby at old Yankee Stadium.
Yet I'm not a big fan of the Home Run Derby mostly because Chris Berman's voice annoys me. Especially when he shouts "back, back, back!!!" My Dad says it reminds him of a duck.
However, 2012 hasn't been good for everyone. Who would have predicted that two time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum would be 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA at the halfway point in the season? He leads the NL in both losses and earned runs. The Giants' slim right hander is also experiencing the unpleasant taste of fair-weather fandom in the normally laidback Bay Area. Lincecum can thank his lucky stars that he's not pitching in Boston, New York or Philly.
My 2012 predictions have been a mixed bag, as one might expect. Of course, it isn't exactly a stretch to pick the Yankees to win the AL East. But they are leading the division by 9½ games without Mariano Rivera closing out games. I picked the Red Sox to finish last and they have a share of the cellar with the Toronto Blue Jays, albeit with a .500 record.
When I picked the Pittsburgh Pirates to win the NL Central a typical reaction was like the one made by one Richard M., who wrote, "Aaron's not shy of making bold predictions, but it was hard for me to continue reading after I saw the Pirates winning the NL Central." Perhaps Richard should have read on, because the Bucs are leading the NL Central. That doesn't guarantee anything, and the Reds and Cardinals will be stiff competition. But the NL Central should be a fun race to watch.
I didn't expect the sudden decline of the Phillies. But who would have thought that Cliff Lee would have one win this season? Nor did I predict the rise of the White Sox under Robin Ventura. I did, however, pick Adam Dunn to win AL Comeback Player of the Year. Yes, he's hitting .208 and will probably strike out more this season than White Sox legend Nellie Fox did in his entire career. But his 25 homeruns are more than double the 11 he hit in 2011, and that should be good enough for the Baseball Writers Association of America even if it isn't for Tony La Russa, but he doesn't have a vote.
I have only one complaint about the All-Star Game. Specifically, it's the commercial featuring the likes of Detroit Tigers slugger Prince Fielder, World Series MVP David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to name but a few. Specifically, it's the copy that bugs me:
Some call it an All-Star Break. It's not a break.
For we play on because the battle for the post-season begins now.
To quote New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "Who wrote this sh*t?"
Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks can say it's not a break all he wants. Since he and 90% of active major league players aren't going to be at the All-Star Game, how exactly would he characterize this interregnum? Yes, Virginia, there is an All-Star Break.
The battle for the post-season begins now? Um, the battle for the post-season began when you guys reported for spring training.
And why is Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp staring at the camera so menacingly? Did someone ask him about Rihanna or Ned Colletti?
As for the game, I predict the National League will win for the third year in a row and the All-Star Game MVP will be Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In 2013, the All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field. Hopefully, Dad and I will go. Next year in New York. In the meantime, Kansas City here we come.