Tuesday night, I made the trek to Yankee Stadium, in large part, because the chances to see Mariano Rivera work his magic are dwindling. The 33,000-plus fans in attendance got lucky. Rivera was called on to save a one-run game. I'm so glad I delayed a final trip to the restroom, because it took Rivera about two minutes to slice his way though the Indians in the ninth inning. His dominance, at 43 years old, is a reminder that Rivera is still an elite closer and one of the greatest athletes we've ever seen.
So what? This isn't new information. You're right.
But the experience of seeing Rivera in person for the first time in a while got me jazzed up for a few different reasons. Watching the crowd react to Rivera was as memorable as his performance. Television doesn't do it justice. We all know that Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blares through the stadium speakers upon his entrance, but hearing the ovation in person and witnessing the pure idol worship is Hollywood stuff.
After my ears stopped ringing, I started to think about the upcoming All-Star Game. In a few weeks, you can anticipate another ill-advised push for the Yankees great to be named the starting pitcher for the American League. When the original story broke in May, I honestly thought it was a joke. Someone's idea of comedy. There was no punchline. Now I feel like this is truly one of the most mind-boggling suggestions we've ever heard.
How could anyone want to cheat the fans and the game from the thrill of watching Rivera enter and pitch with a meaningful game on the line? You want to honor him at the Midsummer Classic? A game viewed by a worldwide audience? Good. He deserves it. Here's a suggestion: crank up the volume to 11, play "Sandman," wake the kids, kick back and enjoy the final chapter of greatness.
From a pure baseball perspective, don't lose sight of the fact the All-Star Game is not an exhibition game. The outcome of the game is of great value. It's been this way for a decade. The winning side gets to host Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the World Series. Don't think that's a big deal? Ask the 2012 Tigers and the 2011 Rangers if home-field advantage in the Fall Classic could have changed things.
If you want to win, you need to put the best players in the world in the best possible position to succeed. In the history of baseball, has there ever been a player who is more dominant in his position than Rivera as a closer? Using Rivera as a starting pitcher is not as irresponsible as putting, say, Joey Votto at shortstop or Mike Trout at catcher, but it's similar in this sense: They'd all be great players playing out of position.
Finally, AL fans, ask yourself this question. Who do you want closing the All-Star Game?
- Grant Balfour
- Addison Reed
- Mariano Rivera
I hope Jim Leyland and his staff don't miss the boat on this decision the way hitters have missed on Rivera's cutter for the past two decades. ***
A funny thing has happened to the Phillies in the last calender month. A team with aging position players that seemed to be on the verge of going nowhere received a jolt from a 25-year-old who is fast becoming the face of the franchise.
For a few seasons, we've heard that Domonic Brown had the capability of becoming a premier power hitter. The fans recognized that when they gave him a standing ovation before his first Major League at-bat. That potential was finally realized in the short term when he cranked out 12 home runs in May. He hasn't stopped. His 18 homers lead the National League, yet Brown insists he's "trying to do his little part" to help the team and let the "big-named guys go out and do their job."
With hitting guru Charlie Manuel as his manager, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner on the coaching staff, plus some of the best hitters of the past decade as his teammates (Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard), the guy Brown said he talks to about hitting every day is Chase Utley. Brown evens sounds like Utley when he says his primary goal is to be "short to the ball." So far, so good.
If there's one place Brown is short on talent it could be in the singing department. His uncle is former-pitcher-turned-musician Mudcat Grant. Brown said that while he grew up singing in the church choir and still attempts to sing in the bathroom, he's "no good" at it.
As Miguel Cabrera continues to dominate the AL in numerous catergories, there's a distinct chance he could become the first back-to-back Triple Crown winner in history. That achievement would add a line to his Hall of Fame plaque and cement his name on the short list of the greatest hitters in history. But wait, there's more. There's another record that may be more intriguing: the single-season RBI record -- a mark many believed would never be topped.
In 1930, Hack Wilson drove in 191 runs. For six decades, no one came close to matching that. The closest was Manny Ramirez in 1999, when he drove in 165 runs. He still finished 26 RBIs short.
Here we are in 2013, and Cabrera has 65 RBIs through 57 games. On pace for 188 RBIs, that would represent the second-highest total. If he can reach 192 in this new age of drug testing and dominant pitching, that mark would represent the greatest single-season offensive achievement of our lifetime.
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2-4 p.m. ET. Follow him on twitter @mattyallofmlb.