Past, present and future on display at All-Star Game
NEW YORK -- Did you hear "Enter Sandman" pumping on the PA as Mo stood solo and soaked in his signature moment?
Did you gasp when an Orioles third baseman not named Brooks Robinson made a play suspiciously similar to those once made by Brooks Robinson?
Did you applaud when the kid who has come to own Queens turned in a performance even more electric than his bright orange cleats?
Did you see that smile -- pure joy personified -- after the burly guy with the big belly slid safely into third?
If you watched the 84th All-Star Game, you saw a showcase true to the intent of the event.
Sure, you saw a 3-0 American League victory, one that ensures the Junior Circuit of home-field help in the World Series. But when this game is at its best, it's about so much more than the postseason impact it presents.
No, when the Midsummer Classic is at its best, as it was Tuesday night at Citi Field, it's about the old and the new, the awe and the elation that can only come when the stars assemble in one spot. And while the elements are aligned for these magic moments every year, the truth is that so many All-Star Games come and go and leave little trace in our memory banks.
This one, which took place on a muggy night in the home of the Mets, is one we might remember for a long while.
We'll remember it for Mariano Rivera, first and foremost, and the way his fellow AL All-Stars gave him a fitting send-off by staying off the field and letting him soak up the adulation he so richly deserved.
"I had tears in my eyes," Justin Verlander said.
Verlander wasn't the only one. And now Mo can stand alongside Cal Ripken Jr. in All-Star lore as a guy who went out on top with MVP honors.
The game, though, keeps going, and that's what many of us will take away from this extraordinary evening. For this night began, remember, with Matt Harvey pitching to Mike Trout (credit to Trout for doubling, and credit to Harvey for not buckling). This night allowed a national audience to soak in the sensational third-base play of Manny Machado. This night allowed Jose Fernandez, a 20-year-old kid on a largely ignored Marlins club, the chance to show why some think he'll go down as the best pitcher to ever come out of Cuba.
Oh, and, on a lighter -- or actually, not very light -- note, this night gave us that rumbling Prince Fielder triple.
"He's a big boy," Verlander said with a laugh, "but he can run."
This, simply put, was a special night for mo' than Mo. It was a night that made you feel good not just about the way baseball salutes the great ones who treat the game and those around them with respect, but also the future and the theatrics still in store.
"It's not necessarily like the baton being handed off," said Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, who has watched these games as far back as he can remember and finally got to participate. "But a day like today, you get to appreciate the guys who have been here a long time and the new stars coming up. That's one of the best things about it. You get to see the faces of MLB. You see Machado fire one from deep into third and see Mariano go 1-2-3.
"If you're a baseball fan, this is why you watch the game."
Did you watch Machado make that backhanded stop of what seemed a sure hit for Paul Goldschmidt in the seventh? How he hauled in that high hopper and managed to make the throw to first in time for the out is something that can't be explained in this space, only appreciated.
Well, unless you're accustomed to watching Machado do that every night.
"Everybody was looking around like, 'Is this normal?'" said Chris Davis, Machado's Orioles teammate. "I wasn't impressed. He didn't hit the [first baseman] in the chest."
Davis was kidding, of course, but what Fernandez did to the heart of the AL order in the sixth was no joke. The kid came out firing 98-mph fastballs offset by a devastating breaking ball that proved untouchable. Dustin Pedroia struck out, Miguel Cabrera popped out and Davis struck out. That's a nifty little inning right there. And did I mention he's 20?
"Filthy," Davis said.
So was Harvey, who might have gotten off to a shaky start by serving up that Trout double and then plunking Robinson Cano in the knee. But he set down Cabrera, Davis and Jose Bautista in order to escape the first, then proved perfect in the second against David Ortiz, Adam Jones and Joe Mauer.
"Obviously there was some jittering going on in the bullpen," Harvey said. "But for some reason, once I got out there, I felt great and felt like I was at home."
That's the thing about this incredible crop of young arms that is taking over the game: They feel right at home, right from the start. And so it was a joy to see Harvey, Fernandez, Patrick Corbin and Matt Moore make what could be the first of many All-Star appearances. Especially on a night when such an incredibly positive role model was right there in front of them.
"It's amazing," Torii Hunter said, "because the young is going to be old. So for the young to see a guy who started off when he was 20, 21 years old in the Major Leagues and now he's 40-plus and tipping his cap, everybody wants to get there. For the young guys to look at that and say, 'Man, I want to get there one day,' it motivates them. I know it motivates me."
Hunter is one of many amazed by the poise, promise and professionalism displayed by the early 20-somethings who are taking over the Midsummer Classic. Derek Jeter wasn't here. Alex Rodriguez wasn't here. Albert Pujols, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia. None of those guys were here.
Mo was here, one last time. But even his departure felt strangely OK. Because this game gave good indication that there's plenty more in store.
"This new wave," said Hunter, "is awesome."
And so was this All-Star Game.