By Ivan Berliant
For the first time since 1996, the National League won the mid-season classic and FINALLY regained home field advantage for this years N.L. representative in the World Series.
And apparently not too much of America seems to care.
Tuesday night’s showdown rendered the lowest viewers for an All-Star game EVER. Yes, I said EVER. Perhaps the typical fan is more American League oriented and wanted to see a slugfest, and well after all, “chicks dig the long ball.” But this year’s contest had none of that, and was dominated by much of what we’ve seen for the first half of the season, lights-out pitching.
Personally, there is nothing I like more than a pitching duel, and that’s one of the reasons I will be in attendance for tomorrow’s Marlins game featuring the young phenom Stephen Strasburg and one of my personal favorite pitchers, Ricky Nolasco. Plus, c’mon, it’s STEPHEN STRASBURG… who wouldn’t go!?
Needless to say, I enjoyed Tuesday’s pitching display, which featured some of the greatest young arms in the game. And for those of you who did tune in, you got to see first hand what type of talent fantasy owners have drooled over all season.
Moreover, fans who happened to watch the 3-1 N.L. victory as well as the previous night’s home run derby, witnessed what Marlins’ fans take for granted on a weekly basis– the amazing talents of Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson.
It was business as usual for the Marlins during the All-Star stretch, as Josh Johnson came in for two innings of shut-down ball against some of the most revered hitters the American League had to offer. JJ (as we refer to him here in South Florida) started the fourth inning by getting the Rays’ Carl Crawford to line out to third, followed by two consecutive strikeouts of Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki.
You thought that was impressive?
Well Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero went down in order in the fifth! That’s a stretch of six hitters no pitcher would ever want to see, and Johnson made it through without the bat of an eyelash.
Josh Johnson’s talents overshadowed Hanley Ramirez’s day at the plate, who went 0-3 throughout the night, but I’m sure Hanley wasn’t too disappointed.
In fact, I believe his previous nights work at the home run derby was more than sufficient for Ramirez’s ego, as he just fell short of David Ortiz for the slugging crown. Hanley knows he’s the man and being in a small market such as Florida he was able to showcase his skills to a national audience.
I’m sure his efforts at the derby will resonate more so with baseball fans who might only be familiar with Ramirez and the Marlins due to a well documented clubhouse controversy.
The Marlins still could be buyers in the second half of the season, and with these all-star talents likely locked in the organization for some time (suprising Marlins’s fans I know), I can see the Marlins developing some momentum as they attempt to make a Second Half Push.
By Ivan Berliant
Naturally, when a highly touted prospect makes their Major League debut it is met with skepticism, and why shouldn’t it? We were led to believe that such anticipated debuts of pitchers like Kerry Wood or Mark Prior would transcend into hall of fame careers. Even our experiences last year with Matt Weiters and David Price proved disappointing, and I’m still waiting to see what all the hype is surrounding the Orioles’ catcher (.246 AVG/4 HRs/17 RBIs in 2010).
With that said, Tuesday’s debut of Stephen Strasburg, and to a lesser extent Mike Stanton, put many cynic’s predications to rest, including my own.
In an article written prior to Strasburg’s debut, I noted that watching the National’s rookie fire-baller wouldn’t be as exciting to me personally in comparison to that of Stanton’s.
I was wrong.
Strasburg was phenomenal, striking out 14 batters through seven innings, while only giving up two earned runs and zero walks. Yes, zero walks! His 12-to-6 curveball had Pirates buckling up more than a bus of kids on their way to a soccer game, and even in his seventh and final inning, Strasburg hadn’t lost any steam while striking out the side.
Although it was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who as a team are hitting a collective .236 and have maybe one or two sluggers to show of the bunch (Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones), you would still think this kid has a long and prosperous career ahead of him.
As I digress, one couldn’t help but notice the impact Strasburg had on the city of Washington D.C., and it occurred to me, will he have that same impact at visiting parks? Could this rookie be able to accomplish the daunting task of selling out our very own Sun Life Stadium when he inevitably visits?
So now I propose this challenge to you Stephen Strasburg:
Can you, Stephen Strasburg, complete the near impossible task of selling out Sun Life Stadium?
Of course a match-up between Stanton and Strasburg will draw a monstrous crowd, but I don’t believe the Marlins’ rookie outfielder is up for the challenge alone. Stanton’s significance extends to Marlins’ fans, fantasy die-hards and some baseball aficionados, but Strasburg is quickly becoming a “living legend.”
So, I’m curious to know what you think, do you believe Stephen Strasburg will be able to sell out Sun Life Stadium? I know I will be there.
-Mike Stanton’s debut had the makings to overshadow Strasburg’s. If the rookie could of hit the go-head home run against the Phillies’ Brad Lidge in the top of the ninth, we would’ve had some different headlines here in South Florida. Stanton went 3-5 at the plate with a run, he showed promising defensive ability and electric speed on the bases. Scouts say Stanton has the power of Ryan Howard, and Jayson Stark of ESPN noted on 560 WQAM this morning that he believes Stanton will ultimately be better than Braves rookie Jason Heyward.
-Other notable 2010 rookie call-ups: Neil Walker (Pittsburgh Pirates), Starlin Castro (Chicago Cubs), Mike Leake (Cincinnati Reds), Jason Heyward (Atlanta Braves), Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants) and Neftali Feliz (Texas Rangers).
-David Price is 9-2 this year while posting a 2.23 ERA/57 Ks/1.17 WHIP.
–Strasburg’s next start is against the Indians on Sunday June 13.
-Roy Halladay and Josh Johnson match up again tonight, the last time these two faced off Halladay pitched the twentieth perfect game in Major League history.