For an All-Star Game, I don't think you could have asked for a whole lot more than what we saw last night. One-run baseball, lead changes, web gems and homage to Stan the Man. Not too shabby. As a Senior Circuit fan whose favorite team playing host, it was disappointing to see the NL extend it's losing streak to yet another presidential term, but all in all it was a pretty decent night of baseball.
Carl Crawford was the right choice for MVP. I am all for rewarding defense, and any metric or fan with some sense will tell you that Carl Crawford has been the best defensive left-fielder since breaking into the league in 2002. The world got to see what Rays' fans have been spoiled with the past decade. His play -- bringing back a HR off the bat of Brad Hawpe (at least it looked like it probably would have went out) -- was worth .209 of win expectancy. Add in .009 for his single in the 5th, and he edges out Mariano Rivera's .209 WPA, three up, three down save in the 9th. The catch was a bigger play than Curtis Granderson's exciting, one-out triple in the 8th inning. (.167).
I personally thought Jason Werth's catch in center field off of a hard struck ball off the bat of Justin Morneau to end the 7th was the more difficult play, but obviously Crawford's catch ended up being more important to the game's outcome.
Charlie Manuel's managing irked me in that there just should never should be intentional walks in the All-Star game. The move was a product of having "this one count", so giving Victor Martinez a free pass was somewhat understandable, but boring. Heath Bell gets his fair share of ground-balls, and Adam Jones hits his fair share of ground-balls, so from that perspective, it makes some sense. It just didn't work out, with Jones hitting a go-ahead sac fly.
And nothing against Heath Bell, who is having a nice season and all, but I would have liked to have seen Josh Johnson get an inning. Johnson throws on average 95 MPH as a starter, and has quietly become one of the game's best pitchers. Of course, no one knows that because he's a Marlin. It would have been nice to see him bring the heat out of the bullpen.
The most questionable move by far was Manuel using Ryan Howard as his pinch-hitter in the 8th in the game's most crucial situation. With two outs and runners on second and third and Joe Nathan on the mound, the outcome was all too predictable. Howard is a St. Louisan and received a nice hand, so it was a nice sentimental play, but was hardly the right choice. Joe Nathan gets plenty of whiffs and it's a well known fact that Howard swings and misses just about more than anybody. The strikeout was a killer for the NL to the tune of a -.173 WPA. With the National League needing a single to tie or possibly even possibly go ahead, why not save Howard for the 9th when a solo homer may be needed, and let a more contact-prone hitter like Freddy Sanchez into the game?
The fact that I'm even second-guessing managerial moves means that it was an entertaining game to watch. Thankfully, games that actually matter will be back very soon.