armchairquarterblog

Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on July 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Lance Barrow has been working on CBS golf broadcasts since 1976 when he served as a spotter and researcher for play-by-play giant Pat Summerall.

He worked side-by-side in the production truck for many years with Frank Chirkinian, the network’s pioneering major domo of all things golf, and when The Ayatollah retired in 1996, Barrow replaced him as CBS’s coordinating producer for golf. He’s also the network’s main man on NFL production, but we asked him, in his own words, to pick out some of the most significant technological breakthroughs in the coverage of golf, a game he also plays to a single-digit handicap.

Swing Vision – This has been a great help in analyzing player’s swings in super slow motion. The technology had previously been used in more of a sterile, indoor environment, like showing crash testing in cars or commercials where they shot bullets through locks. We have great teachers on our staff and everyone who covers golf for us is a professional who knows an awful lot about the swing. Every golfer watching at home is looking for an edge, how to hit it better, and this is a great teaching tool. I believe some people watch it on our broadcast and then go out into the garage or the backyard and try to practice hitting that same shot they just saw.

The Blimp – We all take it for granted now at major sporting events, but in golf, it’s really become a valuable tool, especially in showing aerial shots of holes. From the ground, it’s tough to cover the flight of the ball, and the blimp lets you do that. Unlike football or baseball, with one field and one ball, golf has 18 different playing fields and lots of balls in the air. A camera up in the blimp gives us a chance to cover the whole area. From the ground, you might not be able to see that ball bounce on the bank next to a pond and go down to the water, but you see it all from the camera up in the air.

Mini-Cams – Frank Chirkinian was a big believer in having mini-cams, but when they first came out they were big and bulky and you needed a lot of cable to get around. Now, there’s no cable, they’re lighter and they’re wireless with RF (radio frequency) so they can literally be used all over the golf course. You can go anywhere with them, and it makes the whole process so much easier. We’re now on the air much longer than we used to be, and with the minis, you don’t miss anything.

RF Microphones – Again, because they’re wireless, you can take them everywhere and they give you sound that puts you right in the middle of the action. You can point the camera at someone and also hear what they’re saying—a player talking to his caddie, saying something to the gallery, a discussion with a rules official, that kind of thing. We try to get as close as possible without being intrusive, and it really adds to the quality of what you’re seeing at home.

High Definition – HD is one of the greatest things ever to happen to televised golf. It just brings out so much more of the beauty of the game as well as letting people watching actually see the contours of the course and especially the greens. It also lets you cover the ball and travel with the ball in the air so much better. We can now stand behind the golfer with a camera and show you the flight of the ball much longer than we ever could before. We used to cut away much sooner. Now we’ll stay with it and you can see how players actually work the ball right and left.

Color – We all take color television for granted, but going from black and white to color in golf changed the game forever. Think about watching those old re-runs of black and white golf, and it just isn’t the same. I can’t imagine watching Augusta National in black and white, or Pebble Beach or any of the places we go. I see pictures of old tournaments in black and white and I think to myself when they started saying “this show is in living color” it was like Dorothy getting to Oz. All of a sudden, everything becomes beautiful.

This list has been excerpted from my new book, Golf List Mania, available on Amazon.com and local bookstores.

Advertisements

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on July 26, 2011 at 9:17 pm

When the NCAA penalized the Georgia Tech basketball program, no reverberations were felt in Fairfax, Va. – new home of the program’s former leader.

Fired at Tech for losing big, Paul Hewitt soon after landed a job at George Mason. The man who hired him – Athletic Director Tom O’Connor — said this after Tech’s NCAA penalty was announced.

“I can sift through things. I was fine with it when I hired Paul and I’m fine with it now.” Then he said how much he “respected” Hewitt for telling him of the pending infraction during the job interview. Gee, how considerate.

“Fine” with it? You hired a coach with ONE winning conference season in 11 years. Then news breaks your hire violated the rules. Famous for recruiting “one and dones” at Tech, Hewitt had two players – Chris Bosh and Derrick Favors – leave for the NBA after warming up in Atlanta for one season. So much for academics.

Hewitt’s one winning season in the ACC was 9-7 in 2003-04. Last year, he was 5-11. Two years ago, 2-14. Overall, 72-104 in the ACC.

By hiring a “name” coach, O’Connor tried to save face after befuddling contract negotiations and losing beloved Jim Larranaga, who led the Patriots to the 2006 Final Four and last year, upset Villanova in the NCAA first round.

Remember O’Connor’s words when Larranaga left for the University of Miami?

Basketball is not at the front entrance of this university, it’s at the side entrance.” Huh? Without a football program, how is men’s basketball “secondary” to any other sport at Mason?

Seemingly front and center are Mason’s non-revenue sports – wrestling, soccer, tennis and volleyball. But O’Connor forgets these money-bleeding programs would be drowning in red ink if not for Larranaga’s NCAA bounties.

O’Connor jumped to the driver’s seat when President Alan Merten – a Larranaga supporter – announced his retirement earlier this year. Somehow, the Mason athletic director couldn’t come up with $1.3M a year to keep his coach. But VCU — another state school —  did for Shaka Smart. The young coach took his team to the Final Four last year, five years after Larranaga did so at Mason. How do you think Larranaga felt about that?

In Larranaga, Mason finally had a committed pilot for its flagship sport (what it used to be called). Other coaches left at the very first chance.  Rick Barnes left for Providence after one year. Joe Harrington opted out for Long Beach State. Ernie Nestor couldn’t consistently win after taking Mason to its first NCAA. Paul Westhead’s run-and-gun style didn’t work.

I guess Miami saw something O’Connor missed since it promptly made Larranaga a millionaire three times over. Even though basketball is the No. 3 sport at Miami (after football and baseball), university President Donna Shalala and company gave Larranaga a handsome 3-year deal.

Don’t think Hewitt has greater loyalties to Mason than did Larranaga. After leading mid-major Siena to a pair of NCAAs 12 years ago, Hewitt was off to the ACC.

But after Larranaga found success at a mid-major, he spurned his alma mater, Providence, telling the coaching world he was content to retire in Fairfax. He only left when dissed by O’Connor.

Mason’s A.D. couldn’t do what others  did – retain their prized basketball coaches. VCU kept Smart. Richmond placated Chris Mooney. Mark Few is still at Gonzaga. Ben Jacobson remains at Northern Iowa and Brad Stevens is happy at Butler.

Hewitt won’t get cozy in Fairfax, despite his saying, “My wife loves Old Towne Alexandria.” If he wins in Fairfax, he’ll bolt back to the big time. And that could be the Big East and Villanova, where he was a 5-year assistant and whose current coach, Jay Wright, is mentioned with every single major Division I vacancy.

Losing Larranaga was a major embarrassment. Replacing him with Hewitt was another.

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on July 26, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Were there any winners in the end of the 18-week lockout of NFL players? When will we know the winners? In 10 years when the new collective bargaining agreement is replaced by yet a newer CBA?

We know this for sure… there are losers in this deal. BIG LOSERS!

And, the Redskins are among those losers, although they might not completely grasp that, yet.

The Skins have lost valuable time that could have been used to market both Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth to other clubs. Instead of having months to beg a team to swap a second or third round draft pick for the overpaid, unproductive defensive lineman, the Skins now literally have days to make a decision that could weigh heavily on their bottom line and on their sanity.

It might be a hard pill to swallow, but the Redskins’ best option here might be to cut and run; and do it now before potential Haynesworth suitors make other plans. From what I understand of the NFL salary cap and the Skins’ off-season maneuvers, it would be a win-win situation to simply give Albert away. It’s an obvious immediate savings of $5.4 million in 2011 salary, and reportedly, will not negatively impact the cap over the remaining five years of the contract term. Haynesworth is major damaged goods right now, and every other team in the league knows this. He spent the last four games of the ’10 season on suspension for “conduct detrimental to the team.” And, he hasn’t exactly been a sparkling member of society off-the-field either (when you have a moment GOOGLE: Haynesworth legal troubles). Sure, there’s always some foolish team out there willing to take a risk on a guy like Albert, but even they will be just smart enough to wait for the Skins to pull the trigger and end one of the most dysfunctional relationships in the history of the NFL. The question is how long will it take for Mike Shanahan, Bruce Allen, and/or Dan Snyder to make that move. Sure, they could pay him to basically sit on the bench in hopes a great deal might magically appear before the trade deadline in mid-October, but why waste the cash just to show who’s boss. Remember: Haynesworth’s salary would be guaranteed for the entire ’11 season, if he’s still a Redskin come Week One of the regular season.

As for the McNabb situation, this could still play out more easily than Haynesworth for the Skins. Donovan still has value to a number of teams seeking a talented, experienced back-up. But, again this is a deal that must be done quickly to prevent a “quarterback controversy” in the midst of what figures to be a wild and wooly pre-season with free agency, contract signings, and training camp all jammed into about 40 days and 40 nights. From a financial standpoint, the Skins won’t feel the pressure to move McNabb until the first week of the regular season when he’s due a monster roster bonus of $10 million.  Of course, the longer the Redskins wait on moving Donovan the less value he’ll have as teams make other quarterback decisions. If they wait into September, the Skins only hope of really cashing in for Donovan (or Haynesworth for that matter) is if some club suffers a catastrophic loss of a player requiring an immediate and experienced replacement.  (Assuming, of course, that Brett Favre stays retired.) A secondary problem in parting company with Donovan McNabb is the possibility of seeing him again this season in another uniform. Two teams where Donovan could wind up, Minnesota and Miami, are both on the Skins schedule this fall. And, don’t think for a moment that Donovan won’t take that opportunity to show Shanahan the McNabb who led the Eagles to five NFC Championship games.

Ironically, the other big loser on the Redskins might be John Beck, the heir-apparent to McNabb as starting QB. Although, he has a full season of holding the clipboard and observing the Shanahan system under his belt, he missed out on the critical off-season education program. For Beck, there were NO mini-camps, NO organized team activities (OTA’s), NO one-on-one time with Shanahan (Mike or Kyle), NO chance to workout at Redskins Park, NOTHING. And, you can forget those little practice sessions that the players organized during the lockout.  They were little more than a show for the media and the fans. The illusion that work was getting done.

John Beck will have to absorb the starting quarterback role and a thick playbook in a whirlwind of a training camp along with bits and pieces of four pre-season games.  Normally, the first teamers make only token appearances in the exhibitions with maybe a full half of action in Game 3. I can’t imagine that alone will provide a de facto rookie quarterback enough prep time to get in synch with the play calling, the receivers, and the offense in general. Maybe Shanahan re-thinks how much time Beck will get in the pre-season games, but then again, does he want to risk injuring Beck or Rex Grossman or whoever winds up in the starting role (undrafted rookie Ben Chappell? – just kidding).

And, none of the above takes into account that, thanks to a delayed free agency period, the Redskins, as of this writing, are unsettled at wide receiver, at running back, and on the offensive line. Good luck, John, you’re really, really gonna need it.

Naturally, the other big losers on the Redskins, and around the NFL as a whole, will be the rookies; drafted and especially undrafted. They’ve also lost valuable prep time at team facilities during the lockout, and, more critically, they’ve lost the chance to showcase themselves for the coaches at the mini-camps and OTA’s. With so little time to get ready for the season, coaches will likely stick with who they know rather than take a chance on some unknown, undrafted kid who has a hot night or two in the pre-season. The first major roster cut won’t come until late August after the third pre-season game, but a lot of the kids will be gone or all-but-gone by then. Of course, somebody could get lucky if some veteran clown reports to camp totally out of shape (other than Haynesworth), or if the lightning round-style of free agency backfires and leaves some rookie as the only option. And don’t think this can’t happen. The Skins’ recent track record with free agents is not a thing of pride.

For the Redskins, it could be the most intriguing August in quite a while. One thing’s for sure, the September 11th home opener with the Giants will be here all too quickly for Shanahan and company. So too will the Monday Night game in Dallas two weeks later. Let’s just agree that if the Skins haven’t taken care of business in a timely fashion, found the talent they need, and eliminated the “distractions,” the season could be in jeopardy by Week Three.

NOTE: The Redskins have announced that 11 training camp practices will be open to the public between July 30th and August 15th. Fans looking to attend a practice must fill out an “INVITATION” at www.redskins.com and bring it with them to Redskins Park.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at: www.aberdeentradingco.com

MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on July 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Channel 4 said a heartfelt goodbye to sportscaster Lindsay Czarniak last week, with a 4-minute tribute that ended with long-time anchor Jim Vance telling her that she’d become a star at the station in the six years since she arrived and will be a star sooner than later when she moves to ESPN.

Czarniak’s move to the so-called “Worldwide Leader” raised some eyebrows around town, if only because she seems to be going from a being a great big beautiful fish in a big-time pond to being something of a minnow in a humongous great lake at ESPN, where countless anchors abound on a wide variety of channels morning, noon and night.

At least in Washington, Czarniak had carved out a significant identity, sharing anchoring duties with Dan Hellie at a station that always has made more room for sports at 5, 6 and 11 than any of its local competitors, even after the late, great George Michael left the station three years ago.

Michael once described Czarniak as the best hire he ever made and it would be difficult to argue that premise. Not only was she perfectly telegenic, she worked heavy-duty hours off camera and developed many important relationships with key figures on all of Washington’s college and pro sports operations.

Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of “Lunch With Lindsay,” her signature feature on the station when she interviewed a wide variety of sports people while also breaking bread with them on camera. I thought it was a tad contrived and a little too sappy for my taste, but at least she had tried something a little different, and it definitely had some appeal to many casual sports fans who tuned in.

Why did she leave? Only Lindsay knows for sure, but I suspect the merger of Comcast Sports and NBC Sports had something to do with it. One of her biggest boosters was Dick Ebersol, the long time major domo of all things NBC Sports. When he left in what was described as a contractual dispute a few months ago, one of Czarniak’s biggest fans at the network level was not around to offer her more and more plum assignments—more Olympics, more NASCAR–that she clearly craved.

The chance to do SportsCenter for a national audience, as well as the promise of covering some big-time events, including more NASCAR, surely had to be appealing. Here’s hoping that a promising young talent, the hardest-working woman in local sports television, can find her niche in Bristol, CT, and fulfill Jim Vance’s prediction of future stardom on a larger stage.

Sad News: It’s been a tragic month in Washington sports broadcasting what with the death of Nick Charles and Nat “The Cat” Albright.

Charles spent four good years working at Channel 4 before being enticed away by a fledgling news operation based in Atlanta known as CNN at the dawn of the cable age. He would go on to anchor a highly popular and entertaining national sportscast on the network with Fred Hickman, giving the ESPN boys a run for their money and their audience for many years. Charles then became the long-time voice of Showtime Boxing, covering a sport that always was his true passion.

Albright, who died last week, was a long-time radio personality in the Washington market working at several stations. He also was well known in the early days of sports radio for doing “recreations” of major league baseball games, including the Brooklyn Dodgers and old Washington Senators.

Back in the day, Albright and others around the country would sit in a studio at the station (not the ball park) and recreate the games from a pitch-by-pitch, play-by-play wire that came across the teletype machine from every press box in the country. They used sound effects to simulate fan reaction or the crack of the bat. The very best re-creators made you believe they were actually in the ball park.

In his later years, Albright also made himself available – for a small fee of course – to do a game-like, personalized voice-over on a client’s telephone answering machine or voice-mail message. Nat “The Cat” was quite the character and will be missed.

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on July 19, 2011 at 7:09 pm

The game has changed,” Keith Hernandez said on a recent New York Mets’ broadcast.

This after the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez took about an hour to return to the dugout after grounding out. He was steps away from his dugout when Met pitcher Chris Capuano pitched to the next batter.

After a commercial break, Hernandez was still peeved. “Look at this, he’s practicing his swing in the dugout. Save that for after the game. The Marlins’ first baseman is throwing grounders to the infield. Every Marlin is on the field and Ramirez is still in the dugout.”

Broadcast partner Gary Cohen offered, “I guess you have to pick your battles,” as an SNY camera fixed on Marlin manager Jack McKeon, who stood at the dugout railing, staring through black-rimmed bifocals. So much for the moxie the managerial switch was supposed to provide the last place team in the NL East.

An inning later, when Marlin reliever Edward Mujica took the mound, Hernandez ripped off another beauty, “I see he’s up from his nap,” referring to a game last week when FOX cameras caught the pitcher sleeping in the bullpen. The next night, Mujica hung a sign around his neck which said, “Keep the camera off me when I’m in the bullpen.” Cohen lamely added, “Well, at least he made the situation humorous.”

Humorous? Like Hernandez said, the game has changed. Millionaires doing what they love and they can’t stay awake on the job? Taking their time to the point they personally delay the game. And nobody – not even an umpire – says anything?

Baseball proclaims to be fan-friendly with ball-tosses into the stands, swimming pools in the outfield, Hard Rock Cafe patio bars that look onto the field, box seats that are practically in play, kids running the bases as frequently as Jose Reyes, teenagers singing the National Anthem and children officially starting games, screaming “Play Ball” over the stadium loudspeakers.

But a lot is missing.

Twenty-three years ago, World Series viewers – especially Dodgers fans – were treated to sheer drama when a nearly lame Kirk Gibson limped to the plate and then jacked a home run off one of the game’s best — Dennis Eckersley. However, this week Carlos Beltran couldn’t grab a bat and help his team rally due to “flu-like” symptoms. He sat there in uniform while his Triple-A teammates whiffed at air in losing to the futile Marlins. Grab a Kleenex and get in the batter’s box. Think the sniffles ever kept Cal Ripken on the bench?

A day after the All-Star game, co-hosts at the ESPYs embarrassed themselves wearing fake beards while interviewing Giants’ closer Brian Wilson during a silly interview. On and on it went as the female host struggled to read her notes while pulling away the cape of a prop. Wilson is good but he’s no Dennis Eckersley. Or Rollie Fingers. Or Lee Smith. Or Trevor Hoffman.

Since it was All-Star Week, why couldn’t the ESPYs invite Hank Aaron or Willie Mays to reflect on their 50-something All-Star appearances? After all, the event needs juice with so many “stars” begging out to steal a vacation in the Caribbean.

At least Aaron and Mays would honor the game without a stunt. But why interview Hall of Famers when you can fool around on the set and bring attention to yourselves? Next broadcast, look for a segment on tattoos or earrings.

Which brings me to Justin Timberlake. During the All-Star game, Mark Grace was so excited, he forgot whom he was interviewing. Timberlake has as much to do with baseball as does Albert Einstein. Yet, we had to listen to this Gen-Xer wax on about the national pastime, gushing over Joe Buck’s “calling of the game.” Buck is good and he should be, growing up in a baseball family. But we didn’t need a reminder from a brake dancer.

Who knows, maybe MLB is trying to grab the young viewer. But what about older viewers? Or those who just wanted to watch a baseball game?

Think of how Mickey Mantle ran the bases on bad knees. Or how Jim Abbot had to flip his glove from a limb to an arm with a hand just to play defense. Or Ripken and Lou Gehrig, who played through muscle pulls, sickness and headaches because they loved the game. Or Sandy Koufax, who probably pitched through intense pain trying to extend his career. Or Carlton Fisk, who squatted for three hours every game at age 46 because he respected the sport.

Ah, respect. That’s what’s missing.

 

 

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT Ross MacCallum

In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on July 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm

When Bud Selig and the big boys at MLB feel compelled to remind you that 79 of 84 players chosen to be All-Stars had actually shown up for the Mid-Summer Classic in Arizona, you know there had to be some raw nerves exposed by the decision of some well known Yankees to miss the event.

Two of the five who skipped the trip to Phoenix (Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez) had both just undergone surgery and were on the D.L.  No problems there.

As for the other three (all Yankees), there were some questions about their absences from one of the sport’s biggest showcases. The bulk of the media ire seemed to be focused on Derek Jeter more than either Mariano Rivera or C.C. Sabathia even though Jeter had said right after he came off the disabled list that he wanted to rest his sore calf and would likely not make the All-Star trip.

Of course, that was before Jeter had his historic moment over the weekend; going 5 for 5 and homering for his 3,000th career hit. It was then that everybody not named Derek Jeter decided that Derek Jeter should appear in Phoenix to continue the “love fest” that erupted after the Yankee captain reached his “Cooperstown first ballot-clinching” milestone.

And, frankly this where Selig and Co. failed in the PR department. Big time! Instead of “backing up” Jeter’s decision not to put in an appearance in the toasty southwest, Bud really should have appealed to Derek to get on the plane and “let the fans and media love him.”

I know Jeter said he was mentally and physically exhausted from his quest for 3,000 hits. I believe him. Wearing pinstripes and living in New York City can do that to a guy. But, seriously folks, all Jeter needed to do was take part in one news conference, take some B.P., doff his cap to the crowd when they introduced him in the pre-game ceremony, take a couple of cuts in one at-bat, play half an inning at short, and spend the rest of the evening in dugout with his teammates. This is what people who get paid the big bucks and wear the captain’s “C” have to do. It comes with the territory.

This kind of stuff is really what separates baseball from the other major sports. It’s more personal and more intimate than football. I know after 16 years in the ‘bigs,’ the All-Star Game probably isn’t all that special anymore. I know the season lasts for over 6 months and you play virtually every day, but one more inning and a night or two of schmoozing isn’t going to kill a guy. Jeter should have been asked to watch the Gatorade commercial in which he appears. What’s the catch phrase? Prime, Perform, Recover! I’m sure the Gatorade folks meant to emphasize the “perform” part.

Baseball is still the national pastime, but it needs to work harder than it did in the 20th century. The All-Star Game has a lot of competition and isn’t the automatic TV ratings winner that it once was. Baseball is also still facing off with the remnants of its steroids era. The Roger Clemens perjury trial is underway, and MLB needs to counter with positive headlines in the face of the negative ones whenever possible. This is what Derek Jeter needed to be reminded of. This is where Bud Selig typically fails in his role as Baseball’s supreme leader. And, you have to admit, Selig has been a particularly weak leader when it comes to decisions revolving around the All-Star game (please see: 2002 Tie Game).

Selig needs to take care that the baseball All-Star Game doesn’t become irrelevant like the NFL Pro Bowl. The NFL has pretty much conceded that no player from the four top four teams will ever play in the Pro Bowl now that it has moved to the week prior to the Super Bowl. (Heck, those guys didn’t show up when it was the week after the Super Bowl and in HAWAII.) Sixteen major leaguers bailed out of the All-Star game for one reason or another, and Boston’s Josh Beckett couldn’t play when he tweaked his knee warming up. People aren’t paying to see middle relievers and second tier talent. They actually want STARS to play in the All-Star game. Seems logical even if it is only for two or three innings. (And, don’t get me started on the “if you pitched Sunday, you can’t even pitch an inning on Tuesday” rule. Why do we treat these guys like they’re fragile pieces of glass?)

Okay, back on point now.

This is where a Jeter and his sore calf, Rivera and his sore triceps, and Sabathia and his bruised ego have to suck it up, and at the very least, put in a token appearance.

Which brings me to C.C. Sabathia. I know he probably wasn’t happy to initially get left off the A.L. All-Star squad despite his gaudy record. What was Ron Washington thinking? But, Sabathia bailed out of going to Phoenix based on his pitching a complete game Sunday which made him ineligible to play Tuesday, and on the notion that he had already scheduled a family vacation in the Bahamas during the break. Say what? VACATION???

The Angels’ Jordan Walden had a vacation planned until he got the call to replace Rivera. He managed to cancel his plans. How come C.C. couldn’t do the same?  And, I know that he couldn’t play because he pitched Sunday, but what if that game had been rained out? What then, C.C.?

The baseball season (including spring training) runs from the middle of February through October! Vacation time is somewhere between November 1 and January 31. It’s been this way for over a century. Today’s ballplayers are lucky to be paid well enough, so they can take a winter vacation and don’t have to find an off-season job to make ends meet like many guys had to do as recently as 40 years ago.

Enough of my rant – now some thoughts on the All-Star Game itself:

Bruce Bochy may have given future managers a blueprint on how to attack the game in the “must-win for homefield advantage in the World Series” era. He treated innings like mini-games. Cliff Lee gets in a bind in the 4th – send in Tyler Clippard to get out of the jam. Jair Jurrjens gets in a bind in the 7th – send in Craig Kimbrel. Then simply close out the game in the usual fashion – set up men in the 8th – closers in the 9th. Done deal.

So much for playing by the book. Both homeruns were hit by left-handed hitters off of left-handed pitchers.

What are the odds of a pitcher getting the “W” without technically getting anybody out? Tyler Clippard of the Nationals gave up a base hit to the one batter he faced. Luckily, Hunter Pence saved his bacon with a strong throw home to erase a run and end the inning. The N.L. takes the lead for good in the bottom half of that inning, and Clippard goes home with an All-Star victory in his back pocket.

Sticking with the relief pitchers. Just how far is Jordan Walden allowed to leap off the pitching rubber before releasing the ball? It seems unfair to close that much distance between the mound and home plate.

Will the Padres’ Heath Bell be sent a bill from the D-Backs groundskeeping crew? That was way more than just a little divot that he ripped up with that slide to the mound in the 8th inning.

Did baseball purists even notice the first-ever use of a Designated Hitter in an N.L. park? Although, I’m not a fan of the D.H., I think it’s a good idea to use it in the All-Star Game.

Was it me or did Joe Buck’s voice actually seem to get stronger as the night went on? Buck’s vocal cords have been under a serious viral attack since he did the Super Bowl for Fox Sports. Joe told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he’s taking singing lessons to strengthen his voice. He might not be 100% until the World Series rolls around.

And, speaking of Fox… actually, D.C.’s local FOX 5. Why did they keep airing the same news promo over and over all night? Honestly, would it have killed them to record a second or a third version? Or did they not have enough interesting news to bother?

At least, the game was decent.

Ross, the creator of Throwback Baseball 1.0, also blogs about sports memorabilia at: www.aberdeentradingco.com