There is a point in any non-postseason (that is to say, non-vital) baseball game in which ratcheting tension begins to deliver diminishing returns. When a game is close in the ninth inning but ends tied, the shift to extra innings represents the start of the Bell Curve Tension descent. Even die-hard baseball fans, by the twelfth inning of any average game (particularly one on a school night), find themselves rooting more for the game to end. And by the fifteenth inning? When it’s 1:40 in the morning? Well, let’s just say if Corey Hart’s throw in the bottom of the fifteenth had been on line and in time, we suspect he would have been booed more than cheered. By whatever fans were left.
The American League won 4-3, continuing a tradition of National League failure lasting since Bob Dole ran for president. Boston’s J.D. Drew won the MVP Award, but it really belonged to Marlins second-baseman Dan Uggla, who turned in an oddly impressive three-error, three-strikeout performance that costs the National League the game about, oh, four times.
The night was assuredly most exhausting and miserable for American League manager Terry Francona, who had done pretty much everything right and was still in serious danger of becoming a goat. He did our New York boys proud, substituting for Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter in the middle of innings to maximize their ovation. (Jeter received boisterous applause; A-Rod’s was more of the polite variety.) He even gave Mariano Rivera every opportunity to finish Yankee Stadium’s last All-Star Game on the mound. But he still almost ran out of pitchers — he said afterward, had the American League not won in the fifteenth, he might have been forced to have a position player pitch; on the Nationals side, David Wright was ready to do the same thing — which might have led to something like the nightmare tie of the 2003 All-Star Game. Except this time, you know, it’s supposed to count. Fortunately, the sacrifice fly saved him.
It is a unique quality of baseball that an event can hold such magnitude that the best tickets are running nearly $10,000 … and then, just four hours later, those same people are leaving before they know who wins. Yankee Stadium looked pretty last night, but it wasn’t an epic sendoff of the old bird. In fact, people couldn’t wait to leave. Considering the sorry lot of the Yankees this year, it’s more than likely this will be the stadium’s last night in the national spotlight. Fox’s last shot? The box seats, nearly empty. “This time it counts.” Obviously, no, it doesn’t. —Will Leitch