Orioles left-hander John Means never imagined that he would be a member of the 2019 American League All-Star team when the season began.
He was just happy to make the Opening Day roster and, quite frankly, there were a lot of people who didn’t think he would be on it very long.
Tuesday night, he got to take a bow during pregame introductions, but then he had go back to being just happy to be the most unlikely All-Star at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
He watched five of the seven starting pitchers on the AL roster cruise through the first five innings of a 4-3 victory, leaving just himself and Astros starter Gerrit Cole in the bullpen when AL manager Alex Cora started using his relievers.
That could mean only one thing for Means: that he was destined to be the guy who could pitch in long relief if the game went into extra innings, which seemed like a real possibility until the AL hitters scored twice in the seventh inning to loosen up a one-run game.
It became a possibility again when the NL scored twice in the eighth to make it a one-run game again, but Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth to earn the save.
Major League Baseball has been tying itself in knots trying to figure out how to enhance its appeal to a new generation of sports fans, but it might not be that complicated.
This year’s All-Star Game featured dozens of attractive young players who should appeal to both committed and casual fans alike, but MLB wasn’t taking any chances.
The player introductions were accompanied by live rock music and the game broadcast opened with comic actor J.B. Smoove setting the stage.
Throw in an interview with hot-miked Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman that took place during his first-inning at-bat and it was a very happening first 20 minutes of the game.
That was just the beginning, of course. Fox broadcasters Joe Buck and John Smoltz schmoozed with Most Valuable Player candidates Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger throughout the bottom of the second inning, interrupted only by a couple of hard-hit balls that required the the two sluggers’ immediate attention.
The omnipresent in-game interviews seemed intrusive at times, but it was still a strong broadcast.
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Can’t remember an All-Star Game that was so issue-oriented. The hot topic of the early innings, both in the broadcast booth and during a couple of in-game interviews, was this season’s allegedly juiced baseballs.
AL starter Justin Verlander, who has allowed a major league high 26 homers this year, has been extremely outspoken about the lively baseball and the industry-wide record home run pace, which he believes is not a manufacturing anomaly.
Commissioner Rob Manfred strongly denied Tuesday that MLB has done anything intentional to increase the cruising distance of the ball and Verlander tempered his comments during a first-inning dugout interview with Fox sideline reporter Ken Rosenthal.
Will ASG ever come back to Baltimore?
The Cleveland Indians are the second team that has hosted the All-Star Game for the second time since the last time the Midsummer Classic was held in Baltimore.
Of course, Manfred has repeatedly denied that the Orioles have been overlooked because of the long-running MASN lawsuit. The alternate theory that has made its way around the sport is that the Orioles just haven’t shown much of an interest in hosting the event, which was last held at Camden Yards in 1993 — the year after the ballpark debuted.
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To be fair, five other teams — the Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs — have waited longer for their next All-Star Game than the O’s.