All Star Game 2009

all-star-game-2009

The NL Didn’t Have to Lose the All Star Game in 2009

The All Star Game 2009 is over, and the NL lost again. Good thing the Astros (the team that unfortunately has my witless loyalty) aren’t going to the WS, because now I don’t have to be angry about losing the 2009 All-Star Game.

Wait, I’m still angry about the 2009 All-Star Game. The American League has owned this contest for too long. The NL played this All-Star Game like a bunch of rookies, especially with all the fielding boo-boos and missed cut-off throws.

The crucial juncture IMHO was Heath Bell against hotshot rookie Adam Jones. At this point the All Star Game is tied in the 8th. Bell has a devastating breaking ball and a high-90s heater. He gives up a triple to Granderson, and then after an intentional walk, he faces the rook.

All Star Game 2009, Now 100% Strategy-Free

Bell throws two filthy breakers – sliders, I think. They look positively Brad Lidge-like. Jones is helpless against them, fouling them off his shoetops. Then Bell goes to the heater. “Good idea,” I think. “This guy is going to show him some heat to set up the breaking-ball strikeout. Classic technique against a rookie who’s never seen an All-Star Game-quality slider.”

Bell throws Jones another heater, and another. Unsurprisingly, the rookie is getting dialed in on that, catching up with each pitch. You don’t make the majors if you can’t hit straight cheese. “Where’s the slider?!?” I think. “And why is that four-seamer so damned straight?” Jones unsurprisingly pounds the crap out of the fourth straight fastball he sees in the AB. Fly ball to right. Granderson scores. Goodbye, All-Star Game 2009.

The Loser of the All Star Game 2009 Speaks Out

Here’s some Bell wisdom from the All-Star Game wrap at Fanhouse.com:

Bell explained that he had no scouting report whatsoever on Granderson.

“That’s the only thing that was worrying me [before the game], how am I going to pitch them?” Bell said. “I was trying to throw it by him, simple as that. I didn’t do my job. I probably should have thrown a breaking ball there. Oh well. I’m driving with my eyes closed.”

[I’m guessing this is actually what he said about Jones, not Granderson, since Jones is the rookie and Granderson’s been around awhile. Apparently this guy is so prepared that he never bothered to talk to any of the coaches or catchers about the guys he was about to face. I mean, it’s just the freakin’ All Star Game. Anyhow, here’s what he did after losing the 2009 All Star Game.]

“I got pissed, threw my glove, kicked a door, like I normally do,” he said. “Then I realized I’ve been pitching really good lately and I kind of needed a wake-up call and this is a good wake-up call, because it doesn’t count on my record. It didn’t ruin it for the Padres, my ultimate team.”

When it was pointed out to Bell that he may have ruined it in the World Series for the Dodgers, who have the majors’ best record, he seemed to get some satisfaction.

“I’ve ruined it for the Dodgers with saves against them,” he said, “so I’m just doing what I normally do.”

Would that be… losing the All-Star Game 2009?

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Another ACL TV Show Experience

Back to ACL TV!

When it rains it pours. And in a good way.

Last Tuesday, it was ACL TV show time again. I was fortunate enough (and yes, willing enough to wait in line for 45 minutes in the 100 degree heat) to land tickets to the ACL TV taping for Allen Toussaint. I invited my pal and collaborator Jessica Nelson, who by the way is a very talented Austin logo designer and graphic designer. She was a first-timer, and I got a kick out of her exclamation after the first song: “I feel like I’m in a dream!”

We got an excellent spot in the second or third rank, mosh pit, stage right, just behind a young woman who proved to be the most uninhibited dancer and Toussaint fan in the entire crowd. I’m certain she’ll show up in the broadcast.

Allen Toussaint

Now when people talk about a “music legend,” there’s usually a little bit of reserve implied. The words mean important geezer or he was a wrecking ball in his prime. Bob Dylan is a music legend, but my friends who saw him at the ACL Music Festival are not reluctant to diss the man, claiming his performance was unfocused and unpleasant to the ear.

Allen Toussaint is a music legend, but I mean that only in a complimentary way. I was a little concerned going in that the show was destined to be an oldies, “pat on the back” kind of affair, but such concerns were only the figments of an uninformed mind.

You see, Allen Toussaint is musicality incarnate.

I’m not writing this to detail the contributions of Toussaint, a New Orleans R&B institution and author of hits for artists as diverse as Glen Campbell, the Stones, himself, and yes, Devo. But the guy is totally relevant and a master showman. Genial, sharing the spotlight generously with his talented band, Toussaint gave to the Steinway and the mike at his ACL TV taping like they were his own flesh and blood. I was consistently impressed with the sweetness and tonal perfection of the band’s solos. Probably the only sour note of the evening was when he threw us a wry, remonstrative smile when some lunk kicked a plastic cup during the quiet piano-accompanied storytelling lead-in for “Southern Nights.”

The ACL TV Taping’s Brightest Moments

There are two moments that stand out for me. One was a gift from the audience to him, and the other of course was his gift to us.

During his instrumental rendition of “St. James Infirmary,” some of the audience seized on the beat and began snapping their fingers to it. Spontaneously, everyone joined in, until the soft tune was delicately accented by all our fingers in unison. Toussaint had a smile on his face as he finished the song, and he thanked us for the experience.

The other moment was a brilliant, tour de force piano solo delivered by Toussaint without any help from his band. I dread to call it a medley, because medleys are often maudlin, and this performance was the antithesis of maudlin. It soared from jazz to pop to classical to R&B, blending them all and making a persuasive wordless argument for a universal theory of musical genres. Sometimes he hinted at familiar strains, like a gentle musical nudge; other times the ear could pick out pieces of Gershwin or Paul Simon. More impressive, really, was that the performance conveyed emotions more than musical ideas – wonder, joy, sadness, and at the end, an expansive sense of adventure and possibility that I can only guess to have been a statement about Austin and the spirit of the south. A lesser musician would’ve tried to make that statement with a bit of Willie Nelson or a lick of Texas blues, but no, no, Allen Toussaint is far too skilled and subtle for that.

When we left, we heard one of the ACL TV staff talking to another, grinning broadly. He was saying, “That one was a highlight.”

Thank you, Mr. Toussaint.

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