The Giants and everyone else passed on Palo Alto’s Joc Pederson for 10-plus rounds in the 2010 draft. Well, hey now, he’s an All-Star — and in Dodger blue, no less.
Pederson got his game on at the Home Run Derby in Cincinnati on Monday, when he finished second in a photo finish. “A great environment,” Pederson called it afterward. “It was extremely humbling being out there with Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols and Josh Donaldson.”
Sure, it was only practice, as Allen Iverson would say, but Pederson didn’t look like a 352nd pick in the draft. At 23, the outfielder is a work in progress — his long swing produces too many strikeouts — but the kid has the look of star potential.
“The city of L.A. should be proud of him,” said Pujols, the Angels slugger who lost to his SoCal rival in the semifinals. “I’m so proud of him. I just became more of a fan of him.”
Pederson and Pujols are linked by more than team location. Pederson’s older brother, Champ, and Pujols’ daughter, Isabella, are afflicted with Down syndrome. Pujols sent Champ an autographed jersey after the two met last spring, and he hugged the kid after Joc moved on to the final round.
“It’s not necessarily about winning,” Pederson said via the Los Angeles Times. “He’s got a warm heart. I tip my cap to him.”
BABY STEP: Balls didn’t catch all of the Home Run Derby — two hours is a long time to watch big leaguers hit lob pitches for long distances. But friends say ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman had time to scream only “Back-back-back!” instead of the usual “Back-back-back-back-back!” so it sounds like the pace was better at least.
THING OF THE PAST: The All-Star Game was played on the 45th anniversary of the Pete Rose-Ray Fosse collision at home plate, a time when it meant more than home-field advantage in the World Series. It was about immense pride and the most intense rivalry in All-Star Game history regardless of the sport.
Free agency and interleague play changed all that over the years. Players no longer spend their entire careers in one league like Carl Yastrzemski did for 23 years with the Boston Red Sox, for instance. The leagues face each other in the regular season so often, there’s no time to build up a competitive dislike for one another.
So we’ll never see another epic play like the one in 1970 again. A runner wouldn’t lower his shoulder into the catcher even with the game on the line. No catcher would get in the way and jeopardize his career in the first place.
Despite what the old fogies say, not everything in baseball was better in the good, old days, but the All-Star Game was definitely one of them.
REST OF THE STORY: Rose gets blamed for a lot of things, but he shouldn’t be remembered as the maniac who was solely responsible for the way Fosse’s career turned out.
While Fosse wasn’t the same impact player after Rose barreled into him, he was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner the next season, when it was discovered that his fractured shoulder had not healed properly. He also was a dependable starter in the two seasons after that.
As Fosse would tell you, the final blow came in a second clubhouse brawl between Athletics teammates Billy North and Reggie Jackson in Detroit early in the 1974 season. In the role of peacemaker, Fosse fractured several vertebrae in his neck that required surgery. It took him nearly two years to recover, and when he did come back, it was in a reduced role.
MONEY LEAGUE BASEBALL: On Tuesday, commissioner Rob Manfred mentioned a bunch of potential sites for future expansion. Montreal should be at the top of the list, because if a players’ strike hadn’t pulled the plug on the 1994 season, when the loaded Expos were easily the best team in baseball, they still might exist today.
Then again, if MLB wanted to improve the product, it would contract a few teams. But it’s about all television revenue now, and more teams means more money almost regardless of where they’re located, how good they are or how many fannies are in the seats.
ON THE CLOCK: Manfred brags that major league games are nine minutes shorter this season, but when you consider that they averaged three hours, eight minutes a year ago, that doesn’t say a whole lot.
The next step should be a pitch clock — Athletics owner Charles Finley actually had one installed in the scoreboard 50 years ago — except that the two sides are divided on the subject. Manfred favors one, while union head Tony Clark says it will be a tough sell on the players.
Major League Baseball has been so slow to adjust over the years, you’ll be able to time this delay with a sun dial.