Tony La Russa looked over at Jim Leyland’s checkered sports coat and shook his head with a smile.
The manager of the National League All-Star team was dressed comfortably in jeans and a collared shirt during Monday’s media session and joked that he thought he and Leyland, the American League manager and his longtime friend, had agreed before the trip to leave their jackets at home.
But in a game that determines home-field advantage for the winning league’s representative in the World Series, Leyland’s wardrobe choice made for a convenient metaphor. It may be an exhibition event, but the American League has not lost since 1996 (nine wins and a tie). And even though there were laughs, the AL has treated the game as at least business casual rather than entirely informal for the past decade.
“My first All-Star Game coaching was here in 1984 and I felt the National League was competing and the American League was exhibiting,” La Russa said. “Now it seems to me they’re the ones competing. But there’s no reason we shouldn’t be winning our fair share.”
La Russa will turn to San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy to start the game in an effort to reverse the losing streak, while A’s right-hander Dan Haren will look to continue the AL’s dominance. Haren (10-3, 2.30 ERA) has been sensational this season and Peavy (9-3, 2.19) has been just as good for the Padres; he said he is looking forward to the challenge of facing a stacked AL lineup.
“I’m going to go as long and as hard as I can until Tony shakes my hand,” Peavy said.
In perhaps the biggest surprise of either lineup, Giants star Barry Bonds will bat second for the NL in a move La Russa hopes will put pressure on the AL pitchers. Bonds will be sandwiched by two New York Mets as shortstop Jose Reyes will lead off and center fielder Carlos Beltran will bat third. Cincinnati Reds right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. will hit fourth.
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is 6-0-1 in his seven appearances in the Midsummer Classic and said the AL players take pride in their recent string of success.
“Yeah, once we get out there, we definitely want to win,” said Jeter, who will bat second. “Everyone wants those bragging rights. We want to continue [the streak].”
San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman was the victim last year, as Michael Young of the Texas Rangers hit a two-out, two-run triple in the top of the ninth to lead the AL to a 3-2 win.
“Last year’s game has been getting brought up a little bit more as this one’s gotten closer,” Hoffman said. “And now I think it’s exciting to maybe have an opportunity to do something about it.”
Will the NL be able to snap the AL’s dominance?
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