Last week, for an article about the most heartbreaking moments in Milwaukee Brewers history, I revisited the All-Star Game that shouldn’t have been: the 2002 debacle at Miller Park that ended in an 11-inning tie.
I’m not going to dwell any longer than I have to on how unfortunate that ending was; suffice it to say it was a bad situation, poorly-handled. What sparked my interest was the boxscore. Aside from the usual entertainment value of a boxscore for a game that 60 players get into, it surprised me just how much had changed in the last five years.
Each league had one position that has been completely made over in the last five years. The Americans featured three superstar shortstops: Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, and Nomar Garciaparra. I’ll try to avoid asking “who would’ve guessed?” too many times in this column, but I would’ve needed some incredible odds to bet that two of those three guys wouldn’t be playing shortstop five years later.
The National League second base situation has changed even more dramatically. The three all stars at that position were Jose Vidro (selected by the fans!), Junior Spivey, and Luis Castillo. It was hardly the strongest position the NL had to offer; all three have since moved to other leagues, whether American (Vidro and Castillo) or International (Spivey).
More than the inevitable player movements, what shocked me was just how many 2002 All-Stars are out of the game entirely. Sure, it’s easy to knock the fans and the coaches for selecting too many veterans, but it’s a shock to see how many of these guys were on the brink of retirement (voluntary or forced) during their “all star” season.
The following players are out of baseball, or have left and come back since 2002:
- Tony Batista
- Robb Nen
- Mike Remlinger
- Benito Santiago
- Kaz Sasaki
- Sammy Sosa
- Ugueth Urbina
- Robin Ventura (!)
- Mike Williams (!!!)
Even more striking are a few inclusions that weren’t even made to fulfill the one-player-per-team quota:
- Jose Hernandez (he only had 109 strikeouts at the break)
- Shea Hillenbrand (the fans voted him in!)
- Damian Miller (one of five Diamondbacks Bob Brenly selected purely on merit)
- Odalis Perez (once an all star, now a Royal)
Williams was easily the egregious—let’s call it the “Ken Harvey Award”—pick of the year, but Joe Torre was forced into a corner as well. This was the first of Detroit’s two 100-loss seasons, and the best Torre could choose was Robert Fick, mashing to the tune of 290/352/479 (with 11 home runs!) at the halfway point. Oddly enough, the guy who deserved the obligatory Tiger nod was probably Mark Redman, who had pitched 120 innings of 3.65 ERA ball at that point, though he only had a 4-8 record to show for it. Redman, of course, got his all-star bonus last year, and has since been rewarded with near unemployment.
In the spirit of recalling a sort of bizarre alternate universe in which Junior Spivey was an All-Star and Mark Redman should’ve been, here are a few of the gems from the Retrosheet play-by-play.
In the bottom of the third with Todd Helton on base, the AL infield used a drastic shift for Barry Bonds. This turned out to be very important, because it gave Alfonso Soriano a much better view of Bonds’ upper-deck home run.
That was Bonds’ second monstrous blast of the game: in the first, Torii Hunter had to save a home run from the other side of the fence. Bonds met Hunter halfway and physically picked up the AL center fielder. For a moment there, Hunter probably hoped Bonds was juicing.
My favorite tidbit from the game, though, is one of the records it tied. Of course, both teams used all of their players, and at the time, 30 players per team (and 60 total) was a record, but that isn’t as impressive as tying the record for most total stolen bases in an all-star game. Usual suspects Johnny Damon and Randy Winn contributed to the tally, but the National League speedsters were Lance Berkman and Shawn Green, both of whom stole exactly eight bags during the regular season.
The record wouldn’t have been tied if it weren’t for the efforts of Robert Fick. Fick was one of the many players who got way more playing time than they deserved (in his case, two at-bats and four innings in right field). He led off the eighth with a pinch-hit single, and stole his base on Robb Nen’s third strike to Johnny Damon. Fick stole zero bases that year (he was caught once), and has only six swipes in fourteen attempts over his nine-year career.
In many ways, it’s depressing to look back at the 2002 All-Star Game, with its lack of an MVP and typical haul of undeserving picks. At the same time, I can’t think of many more interesting moments in baseball history than a Robert Fick stolen base with the entire baseball world watching. If only he had swiped it off the battery of Mike Williams and Benito Santiago…then the ’02 midsummer classic would get its due.