After the artificial oohs and aahs the previous evening during an exaggerated batting practice, Miguel Tejada dropped some jaws with a home run worthy of special distinction...
DETROIT — After the artificial oohs and aahs the previous evening during an exaggerated batting practice, Miguel Tejada dropped some jaws with a home run worthy of special distinction last night.
His next time up to the plate, he wheezed a little dribbler that might have died before it reached the infield dirt.
But he got the job done both times, mixing long ball with a touch of small ball in the All-Star Game at Comerica Park.
How times have changed.
The last time the All-Star Game came to Detroit, in 1971, the National League was the object of awe and wonder, having won the previous eight All-Star Games. The American League was strictly muscle-bound, incapable of enjoying even the tiniest advantage until the game came to homer-friendly Tiger Stadium.
That was the only game the Americans won for 21 seasons.
But last night’s 7-5 American League romp before a crowd of 41,617 left the NL thirsty for even a taste of salvation. Tejada drove in two runs and helped turn two double plays to spark the AL’s third straight victory and its eighth in the past nine years.
Tejada, voted the game’s most valuable player, won a bright yellow sports car.
“I think my family is really happy and I think everyone in Baltimore is really happy,” the shortstop said. “I’m really happy, proud to be a star in this game.”
A look at the standout efforts in last night’s All-Star Game at Comerica Park in Detroit:
The Orioles shortstop got the American League on the board first with a solo home run in the second inning. He finished 1 for 3 with two RBI.
The Red Sox designated-hitter drove in the AL’s second run of the game in the third inning and finished 2 for 3 at the plate.
The Rangers first baseman extended the AL’s lead to 7-0 in the sixth inning with a two-run home run off Dontrelle Willis. He finished 1 for 3.
The Braves outfielder put the National League on the board with a two-run homer in the seventh. He finished 1 for 1 with two runs scored.
Tejada became the Orioles’ sixth All-Star MVP. Baltimore has had more than any team since the award’s inception in 1962. An Orioles player, Frank Robinson, earned the honor the last time the summer showcase was in Detroit.
Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr. (twice) and Roberto Alomar are the others who have starred for Baltimore in baseball’s summer showcase.
Tejada helped make this a one-sided game in the early going, when the American League took a 7-0 lead.
Tejada crushed John Smoltz’s 0-1 offering in the second inning, driving it 436 feet before it finally found a happy landing deep in the middle of cavernous Comerica’s left-field seats.
Besides his home run, he was sharp in the field, with two key plays that helped keep the NL off the scoreboard until late in the game.
His first inning pickup and throw on a hard grounder by the Mets’ Carlos Beltran led to a double play that helped AL starter and winner Mark Buehrle settle down after a shaky opening.
All-Star manager Terry Francona of the Red Sox said Tejada’s defensive plays were every bit as important as his home run.
“More than the home run, I think the play he made defensively in the first inning changed the game,” Francona said.
“That’s a heck of play.
“We’ve seen Miggy hit those balls too much, from where I sit, but tonight it was kind of fun to cheer for him.”
When assessing the greatest imbalance between the leagues today, all you need for evaluation is Tejada’s position — shortstop.
The AL has successfully balanced the defensive necessities with the offensive production. While the All-Star Game once seemed like the exclusive National League home for Ozzie Smith’s effortless dexterity in the field and lack of potency at the plate for much of the last two decades, the American League tossed out hybrid shortstops with dizzying regularity — starting with Ripken.
The AL has owned the game’s most physically challenging position when you consider big guns like Alex Rodriguez (before he moved to third base in New York), Derek Jeter and now Tejada, who received a much-deserved bow in the spotlight.
He was due.
Tejada, 29, might be the best player in the game you never heard of — until last night, that is.
He grew up so poor in the Dominican Republic that he didn’t have his own glove until he signed a professional contract. But he blossomed in Oakland and won the 2002 AL MVP award, earning a $72 million, six-year deal from the Orioles before last season.
He has been worth every penny. His clutch hitting and infectious personality have helped turn Baltimore into a winning team, and he brought a large contingent of family members to Detroit for the All-Star Game, including his wife, daughter and son, Miguel Jr.
“I had to do something for all of my family, I think that’s why I just had a great game,” Tejada said.
“I just said this morning that he was going to do something big today,” All-Star Orioles reliever B.J. Ryan said. “You could pretty much say that any day we go out.”
Tejada was the defending Home Run Derby champion this year, but declined to participate in Monday’s derby, stepping aside to allow David Ortiz to represent the Dominican Republic instead.
“Yesterday I got a chance to play with my kids and I didn’t have to hit,” Tejada said.
“Today I had a chance to have a great game and get the MVP.”
The Associated Press and Reuters
contributed to this report.