There is a not-insignificant faction out there so entrenched in the idea that baseball is dead and can do nothing to fix itself that they'll never credit the sport for being forward-thinking in its in-game access. Everyone else, though, couldn't help but notice that last night's All-Star Game was an extremely attractive product with a top-notch presentation. Among the many shiny bells and whistles, one segment stood out and it came with Toronto Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah on the hill for the bottom of the second inning.
Miked-up and in conversation with Joe Davis and John Smoltz, Manoah, who does not lack for personality, provided what could be the best live audio experience the sport — and perhaps any sport — has offered. The fireballer celebrated his strikeouts, trash-talked batters, delighted in his arm-side run and even turned to Smoltz for pitch selection and location. It was electric and only the coldest of hearts did not warm to a player they were in all likelihood consuming for the first time.
In addition to being unhittable and excitable, Manoah actually managed to be funny. While pitching. For the world to hear. We're pouring over our files here at The Big Lead HQ, but it feels safe to say the entire thing was unprecedented.
Simply put, it ruled. And showed the ability baseball has to bring fans inside the hearts and minds of its superstars. For all the handwringing about the inability to market these players, it needs to be noted that no other sport can do this as effectively. No one should hold their breath waiting for a pitcher to give running commentary during a regular-season or playoff game, but now we know it can be done. Striking out the side against All-Star hitters proves that performance won't necessarily suffer.
For Manoah, it was also a nice thing to put on the ledger in case the AL Cy Young race is a tie. Because how do you not factor in this bit of excellence if it's between him and someone else?