Managers discuss Midsummer Classic
Fall Classic home-field advantage at stake for Francona, Hurdle
The Big Top is coming to the Big Apple, but the two men holding the rudder in the middle of the All-Star commotion will be focused on what they're conditioned to do.Keep a clubhouse full of players happy, although these clubhouses will teem with A-list players. Make it entertaining. And win between the lines. "We want to use people appropriately, and play as many as we can. You walk a fine line," said Terry Francona, manager of the Boston Red Sox and of the American League. "The American League has had its way, but we've got good players, too, and we want to go out and win the game. We'll really stress bringing a competitive edge to it," said Clint Hurdle, manager of the Colorado Rockies and of the National League.
Francona and Hurdle, World Series adversaries last October and All-Star Game foes on Tuesday in Yankee Stadium, revealed their motivations during a midday media conference call on Thursday.They revealed nothing else, to be sure. Hurdle did hint strongly that the replacement for the injured Cub Alfonso Soriano on his roster likely will be one of the four players on the NL Final Vote ballot not elected by fans. As stipulated by the Basic Agreement, Colorado's Matt Holliday will take Soriano's place in the starting lineup, as the outfielder who received the most votes on the ballots cast by players to complete the original All-Star rosters. "Then, my first look will definitely be the other four players involved in the Internet vote," Hurdle said. Francona treated with respect a question of whether fabled New York closer Mariano Rivera might start the Midsummer Classic, but maintained protocol by saying the AL starter "will be the person we feel deserves it the most. And we'll make that announcement on Monday." Francona was a little more coy on a more legitimate expectation -- that if the situation warrants, Rivera would come through the bullpen gates to the thump of "Enter Sandman" in the ninth inning to try to save the 79th All-Star Game. "We'll be dealing with a multitude of things," Francona said, "but I'm well aware of where we're playing, and we'll treat that very respectfully." The AL's well-documented winning streak -- 10 consecutive All-Star Game wins, sweeps in three of the last four World Series, an edge of 149-102 in the most recent round of Interleague Play -- continued on this conference call with the national media. Reporters electronically mobbed around Francona, who received six questions compared to two for Hurdle. Maybe more gist for the speech Hurdle is planning to fire up the NL players? "It's not going to be a celebrity golf tournament, I'll tell you that," Hurdle said. "We've got two days to change a trend. The closest we've been is a tie [in the 2002 game in Milwaukee], and that's not good enough. "We'll make sure the people in the room understand winning the game will bring tremendous respect back to the National League. I also know the significant value of the home-field advantage in the World Series; I just had to start a World Series on the road." Like World Series sweep victims St. Louis in 2004 and Houston in 2005, the Rockies had to open the '07 Fall Classic on the road. Hurdle is getting an early jump on his Big Apple adventure. He will be spending the weekend in Queens, guiding the Rockies against the Mets. But the jump to the Bronx will already be on his mind. It will be his first official visit to Yankee Stadium since June 2004, when his Rockies suffered an Interleague sweep to the Yankees. And, of course, it will be his last stop in this Yankee Stadium. "It's a museum, a baseball museum," Hurdle said. "It's special, dripping with the historical ambiance of the game. To be able to represent the National League in the last Midsummer Classic at Yankee Stadium ... it's a celebration of baseball. "When I was growing up, my dad's guy was Mickey Mantle. My dad will be there with me. I'll lap the field. This is something I won't take lightly. I'm going to embrace this opportunity, as I know our players will." Hurdle's dad may have idolized The Mick, but Francona's father played against him. During a 15-year career as a well-traveled outfielder, Tito Francona hit .222, with seven homers, in 74 games in Yankee Stadium. The 74-year-old 1961 All-Star will be there this year, too. "Hopefully it'll end up as a great family time," said Terry Francona, still not jaded by all the Yankee Stadium visits through the Boston years. "After all of the Yankees' history and success... the timing is appropriate to have the All-Star Game there. It will be hugely meaningful for every, for different reasons." Especially for Hurdle, if he can engineer the NL's first victory since 1996. "It would be the players, not me," Hurdle said. "The game was here before us, and it'll be here long after Terry and I are gone."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.