— KANSAS CITY - In case you were late to the National League's All-Star bash, you may have missed the short-lived Bay Area ballot-stuffing controversy.
So it seems that some folks weren't thrilled about the late rush of fans' voting support for San Francisco Giants position players. Three ended up in the NL's starting lineup — catcher Buster Posey, and late-charging Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera — and, um … never mind.
National League 8, American League 0 — with Cabrera winning the MVP award with a home run and two RBI, Sandoval delivering the key, three-run triple that broke open the game, and the victory going to Giants right-hander Matt Cain — whose selection as the starter by NL manager Tony La Russa also wasn't met with universal approval.
And Cain would like to say, "thank you" to all those Bay Area fans, who did as much as La Russa to set the winning lineup.
"Shows you the kind of support we have,'' Cain said. "That couldn't have been any better.''
Yes, all's well that ends well for the National League, which stretched its All-Star winning streak to three, and set itself up for home-field advantage in the World Series.
And besides, unlike the usual MLB overreaction to events (you can bet the Home Run Derby selection process will be altered for next year's game in Citi Field, for instance), there never was going to be a controversy here, anyway. Because earlier on Tuesday, Commissioner Bud Selig dismissed the issue during a talk with a group of Baseball Writers Association of America members.
"I'm the only one in this room old enough to remember — in '56 I think it was — when the whole Reds team was voted into the starting lineup,'' Selig said. "No, I'm not disturbed by this.
"If I want to be optimistic about it, San Francisco's park is sold out for every game, they have great fans. We also have protections in place now — players vote (for the reserves), there are managers' picks. No, this didn't bother me at all.''
Sandoval overtook the Mets' David Wright late in the fan voting process, and Cabrera passed the Brewers' Ryan Braun for third place among outfielders — although Braun ended up starting, and did plenty of damage of his own (2-for-3, one RBI and a nice running catch in left-center) after replacing injured Matt Kemp.
Wright didn't sound the least bit upset, either.
"We play as a team,'' Wright said. "The starters jumped on it right away and put five on the board.''
Too bad that left little to watch after the NL's top of the first against AL starter Justin Verlander, who afterward admitted to a case of overthrowing. For a guy who has mastered the art of pitching since reaching the majors with a 100-mph fastball, it was as if Verlander went back in time when his command didn't always match his velocity.
Except this time he did it with a purpose. Asked about turning up the velocity, Verlander said: "This game is for the fans. I know the fans don't want to see me throw 90 and try to hit the corners.''
Another example of the exhibition-game, put-on-a-show mentality pervasive among today's All-Stars — not that there's anything wrong with that. But it was news to AL manager Ron Washington, who said, "I was just expected him to be Verlander. Go out and get outs like he always does.''
Instead, the NL went all the way through its lineup in the first with a one-out single from Cabrera, an RBI double by Braun, walks to Carlos Beltran and Posey, Sandoval's big bases-clearing triple into the right-field corner, and Dan Uggla's RBI infield single.
Sandoval hadn't faced Verlander before, and said he caught a curveball and then, 'put my head down and ran. I was thinking to get to third base. That's what I put in my mind.''
Just like that, it was 5-0, and Cabrera's two-run homer off Matt Harrison in the fourth inning put his name on the MVP award — and added credibility to his 1 1/2-year run of production (he's the game's hit leader in that period) that has rebuilt his career.
"I didn't come to win an MVP,'' Cabrera said. "That's just a surprise.''
If there was a mission involved in the NL clubhouse, it was sending off La Russa and especially Chipper Jones as winners in their final All-Star game.
Jones, who's retiring after the season — no second-thoughts, he says — gave the pre-game speech at La Russa's urging, and said he talked about enjoying the moment.
"Just enjoy the opportunity,'' he said. "This is definitely my last one, and I was going to enjoy each and every minute of it. I've been in these (games) before, and I thought maybe I could say something that would help slow things down for the younger guys.''
Jones said he was hoping for one last opportunity — and pinch-hitting from the right side against Chris Sale in the sixth inning, he rolled a weak, ground ball single into right field.
"I really smoked it, didn't I?'' Jones said with a characteristic smirk. "I'm grateful for the one at-bat. I wasn't going to get caught looking. I was going to swing the bat. It's good to go out a winner.''