GLENDALE — When New York Yankees star closer Mariano Rivera induced a popout by Houston Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada, the American League clinched the Major League Baseball All-Star Game with a 4-3 win over the National League and Freddy Sanchez ended the game where he began it — on the bench.
Amid trade talks and injury problems, the Burbank High graduate and former Glendale Community College standout also found himself snubbed from any playing time for the NL squad, which saw the American League improve to 12-0-1 in the last 13 Midsummer Classics with its win in St. Louis on the strength of Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson’s game-winning run in the eighth inning.
“You never want anything to be your last,” said Sanchez during a Monday All-Star press conference about the possibility of this being his last All-Star appearance as a Pirate. “That doesn’t get in the back of my head at all. I consider Pittsburgh my home. Although I got drafted by Boston, I never really got to play up there much. I got traded over early enough to where I consider this my home. To be able to represent the fans of Pittsburgh and the organization, that means a lot to me. That’s real special to me.”
Unfortunately for Sanchez, though, there wasn’t anything all that special about his third All-Star appearance.
Along with Astros outfielder Hunter Pence, he was one of two National League field players that didn’t get playing time. Philadelphia Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel was unable to get in Sanchez’s Pittsburgh teammate Zack Duke, either, as Duke, was one of three available pitchers who didn’t get playing time. It was the same for the American League, however, as Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, making his first All-Star appearance, was perhaps the most notable American Leaguer not to get action.
Sanchez, who is the first Pittsburgh infielder to become a three-time All-Star since Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski, is still hitless in All-Star games, having gone a combined 0 for three in three appearances.
Nonetheless, even having not played on Tuesday, he’s still left a lasting mark on the All-Star game as the only player ever to play second base, third base and shortstop in the game.
In his 2006 All-Star debut, he went 0 for two, playing both shortstop and second base and recording three putouts and three assists in the field. During his 2007 All-Star appearance, Sanchez played third base and went 0 for one with a putout and an assist in the field.
Sanchez has been with Pittsburgh since 2004 after he was traded from the Boston Red Sox.
This season he’s been particularly outspoken about Pittsburgh trading off its top players, including Nate McClouth.
“It makes it tough,” Sanchez said of the possibility of leaving. “It makes it that much harder. Whether I consider it my home or not and whether I’d like to finish my career as a Pirate, that doesn’t mean anything when you look at the business aspect of it.”
Sanchez had recently missed a handful of games with back spasms, as well. Still, he’s turning in a stellar season.
His .316 average is tops among Major League second baseman and he’s second in the NL with 27 doubles. In addition, his glove work has been excellent, as he’s committed but one error, tallying a .997 fielding percentage in the process.
He’s also scored 42 runs in 77 games played, tallying three triples, six home runs, 24 runs batted in, five stolen bases and a .478 slugging percentage.
Pittsburgh is currently 38-50, 9 ½ games behind first-place St. Louis in the National League Central Division.
The Pirates resume play on Friday, beginning a six-game homestand with a three-game set against, of all teams, the Giants.