NEW YORK -- As Commissioner, Bud Selig's only All-Star rooting interest is for a competitive, crisply-performed game. And the American League's 3-0 win had him smiling as he left Citi Field on Tuesday night.
"The whole night was just wonderful," Selig said. "It gives you baseball at its best. A tough, well-played game. Great plays. Good pitching, that's the name of the game today. Neil Diamond [singing 'Sweet Caroline' in the eighth inning]. This is part of America. This makes me feel good.
"And then [Yankees closer] Mariano Rivera winning the MVP. And I meant what I said to him. He's the greatest relief pitcher of all time. And what an absolutely marvelous human being. I'm proud of our players. I really am."
The All-Star Game marks the symbolic, though not mathematical, end of the first half of the season and beginning of the second half. Looking back at what's transpired so far, Selig said he was most pleased at the number of young players who are beginning to make their mark on the game.
"The performance of a whole new generation of players ... I really am getting a kick out of that," Selig said. "You know, people worry in every generation and every cycle that your players are getting old and what are we going to do? Then all of a sudden along comes Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw, and you can go on and on and on.
"[Dodgers outfielder Yasiel] Puig, of course. An amazing start. The Cardinals have some guys who established themselves last year, but the constant replenishment of their system is very, very impressive. Domonic Brown has been very good with the Phillies. The Red Sox's shortstop, Jose Iglesias.
"Manny Machado. For some reason, I wind up watching a lot of Orioles games, and he is something. He is something really special. I saw him make a play last week that would have made Brooks Robinson proud."
There were a record 39 first-time All-Stars selected to this year's game.
Selig is also proud that 17 teams are within eight games of a Wild Card berth.
"I remember when I appointed my blue ribbon committee," Selig said. "They were stunned in 1998 at how tough it was for a small or medium market to win. They virtually didn't at all. So now you look at the standings. Oakland leading. It's remarkable. Pittsburgh playing beautifully. Tampa Bay playing very well. I just talked to [Rays owner] Stu Sternberg and he's very optimistic.
"It's been a wonderful year. A lot of crazy games. But that's good. It's not good when you're running a club and you blow leads in the eighth and ninth innings. That's very bad. But the first half's been very good and I really look forward to the second half, because I believe in every division, we're going to have a heck of a race."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.