Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All Star Games

I have to confess that I hate All Star Games of any sport. I think they are, at best, beauty pageants and, at worst,  complete wastes of time.

Last night was Major League Baseball's annual mid-season All Star Game. I think Baseball's all star game is, by far, the most pointless of any sport's. It is a charade from the beginning because the fans vote on the All Stars. Most fans I know who take the time to vote will vote not for the best players but the most popular ones, particularly the ones on the team(s) the voting fan roots for. Actual statistics and merit are completely irrelevant. A majority of people look on the ballot and vote for the names they recognize. Lesser known players in smaller venues are at a complete disadvantage, even if they are batting .400.

Rosters aside, the game itself is often a farce. Tom Verducci, over on CNNSI.com, referred to it in his column today as akin to a "church league softball game." I loved that analogy on a number of levels, not the least of which was the fact that all these players work on Sundays (or Saturdays if they are Jewish). There was a time when players who didn't want to play on the Sabbath were respected for their conscience. When was the last time you heard of a multi-million dollar ball player refusing to play on a Sabbath due to conscience and religious observance? Where have you gone, Sandy Koufax?

The level of play at All Star Games is usually below the level of hustle and skill exhibited at church league softball games, which can actually get pretty competitive from time to time. All Star Games are just a bunch of millionaires loitering around on a ball field and taking pictures, and maybe playing for an inning or two at most.  The general beauty pageant mentality of the coaches at All Star games is that everybody should get to play. That completely messes with pitching particularly because a starting pitcher is just getting into a groove after an inning or two, and then gets yanked. I imagine the same is true for other starters.

Likewise, no one wants to get hurt at a meaningless All Star game, so there is little hustle. The last real hustle I remember seeing was Cal Ripken, Jr., years ago in a home plate collision, but he's been retired for years. I am sure there are other examples here and there, but overall, it really is a "Church league softball" game.

A while back, in the attempt to make the All Star Game somewhat more meaningful, the Commissioner of Baseball added a caveat that the league that won the All Star Game would have home field advantage during the World Series. I initially liked that twist, because I thought it would actually change the way the game was played and make it more competitive by having managers actually trying to consciously win an All Star game.

No such thing has happened. In fact, the All Star game has become even more farcical in that time. Who can forget the ridiculous 2002 game that ended in a tie, or the 2008 debacle that went 15 innings only because of a rule that allowed for re-entry of players later in the game? The All Star Game went just fine for 72 seasons with normal baseball rules. In fact, some of the classic All Star games were quite competitive.

Instead, we end up with a game with a bunch of millionaires panning for cameras and waving to mommy. And home field advantage in the World Series is suppose to be contingent on this spectacle of baseball flimflammery?

Commissioner Selig, do all us fans a favor: turn the All Star game back into a regular ball game.

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