It’s time for baseball to put the fun back in its All-Star game

 

Let’s see, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander aren’t here, but
Aaron Crow and David Robertson are.
Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols weren’t invited, but Pablo
Sandoval and Miguel Montero were.
And they call this an All-Star game?
By Kevin Baxter – Los Angeles Times

PHOENIX – Let’s see, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander aren’t here, but Aaron Crow and David Robertson are.

Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols weren’t invited, but Pablo Sandoval and Miguel Montero were.

And they call this an All-Star game?

How about a Some-Stars game?

Better yet, call it what it is: an exhibition.

Baseball’s “midsummer classic” used to be just that – the best of the major sports’ All-Star contests. Now, however, it’s in danger of being destroyed from within, by its own uncertainty about what exactly it’s supposed to be.

So let’s cut the seriousness and bring back the fun.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, embarrassed by the circumstances that led to the 2002 game’s ending in a tie in his hometown of Milwaukee, has tried to imbue the game with false meaning by rewarding the winning league with home-field advantage in the World Series.

Some players pay lip service to that _ “Any team would love to have home-field advantage in the World Series,” Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young said Monday – but their union, in talks for a new collective bargaining agreement, is proposing to scrap the link between the two events.

Here’s the clincher: If the game is so important, why is it so hard to get the biggest stars to play?

Sixteen players chosen won’t participate in the game, yet only five of them are on the disabled list.

The New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera played for their team over the weekend, yet they won’t play for their league Tuesday.

Six non-participants are pitchers who started Sunday, making them ineligible for All-Star game participation. That means Felix Hernandez, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, isn’t available to play. Ricky Romero, who has a losing record, is.

Poor Juan Castro. So many players have dropped out that if the Dodgers’ journeyman infielder hadn’t retired Sunday he might have wound up an All Star too. And that’s only a small exaggeration _ 84 players were named All-Stars this season, more than 10 percent of all major leaguers.

Are we really supposed to believe that one in 10 big leaguers is an All-Star?

The key challenge is getting the real stars back in the game.

Trying to sell the game as important didn’t work, nor did offering enticements to players who made the team – most contracts that include All-Star bonuses allow players to collect whether they show up to play or not.

Our modest proposal is to re-energize the game by de-emphasizing it.

Back in the day, when Ted Williams, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron would play nine innings in an All-Star game, there was a difference between the two leagues, and pride in the rivalry meant something. Aside from the World Series, it was the only place where players from the two leagues faced one another.

Interleague play and free agency have changed all that, making the leagues virtually indistinguishable apart from the designated-hitter rule. The truth is, nobody really cares who wins Tuesday.

The NBA and NHL don’t pretend to make their midseason showcases something they’re not, and their biggest stars participate. Major League Baseball does, and its stars don’t.

The NBA and NHL emphasize scoring, skill and style over the outcome on the scoreboard. Baseball should do the same.

Fans want to see Jose Bautista hit, Jose Reyes run and Roy Halladay throw without a bunch of rules and regulations.

Forget any worries about a tie and running out of players or pitching. Fans want to see their favorite stars or the representatives of their favorite teams get in the game. That’s what’s most important.

Takeout slides at second, sacrifice bunts or a hitter giving himself up to move a runner over may win games, but it doesn’t sell All-Star tickets. Besides, no All-Star since Pete Rose would think of running over the catcher, even if the run meant home-field advantage come October.

It’s time baseball conceded this game – much like Monday’s sold-out home run derby – is about fun. It’s about putting on a show, not about the final score.

Leave your comments