Monday, July 22nd, 2002
On this site, I have recently lamented the state of the Midsummer Classic.
(And that was prior to July 9th, when Bud Selig decided to treat the
event like a big t-ball game.) "Hey, America, there was no loser -- we're
all winners. Isn't that great?" It's possible that the whole debacle has
been deconstructed within an inch of its life, but I've heard several half-baked
comments about the game in the past couple of weeks that I'd like to
Some people have suggested that instead of allowing the game to end in a
tie, they should have produced a winner via a homerun hitting contest. In
all candor, I think this idea is moronic. It's a completely arbitrary solution.
Why not resolve it with a stolen base contest or a sacrifice bunt contest,
or hell, maybe a pie-eating contest?
Another comment I've often heard (cited by Selig, Bob Brenly, and
Joe Torre, if I'm not mistaken) is that All-Star managers can't risk
a player getting hurt in a meaningless game. This whole issue of injuries
requires a closer look.
First of all, both managers could have avoided overtaxing their pitchers
by letting some guys face more than a couple of batters. If you're in danger
of blowing out your arm because you had to pitch an entire inning, you may
not have the necessary stamina to be a big league pitcher. (Of the 19 pitchers
used, 13 of them threw 20 pitches or less in their appearance.)
Secondly, getting hurt is always a possibility because it's a fact of life.
If a ballplayer is going to get hurt -- again, I'm not talking about a Pete
Rose/Ray Fosse situation here -- isn't it better that he does
so on the diamond rather than off? In recent years, we've seen guys injure
themselves picking up their kids, walking into furniture, opening CD cases
with hunting knives and -- yes, it's coming -- washing their trucks.
Are general managers happier when their stars are out six weeks because they
were acting like Charlie Chaplin off the field rather than playing
on it? Aren't the fans paying the ballplayers' salaries anyway? If these
guys are going to go down, wouldn't we prefer to see them doing it while
attempting to break up a double-play rather than trying to open the new Dave
And what about the homerun derby? What if Jason Giambi were to wrench
his back and couldn't play until late August? Isn't this exhibition even
less meaningful than the All-Star Game itself? Should we do away with
it, as well? Hey, I've got an idea -- why don't we just seal all of these
guys into hyperbaric glass tubes from July 8 until July 10, place them on
the field in Milwaukee as if they were lying in state, and let fans walk
past them? "Don't tap on the glass, ma'am."
The All-Star Game is suffering from an identity crisis. Is it a serious
competition or merely an exhibition? If it's a serious competition, why are
the managers trying to get everybody into the game even if it means playing
them out of their normal positions (Omar Vizquel at second
Why are some of the best players in the game declining the invitation (Randy
Johnson, Pedro Martinez)? Why are the managers not even going
through the rudimentary effort of establishing signs and putting on plays?
Why is the game beginning to look more and more like the WWF?
(Prior to this year's game, FOX ran cartoon promos that promised the
event would resolve an ancient rivalry between the National and American
Leagues and determine once and for all which league was the greatest. The
only thing the game resolved was the question of whether or not 50,000 people
could chant obscenities in unison.)
And if the game is only an exhibition, why are ticket prices so absurdly
high? Why do we bother to keep stats? Why do we award an All-Star MVP? Why
was it once treated so differently? (Ted Williams, a player with no
shortage of career highlights, is on record as saying that the game-winning
homerun he hit in the 1941 All-Star Game was one of his proudest moments.)
Why do we only allow the previous year's World Series managers to helm the
teams -- why not David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar?
Baseball, more than any other sport, thrives on its continuity. It has the
longest season of any team sport and we expect to see the players on the
field six days a week. Although their salaries are anything but, the best
players have a blue-collar work ethic. That's why Cal Ripken's consecutive
game and Joe DiMaggio's hit streaks are so cherished.
What is most disruptive about this whole event -- and what is most upsetting
about the prospect of another work stoppage -- is that it breaks the cycle.
The 2002 All-Star Game produced neither a winning team nor a MVP.
I still believe that we should make the game count for something. It needs
to be distinguishable from the celebrity softball game that precedes it.
If we don't interject a modicum of gravitas back into the game, I'm going
to turn off the TV and spend the weekend playing softball. At least most
of the guys on my team (who are paying to play rather than being paid), take
the game seriously.