Those few of you still with me ...
Look, as if my opinion out here in the wilderness makes any difference, here is what I'm going to say. baseball's All-Star Game, once the best All-Star Game in North America's major sports, now is as big a joke as any of them.
|The worst All-Star Game ending, 2002: Commissioner|
Bud Selig, center, with managers Joe Torre, left, and
Bob Brenly, trying to explain why the game ended in a tie
after 12 innings. Look at those grim expressions. (mlb.com)
But this is baseball, and I love it, and I want to care. But how can I?
I used to watch the game regularly and, when the American League won, enjoy it. Which means I rarely enjoyed it in the 1960s, '70s and '80s (the National League won 26 of 31 games between 1960 and 1983.)
Here's what I did in those days. As soon as the NL took the lead, I turned off the game. No matter how many Yankees players were in the AL lineup. How's that for being a frontrunner?
The American League has done better recently, with winning streaks of six years and then 12 in a row around the infamous tie in 2002 (more on that in a moment). Much better.
Now, though, the National has won the past three games. I might boycott again.
But it's not so much the results that turn me off; it's the whole approach: The fans' voting; the much-too-large rosters; the managers' maniacal bent on using every one of those players; the fact that every team has to be represented; the stupid World Series homefield advantage goes to the league that wins the All-Star Game.
I even have some solutions ... if only Major League Baseball's deep thinkers would pay attention.
-- I have 1,330,334 reasons why fans' voting is often ridiculous. That's how many votes Derek Jeter received this year; he was sixth in AL shortstop voting.
It is 1,330,334 more votes than Jeter should have received. I think even he would tell you that.
You must know I'm not Jeter-bashing; he's my favorite player these days, and has been for years. Mariano Rivera is my co-favorite.
But Jeter, because of the left ankle he's had breaks in twice since October, had not played a game in the majors this season until Thursday. So why vote for him? Because he was listed on the ballot?
He's been an All-Star 13 times, elected to start at shortstop eight times, including the previous seven seasons. Jeter probably would tell you that a couple of those years he didn't deserve it.
-- Most years, including this one, the fans choose as starters the players who most deserve it. But there are cases when the starter is simply the popular choice, not the deserving one. Do fans "stuff" the ballot box at some ballparks, some cities? Sure. Never, though, like 1957 in Cincinnati, which is why MLB took away fans' voting -- left the choices to players, coaches and managers -- from 1958 to '69. Fans' voting resumed in 1970.
It's nice to get the fans involved, but my problem is it gives them too much say-so.
Since 1970, I have always advocated that All-Star voting should be a three-way deal: (1) The fans; (2) players, coaches and managers; (3) the media. Yes, the media ... say, four media representatives for each ballclub -- a total of 120 voters.
The few media guys I know covering major league baseball -- Phil Rogers, Jeff Wilson, T.R. Sullivan, Evan Grant -- know what they're doing, what they're seeing, who is deserving and who isn't. If the media is good enough to select Baseball Hall of Fame members, why not a yearly All-Star vote?
So if you have players/coaches/managers and the media voting, you have much more input and more knowledgable blocs. And if it is a split decision at a position -- three separate choices -- then let the fans' vote be the tiebreaker, still giving the fans some power.
-- Size of the teams: Why do we have to have 33-man rosters? Why do the managers think all these guys have to play? It's too much. I can't stand the way the lineups are constantly shifted after the required three-inning limit for starters. Can't stand seeing nine pitchers work an inning apiece (the AL last year) or 11 pitchers for nine innings (NL last year, even with starter Matt Cain working two innings -- the only pitcher in the game to be used for more than one inning).
Plus, this new deal of pitchers who pitch on the Sunday before the All-Star Game not being eligible to pitch a little on Tuesday ... again, just ridiculous. For 78 years, no one thought of that. Surely, they can throw an inning or two.
So you've got pitchers ineligible, and you've got injured players pulling out, and it's confusing, and it's certainly not the best teams either league could field. And then you've got the lineups being shuffled through the game.
Require the starting lineup to play at least five innings, maybe six. If these guys deserve starting so much, if the All-Star voting is such a big deal, let's see 'em play much or all of the game. I wish the managers would play to really win the game, and not try so hard to get everyone in the game.
Just the other day I read that Joe DiMaggio played every inning of every All-Star Game from his rookie season in 1936 through 1942. That's what I'm talking about.
Take one position as an example: American League catcher. Joe Mauer (Twins) is a good pick as the starter, but Salvador Perez (Royals) and Jason Castro (Astros) as the backup choices? In the fans' voting, neither of those guys were among the top eight.
When the game is on the line in the late innings -- if it's on the line -- I want Mauer in the lineup. I'm sure Perez and Castro are good young men, and I looked up their stats and they're both having good seasons, but frankly, are they All-Star caliber?
And why should every team be represented? Some don't necessarily deserve it -- this year the Marlins, the Astros, White Sox, Cubs, Brewers, maybe even the Mets and Mariners. Some of the more successful teams don't really need five or six players selected.
Again, it's too much.
I know smaller rosters and few substitutions is a throwback. But watching this parade of players is a bore.
-- Finally, this homefield advantage thing. It came about because in 2002, the respective managers (the beloved Joe Torre, AL, and Bob Brenly, NL) didn't plan ahead for extra innings; used up all their pitchers; and with commissioner Bud Selig, decided that 11 innings and a tie game was enough, satisfying absolutely no one.
So, as an added incentive, Selig & Co. decided that starting in 2003, homefield advantage in the World Series would go to the team from the league that won the All-Star Game. It's one way to do it. Plus, they wisely designate a pitcher (or two) to save for a long extra-inning battle.
But why can't baseball award homefield advantage for playoff series to teams with the best regular-season records -- just like every other major sport here (NFL, NBA, NHL) does? Is that too easy?
Put in a tiebreaker system -- head-to-head results, best record vs. first-place teams, best record vs. second-place teams, etc. And if the AL and NL teams that make the World Series had the same regular-season record, then use the All-Star Game winner as the tiebreaker. That way, it still might be meaningful.
(I also question the lack of significant homefield advantage for a division champion playing the wild-card team in the playoffs, and I question the new second wild-card playoff entry ... but those are other blogs.)
So there, I have solved the All-Star Game joke/boredom. Please alert the proper authorities. Maybe some day I'll care again.