Monday, July 15, 2013

All-Star Game? No, it's a joke

    This is about baseball, about the All-Star Game, so if you're not a fan, you can stop here. Thank you.
    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. (
    I don't even bother with the NFL Pro Bowl -- especially now that it's played before the Super Bowl. The NBA All-Star Game? All glitz, no defense. No effort on defense until maybe the final 30 seconds ... if the game is close. It rarely is. NHL All-Star Game? They change the format every year, and they still score 20 goals. Who cares?
    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.              


  1. From Don Birkelbach: Couldn't agree more. I pull for Red Sox guys to be snubbed, so they can rest for four days.
    I hate the fan vote. Most "fans" don't know enough to vote. When Bowie Kuhn started the fan vote, I hated it and I still hate it.
    By the way, Salvador Perez is the best young defensive catcher in baseball (he has a cannon), and Castro is the best pick as an Astro since one of them has to be picked (another silly rule).
    The worst thing about the All-Star Game is that it is four days (used to be three) without baseball. I can't even imagine having two All-Star Games (what did they do, have two two-day breaks?? ... I don't even remember).

  2. From Maxie Hays: You are right on, Nico. I don't like any of the all-star games.

  3. From Jim Pruett: Saw Allen Craig interviewed before the Cardinals' Sunday game with the Cubs. Re the All-Star Game, he said (paraphrase), "I'm looking forward to getting to know the guys a little bit -- and I'm hoping to learn a couple of things. I'm also hoping to help the National League win the game." That's good enough for me.
    I just like baseball. And I like to watch it in person and on TV. I even like to listen to it on the radio. I just like baseball.
    And, for what it's worth, I think home field is less an advantage in baseball than in either basketball or football, so if that's what it takes to get the All-Star teams to "try," so be it.

  4. From Thomas Aswell: Enjoyed your blog on the All-Star Game. I share your feelings completely. My
    favorite was the one at Fenway Park when Ted Williams was brought in on a golf cart
    to throw the first pitch. He was/is my all-time favorite, followed closely by
    Stan Musial. I suppose my favorite contemporary player would be Derek Jeter,
    though I detest the Yankees. He is a class act all the way. But like you, I
    don't believe he warrants All-Star status just on the basis of his name.
    Where I fell out completely with the MLB All-Star Game was Cal Ripken's last
    appearance. His introduction was so contrived that it left me totally disgusted.
    I like Ripken and admire his accomplishments, but when they brought him out, they
    had hundreds of little kids lining the fence cheering. The only problem was none
    of them were looking at Ripken, but at the video crew member (off camera) who was
    cueing them to cheer. The entire scene was bogus and I still believe that
    pitcher (I don't remember his name) was instructed to throw Ripken a fat pitch
    for him to hit out. The entire event was staged, scripted and choreographed from
    start to finish.