Big Apple and Big Game

The Major League Baseball All-Star game has lost its luster. It is a game that faces a huge dilemma. It is an exhibition played in the middle of the season. The starters representing each league are chosen by the fans in what is basically a popularity contest. Spots are rewarded more by home town affiliation than actual merit. Rosters are further complicated by the rule that every franchise be represented so valuable roster spots are taken up by lesser players whose only criteria for selection was that they sucked less than any of their other teammates. Further stipulations are placed on each all-star manager by the clubs stating how they want their stars to be used for this more or less meaningless game. The fans just want to see their favorite players play together on the field and enjoy a celebration that marks the midpoint of the baseball season. Commissioner Bud Selig during his tenure saw interest and ratings deteriorating for this game especially after the debacle in 2002 when the game ended in a tie after both managers used all of their players. Selig irresponsibly decided that he winner of an exhibition game would determine home field advantage to the World Series.

I have no idea what was going on in his mind to come up with such an ill advised scenario. While the players now have a vested interest in playing their best, the system is set up with so many problems that it becomes impossible for a manager to play this game to win. First off there is the fact that many of the best players are more or less unavailable for this game. Take Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb for example. He was rightfully named to the all-star game being the only pitcher in the majors with 13 victories. Unfortunately he is an all-star by name only since Webb threw 108 pitches on Sunday making his basically unavailable to play in the game. So the pitcher with the most wins in the season is more or less a spectator. The same is true for the American League where Scott Kasmir is representing Tampa Bay but he too is unavailable after throwing 104 pitches on Sunday.

The National League is down another player as San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum was sent to the hospital after coming down with the flu. There is no mechanism for replacing a player who is injured or unable to compete after the rosters are solidified. Since the game is for the most part an exhibition teams are appropriately worried that their best players may be over used or possibly hurt reducing their chances of actually making the post season. To place importance on this game by awarding home field advantage to the biggest series of the year is idiotic. It would make much more sense to give the team with the best record the advantage as a reward for their hard work over 162 games. If that doesn’t work and you want to somehow reward the cross-league rivalry then award home field advantage to the league with the best Interleague series record. This makes it a collective goal where every Interleague game counts and places value on that Seattle versus San Diego series that otherwise would be like watching paint dry.

Tonight’s game between the National and American League all-stars was a classic and a fitting farewell to Yankee Stadium. It was a microcosm of the baseball season. Like the 162-game schedule it seemed to last forever. There were moments of defensive brilliance marred by moments of individual failure. There were situational hitting displays coupled with powerful blasts that left the field. You could not have asked for a better game to display the talents of Major League Baseball. This game has the distinction of being the longest All-Star game ever played both in terms of innings as well as actual elapsed time. The 15-inning event ended fittingly with a walk-off single sacrifice fly capping a nail biting sub-story as each manager had used all of their position players and pitchers. The two emergency players Webb and Kasmir both saw action and Kasmir ultimately became the winning pitcher. So while the mid-summer classic lived up to all of its hype that still does not condone the ill-advised decision by Bud Selig to somehow connect this exhibition game to home field advantage. For the 11th straight year the American League was victorious and they will again have the advantage in October all because Dan Uggla set a record for poor game performance committing 3 errors and going 0-4 with 3 strikeouts stranding 6 runners on base. I’m sure come October if the series comes down to a final deciding game we will all fondly look back and remember how great this practice game was in July.

1 Comment

  1. As far as I remember the game did not end with a single rather than sacrifice fly

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