The MLB All-Star Game: This Time it Counts…for Stupidity

Yes, the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game and the surrounding festivities in St. Louis were a grand time enjoyed by all. Unless you happened to shell out $170 for a home run derby ticket in right field thinking you would have a chance at catching a ball…D’oh!

One exception might have been Albert Pujols, the poster boy for this year’s event. In the home run derby, Phat Albert needed some fan interference just to make it out of the first round. In the actual game, Albert went hitless and also made a very un-Albert like error at first base.

Then there was Stan Musial, who did get his moment in the national spotlight. And I do mean moment; the Musial “tribute” could not have been one millisecond longer. Anyone watching outside of Cardinal Nation would have learned virtually nothing about Musial, except that apparently he was some sort of really good player from the olden days that didn’t play for the Red Sox, Yankees, or some other big market coastal team, so who cares right?

Musial’s tribute was apparently cut short because Barack Obama was in the house. Yes, Barack Obama! Who gives a flying rat turd about Stan Musial? Barack Obama is here!

Oh, infallible leader-god, wilt thou grace us with thine presence? Thou wilt? Huzzah!!

Making the visit all the more awesome, B.O. wore his White Sox jacket because, as we learned during the television broadcast, “his wife thinks he looks cute in it.”

That’s great. I’m glad I learned that important nugget of information. It will serve me well when I’m unemployed and standing in line on the sidewalk waiting for my swine flu vaccine.

But among the many winners that arose from the 2009 All-Star game – not the least of which was the city of St. Louis – perhaps the biggest loser was the National League. The Senior Circuit lost for the 16th time in a row, which means that once again the home field advantage in the World Series will go to the American League.

Few things are more annoying in the game of baseball than this stupid rule, allegedly invented to revitalize interest (i.e. TV ratings) in the Midsummer Classic.

Seriously, are you telling me that there is really some dope out there that was not going to watch the All-Star game, but now they are because it decides the location of the seventh game of the World Series? Does that thought process really go through anyone’s mind as they are flipping around the dial? Give me a break.

First of all, in the current era of “haves” and “have-nots”, many fans of teams that play outside major markets like New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles know they have basically no shot at the World Series almost every year. So why would they tune in to see whether the American League can secure a potential seventh game at home in the World Series?

In fact, if I was a player from, say, the Kansas City Royals, I would intentionally do whatever I could to throw the All-Star game. Most likely I would be screwing things up later in the season for the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox, which would be fine by me.
Back in the day, the All-Star game used to be a much bigger event because of the following reasons:

  1. Every stinking game was not televised on cable and replayed three times. There was no SportsCenter. For many baseball fans, the All-Star game was their only chance (other than World Series) to see some of the great players in the other league.
  2. There was no interleague play. Again, other than the World Series, this was the only chance to see the NL go head-to-head with the AL.
  3. Players used to actually care. They didn’t need some stupid gimmick as incentive to win the game. Before free agency, most players stayed on the same team their whole careers, and thus in the same league.

Most of the NL players didn’t know the AL players from Adam and vice versa. When you don’t know someone personally, it’s easier to see them as “the enemy” and want to beat them.

There was pride in your team, and pride in your league. Nowadays there is only pride on how much money you’re making. Players could give a fig about representing their league. It’s all lip service, and this idiotic rule doesn’t change any of that.

On this subject, is the All-Star game supposed to be a real game “that counts” or just an exhibition game? On this issue, baseball once again accomplishes the task of being either outrageously contradictory or just plain dumb.

If you believe the “this time it counts” mantra, then it’s supposed to be real game, right?

Well, if that’s the case, why then have the rosters been expanded to what seems like 92 players because of the requirement that every team be represented? And why then are the respective managers pressured to get every player in the game?

(Unless, of course, you’re Tony La Russa and you’re saving the greatest hitter of all time and your own player, Albert Pujols, for some mystical extra-inning rally that never comes.)

So, let’s see if I understand this: The Pittburgh Pirates must have one of their crappy players on the NL’s All-Star roster, and this player must also get in the game at some point.

But then the NL loses home field advantage in the World Series because of this. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say, “This one counts for potentially the most important game of the season,” and then say, “Oh, but by the way, it’s the freaking Bozo Show. Everybody has to play, even the guys from loser teams that aren’t really All-Stars.”

Either the game counts for something, and you do everything to win, or it doesn’t. If not, it’s an exhibition game, and then everyone can play. Everybody’s a winner. Like the Bozo Show.

Of course, I didn’t like the way it was before “this time it counts” either. The arbitrary, alternate year flip-flopping of home field advantage in the World Series was almost as bad.

And please, don’t tell me home field advantage isn’t important, that it doesn’t matter.

Ask any player, would you rather play Game 7 in your home park, with your home fans cheering you on in familiar surroundings, or go on the road. Which do you think he’ll pick? That’s right.

I’m old enough to remember the Cardinals losing the 1987 World Series to the Minnesota Twins because they had to play four games in that stupid cracker jack box called the Metrodome, which also sported a white ceiling (brilliant) making tracking routine fly balls an adventure, and a ventilation system that was used to aid the Twins while batting.

This happened despite the fact that the Cardinals had 10 more regular season wins (95) than the Twins (85) that year. The home team won every game in the 1987 World Series. Give the Cardinals four games at home, like they should have had, and chances are the outcome would have been different.

Which begs the question: Why does it seem like baseball cannot do the most common sense thing that every other major professional sport in America does?

Why can’t home-field advantage throughout the postseason, including the World Series, be decided by who had the better regular season? That’s currently the way it is right now, until you get to the World Series, and then all of a sudden it’s decided by an All-Star game played three months ago. Huh?!?

Sure, it sounds like a radical concept – heightening the importance of your regular season, that is – especially when everything baseball has done over the past 15 years (extra divisions, wild card teams, extra playoff tiers) has eroded the importance of the regular season.

That used to be one of the things that made baseball unique, even special. The regular season actually meant something. In fact, it meant everything.

It wasn’t like the NHL or the NBA, where one-half to three-quarters of the league made the playoffs.

Why can’t we let the games that already count for something, go ahead and count for home field advantage in the World Series too? Leave the All-Star game an exhibition, which is what it will be no matter how many gimmicks you try to attach to it.

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One Response to The MLB All-Star Game: This Time it Counts…for Stupidity

  1. beals says:

    Grubby,
    I still say you write about the topic we were discussing last night.

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