Is All-Star Game change really going to make them play ball?
May 29, 2003
Remember the good old days, when you could schedule a family barbecue or a dental appointment on the day of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game?
Well, no more — now Bud Selig wants you to watch. He’s serious this time; last year’s game was beaten in the ratings by a rerun of “Gilmore Girls.”
Take it from us, Selig hates to get upstaged by the WB. And so in order to make the game more exciting, which is to say remotely relevant, he came up with the following spiffy idea: the winner earns home-field advantage in the World Series.
Now, at first glance this plan may look like the same sort of half-baked scheming that brought us the designated hitter rule and the movie “Kangaroo Jack.” But let’s look at things from Selig’s point of view.
Last year’s game ended in a tie after 11 innings when both teams ran out of pitchers — a stroke of strategic genius rivaled only by Custer at the Little Big Horn. So Selig floated a trial balloon. What if, he pondered, the winner of the All-Star game earned home field advantage for that league? (to get a good picture of this moment, you have to imagine the Grinch stroking his chin atop Mt. Crumpet here).
So the baseball owners voted for the idea and the Major League Baseball Players Association ratified it, on a two-year trial basis, on May 1. It’s believed to be the first time ever that the two bodies have agreed on anything without Donald Fehr ordering out for pizza.
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Now, baseball has had some good ideas lately, like stadium garlic fries and contracting the Minnesota Twins, but this isn’t one of them. This plan makes as much sense as letting Willie Nelson do your taxes. Not that I would know about malfeasance in such matters, heh heh. By the way, does anyone know if Johnny Cash is still doing those concerts?
Baseball has only itself to blame for the demise of the All-Star Game. It used to be fun to speculate on what would happen if the best of the National League squared off with the best in the American. Then, in 1997, Selig brought us interleague play, thus killing the novelty. That, coupled with the fact that today’s athletes treat the All-Star Game like a shuffleboard tournament on a Disney cruise, makes us embrace the event with the same eagerness as having Uday Hussein show up on the porch as your daughtier’s prom date.
Do you want to fix the All-Star Game, Bud? Here’s an idea — tell the managers to play it like a real game. They’d be only too happy to oblige. You don’t have to play everyone; this isn’t a Cub Scout Jamboree. If Selig wants to remove the permanent “kick me” sign from the seat of his pants, he should be less concerned if Rocco Baldelli gets into the game and more concerned about the thing resembling actual baseball.
It used to be that way, you know. In the 1960s and ’70s, they played the All-Star Game like they wanted to win it. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the patch of ground in Cincinnati where Riverfront Stadium once stood — you can tell where home plate was because that’s where an impression of Ray Fosse’s body is still stamped into the turf, right where Pete Rose planted it in the 12th inning of the 1970 All-Star Game.
But you wouldn’t know about the 12th inning, would you Bud? In 2002, you stopped the game an inning short of that, because your managers used all 19 pitchers — running through them faster than Anna Nicole Smith goes through shrimp at the wrap party buffet table.
If you really want to make the All-Star Game more exciting, why not go all the way? Here are my ideas:
a Bottom of the sixth is the Shirtless Father and Son Inning, where a lucky father and son, chosen by a drawing, get to rush onto the field and attempt to beat up the first-base coach.
a Each team must have one woman on its roster. It worked at the Colonial Golf Tournament, where the press showed up in droves to interview Annika Sorenstom. Come on Major League Baseball — quit being so sexist!
a Lord of the Flies Inning. At a designated juncture, the Anaheim Rally Monkey is released onto the field and is pursued by boys with spears.
a All-Star Mole. In the tradition of Fox reality shows, one player on each team is really playing for the other side — and fans won’t know who until he makes that critical three-base error.
But you can dress it up all you want, and it’s just not going to work. As David Letterman would say, the All-Star Game is an exhibition, not a competition. And please, Pete Rose, no wagering.
— Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at NBCSports.com. Contact him at RickChand@earthlink.net.
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