Wednesday, July 16, 2008

All Star Game Thoughts

* First and foremost, the All Star Game is an exhibition game. It was never meant to have meaning or any tangible effect on the regular season. It was a chance for fans to see the best and brightest on one stage, and a chance to see the National League and American League square off in a time before inter-league play wasn't being rammed down their throats. Every other major sport treats their All Star Game for what is - a spectacle meant to be enjoyed for the sake of the game. The NFL waits until after the season is over to play their game - and they do so in a locale that doesn't even host a team.

This is why I feel so strongly that attaching meaning to an exhibition game for the sake of television ratings is asinine. It's a game played with 32-man rosters, where pitchers are never on the mound longer than two innings at a time and the starting position players are out of the game by the sixth inning. It has only a superficial resemblance to real baseball and to artificially attach meaning where there is none is nothing more than a gimmick that cheapens the integrity of the sport.

* I went out for a few hours last night, after watching the interminably long pre-game ceremony (more on that in a minute). I came back four hours later and the game was still on, since Billy Wagner apparently is no better at locking down exhibition games than he is at regular season games. Since I wasn't working today, I got to do something most people on the East Coast did not - watch the All Star Game all the way to the end.

As the innings dragged on and both managers came perilously close to running out of pitchers, I was struck by the absurdity of the situation. This game was going to continue until there was a winner - the commissioner said as much afterwards. There was Scott Kazmir and Brandon Webb, each having thrown over 100 pitches on Sunday, now on the mound in extra innings of an exhibition game that should've ended hours before.

What would've happened if Corey Hart's throw was on target and the game went to the 16th inning? Well, the National League would've sent its backup third baseman to the mound to try to hold down the fort. So here we are, five hours into the game that now determines where Game 7 of the World Series is played, and a guy who hasn't been on a pitching mound since Little League was the last line of defense for the National League.

I can't tell you how badly I wish David Wright would've trotted out to the mound, surely to the delight of the few people left in the stands. I would've loved to hear Bud Selig explain how his master plan for making the All Star Game relevant was decided by a third baseman masquerading as a pitcher because the National League pulled its real starting pitcher after two innings. (Since, you know, that's what you do IN AN EXHIBITION GAME!!)

I know that Major League Baseball is shameless, but this would've brought a new level of embarrassment to the Commissioner's Office for their spineless kowtowing to network television ratings.

* The pre-game ceremony went on forever, but I thought it was cool to see so many Hall of Famers in one place, lined up on the diamond by position. I loved Gary Carter's hat switcheroo most of all - he initially wore a Mets cap while waiting to be announced, but brought along a Montreal Expos cap as well and put it on while the camera was on him.

What a wonderful way to remind baseball fans that, yes, there was once a baseball team in Montreal. I doubt that Selig could've been pleased, though. The Expos' 35-year history meant nothing to the commissioner and his cronies, and it was only their greed and avarice that cost that city its baseball team. They killed the Montreal Expos so they could move the franchise to a terrible baseball town that had already lost two teams just to get yet another publicly funded ballpark. More people in the Washington area would rather watch DC United then watch the Nationals. It was a shameful episode, even by the pathetic standards of the Selig era, and I'm glad Carter reminded the world that ballplayers were once proud to represent the city of Montreal - a National League outpost that deserved better.

No comments: