I remember when the All-Star Game actually mattered.
Well, it didn’t matter–it was still a game that didn’t count, but the guys who showed up, they showed up to play. There was a lot of pride at stake. My first All-Star memory was the 1983 game. The American League hadn’t won a game in years. Then the California Angels’ Fred Lynn came up with the bases loaded, smacked one out of the park for the first-ever All-Star grand slam, and carried the AL to victory.
These days, the only purpose the All-Star Game serves is to give Baseball Commissionerwannabe Bud Selig another opportunity to make a fool of himself.
Every year, he comes up with some new award to give to players, so he can give himself a chance to talk. Problem is, the average sixth grader has better public speaking skills than Selig, who reads from a script and mispronounces words. The guy wouldn’t have passed my high school speech class.
Not that Bud Selig deserves all the blame for this year’s farce. In the late innings, with the game tied, both Joe Torre and Bob Brenly played as if their teams were ahead, bringing in pitchers to pitch a single inning and burning up their benches in an effort to get everyone in. Torre brought in Mariano Rivera to pitch the 9th, even though it wasn’t a save situation or even a win situation. He should have asked Boston’s Ugueth Urbina, who pitched the 8th, to go another inning.
Bob Brenly did something even dumber, relieving Atlanta’s John Smoltz after the 9th, in which he’d thrown a measly 8 pitches. Smoltz is a former starter. Smoltz should have been able to go at least another inning. Brenly had little choice but to go to Smoltz, as Robb Nen and Byung-Hyung Kim had been ineffective. Of course he could have avoided that problem by leaving his earlier pitchers, who had been effective, in longer.
So, with one pitcher left, both teams went into extra innings, promptly burned up all their reserves, and then went crying to the commish when the National League was depleted.
The All-Star Game used to be about winning a ballgame, not getting everyone in the game. The fans would do moronic things, like vote Reggie Jackson in as a starting outfielder when he hadn’t played in the field all year and was hitting .239, so the manager would get Jackson his obligatory at-bat and pray that no one hit anything his direction, then get a real outfielder out there ASAP. Fans are good at getting the marquee players in there; the manager’s job is to find a balance between letting the fans see the players they want to see, and fielding a competitive team. Case point: This year the fans voted three right-fielders in as starters, creating a dilemma about who would play center. The true solution to the problem is pretty simple: Hit Sosa third to get him an at-bat in the first inning, then get Andruw Jones in there so you have three competent outfielders.
The NL’s problem wasn’t unsolvable. There was a pitcher left on the bench. St. Louis’ Matt Morris had taken himself out of the game due to personal reasons. I think his spot on the roster was given to someone else. But managers make concessions to each other in spring training all the time. So Torre lets Brenly use Morris–assuming Morris would agree to warm up–in exchange for something. The good of the game ought to be plenty compensation. Or let Torre bring one of his starting fielders back if that’s not enough. The Mariners’ Freddy Garcia, normally a starting pitcher, should have had a few innings left in him. So should Morris. The game continues as it should.
But no. True to form, Bud Selig did the dumbest possible thing any human being could think of. It almost makes me wonder if Torre and Brenly and the players didn’t stage this just to confirm their suspicions about how big of an idiot Selig is.
Selig talks now of changes being necessary, but he doesn’t talk about which ones. (He’s too busy talking about how some team’s going to fail to meet payroll and fold by the end of the season.) I agree. The All-Star Game needs some changes. These two will do just fine and dandy:
1. An attitude adjustment, so people take the game semi-seriously again.
2. And last but most importantly, a new commissioner. How about Bob Costas? He loves the game and already has a plan for fixing what’s wrong with it. Rudy Giuliani doesn’t have a job right now. Maybe Peter Ueberroth would come out of retirement. Or maybe Jimmy Carter would take a part-time job.
Or, in a pinch, they could offer the job to Steven, The Dell Dude. You can tell from looking at him that he’s smarter than Bud Selig. And he’s a whole lot less annoying.