Monday, June 05, 2006

All Fall Down

Once upon a time the major league All-Star game meant something. That was before interleague play and satellite dishes, and ESPN made it possible for everyone across the country, indeed the world, to see every team and every player virtually on demand. Now, the “mid-summer classic” is just slightly more interesting to fans than the Pro-Bowl game is in football and, then, only because it is played in the middle of the season. Move it to November and Hawaii and I guarantee only the parents, spouses and significant others of the participants would tune in.

Like so many other facets of baseball today, the All-Star game has been badly mismanaged by Commissioner Bud Sellig. First, he has turned the event into the same three-day carnival as in every other major sport with made-for-TV skill contests such as the home run hitting contest created solely to expand the amount of exposure on prime time television. Next, he agreed to allow ESPN have Boomer Berman and Joe Morgan provide commentary for the contest, insuring that bad puns and platitudes flew out of the park at least as often as the baseballs. Then there was the infamous tie he decreed a few years ago, which would have gone down as Bud’s greatest folly had he not surpassed himself by awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the winning league in the All-Star game. These guys need motivation, Bud opined. Foolish me; all along I thought the incentive clauses in their contracts were sufficient.

Many observers have also noted how flawed the voting system is, especially when smaller market teams cannot possible compete against larger ones when it comes to in-stadium balloting. Can the 4,325 people who show up in Miami have a snowball’s chance in South Florida of electing local hero Miguel Cabrera when the Cubs sell out Wrigley every day and have Derek Lee? While I find the argument correlating attendance and voting somewhat persuasive, I have to acknowledge there are alternatives, namely online voting.

Of course, when one goes on line these days he or she is limited to a mere 25 votes and must navigate the word verification system MLB put in place order to prevent spammers and programmers from, heaven forbid, exploiting the system.

A limit of 25 votes?? Is that per visit to the web or is that overall? What if I disable cookies? Can I vote forever? Could I write in Lou Collier?

[P.S. If Chase Utley is elected the starting second baseman, I take it all back.]


Pawnking said...

"he agreed to allow ESPN have Boomer Berman and Joe Morgan provide commentary for the contest, insuring that bad puns and platitudes flew out of the park at least as often as the baseballs."

That's just a great line.

RickSchuBlues said...

Few things about baseball are more disappointing to me than its all-star game, which apparently used to be something special. I can't stand that it's become a pure exhibition that is not played the way real games are played; substitutions by the half-dozen every half-inning, etc. There's no sense of drama or meaning when you compromise the integrity of the normal sense of the game, i.e. spring training and World Baseball Classic. The teams should consist of a starting squad and one set of backups, and a seven-man pitching staff, which should be used according to normal game stipulations; otherwise, it'll never be anything but a glorified snooze-fest in which all the momemtum is shattered by the second pitch of the first inning. I hate that I don't even care about it because it could be something really fun. The only thing worth watching is the homerun derby, and I can't even bring myself to bother with that.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

The All-Star game jumped the shark years ago.

By the way... say a prayer today for Eric Gregg.

Tom Goodman said...

Had to look that one up, Smokin.

Nat said...

The all-star game was lots of fun back when I was a kid and we only got one or two games a week on TV (yeah, I'm that old.) It was the only chance you got to see certain players, or the uniforms of certain teams for that matter. It was a thing of wonderment.

But that all ended years ago. I've never been one to criticize players who decline to participate because I, too, take a vacation from baseball during the break.

If baseball wants to take a mid-season break and have an exhibition game, it would be more interesting if they brought back the two teams from the championship game of the World Baseball Classic for a rematch. They'd have something to play for -- national pride -- and there'd be a revenge factor.

The only thing more ridiculous than the game itself is the huffing and puffing of baseball media and officialdom trying to make this next-to-pointless farce seem like it's really something. In that regard, it is the perfect venue for Berman.

Tom Goodman said...

Nat: We are probably of the same generation give or take a few years. In my youth there was a single game of the week on Saturday.

I remember a brief period when there were two AS games in a season. Happened once or twice as I recall. In those days the NL was on a tremendous winning streak and, perhaps, the lords of baseball wanted to give the AL a second chance without having to wait an entire year. I grew up in Baltimore and was an AL rooter then. We never got to see many NL stars even during those weekly games on Saturday. Thus, the AS game was truly a showcase.