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My annual anti-All-Star Game rant

Jul 12, 2010, 3:30 PM EST

I moan about the All-Star Game every year. Please tell me if I'm off base.

I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time getting my All-Star rah-rah on. I hate to fall in line with all of those other cranks, but the fact is that the All-Star Game ain’t what it used
to be. Which would be fine — exhibitions can be fun — but the whole home field advantage in the World Series thing goes and messes it up even on that level.  Home field matters, and here we have Charlie Manuel putting Andre Ethier in center field and writing Ryan Howard in the cleanup spot against a lefty for some damn reason.  That’s galling enough all things being equal, but seeing as though my Braves have a non-trivial chance of winning the pennant this year I’m starting to take it personally. And I love me some Charlie Manuel, so getting irked at him is not a fun experience at all.

You know my other complaints before I give voice to them: there are too many players. Too many pitchers coming in to fire gas for an inning and thus
lowering offense so much that even a pitching guy like me finds the proceedings boring. How much better would the game be if they’d simply cut down the rosters a bit and get rid of the every-team-must-have-a-player rule? We’ll never know because it ain’t gonna happen, so I should probably just stop my grousing now.

I guess what really gets me here — and stop me if my nostalgia is interfering with, you know, the facts — but I really do feel like the All-Star Game mattered a lot more back in the day, even if it didn’t count for anything as important as home field advantage. Maybe not to the players. I don’t buy that “they cared more back then” line that people fall for. Everyone likes to trot out the Rose-plows-into-Fosse story, but (a) I think Rose would be knocking over guys if he played now too; and (b) I think guys tried hard then and now in equal measure. Some care, some don’t, They just played more innings back then so it looked like more cared.

No, it’s to the fans that it doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. It used to be that the only chance we had to see of a lot of guys was during the All-Star Game, but now we have multiple national games a week and if you have the Extra Innings package or MLB.tv you can see any player just about any night.  And that was the thrill for me, really, seeing guys like Dave Parker or Mike Schmidt in my American League TV market back in the early 80s. There’s really no novelty to it anymore.

I’m prepared to admit that I’m falling into baseless cliche here, and if I am, tell me so.  But for the past several years of blogging about baseball I’ve been unable to escape the feeling that the game I love devotes a night to unorthodox and aesthetically unsatisfying play with the added annoyance of something actually important being decided, and I just can’t abide it.

I’m a sucker, though, so as always, I’ll watch it. But as I do I’ll be asking myself: why?

  1. MG19 - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:47 PM

    took the feelings right out of my heart.

  2. Infinite Wisdom - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    If the All-Star game outcome is going to determine something so important, the teams should not be chosen by fans. The statically superior players should be selected.. Hell, do it electronically.. Don’t leave it up to any one person’s interpretation. The players that contribute the most to their teams success should play in the game, not the most popular players. Really? Yadier Molina over Miguel Olivo? Really? Do people want the NL to lose every year?

  3. Mark Armour - Jul 12, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    I am sure everything you say is true. On the other hand, I think of the game as more of a celebration or event, and I like watching it for those reasons. Its a bunch of great baseball players having fun, and that carries the day for me.
    As I get older, I find myself enjoying watching baseball games more, even as I care less and less about the who wins the games or who the shortstop should be, or who wins the awards, or what it all means. Not to go all-John Lennon on you, but just imagine that you are watching great baseball players play baseball, and tune the rest of the nonsense out. The more I can do that, the more fun it is.

  4. Martin McKee - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:04 PM

    I actually like the rule that all teams must be represented. Would you rather have the alternative, which would be that the AL squad would have ten Yankees, eight Red Sox, and the next time you saw a Royals uniform would be 2024? All you would have every year is Yankees/Red Sox vs. Mets/Cubs/Dodgers. The Reds are in first place, and I’d be surprised if any of them made the roster this year, being from a small market.
    I agree that the ASG has lost some luster, mainly due to interleague play and the fact that Selig and the managers involved invariably have their heads up their rear ends when it comes to their decision-making.

  5. Student of The Game - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:07 PM

    But as I do I’ll be asking myself: why?
    Because it’s baseball, and it’s on TV. That’s always my excuse.

  6. ben s - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    I honestly think that if they lessened the rosters, took out the home field advantage thing, and just picked the starters based on WAR. Huh? Huh?

  7. Md23Rewls - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    While I understand why some people dislike the All Star Game (and there are plenty of reasons to), I still enjoy it. When I was a teenager, we didn’t have cable, so we didn’t have ESPN, and it was just before MLB.TV came into existence. Or maybe MLB.TV existed, but I had no money, so it might as well have not existed. Anyway, for me, baseball was the FOX Saturday Game of the Week and the All Star Game. Those were the only games I got to watch, unless I went over to a friend’s house. Now I am twenty-three years old living on my own, have MLB.TV, can watch the Yankees (or whomever) whenever I feel like it, but I still feel this nostalgic pull when it’s time for the All Star Game. It’s just something that reminds me of growing up and how special it was to get that one baseball game during the middle of the week. I’ll always love the All Star Game, no matter how hard they try to water it down. It’s just one of those things for me.
    Now, could it be improved? Definitely. Get rid of the home field advantage slant first off. It’s absurd that best record doesn’t get home field in the World Series. It’s 2010. It’s not like we’re in the horse and buggy era. Citing travel/lodging concerns (that’s always what Selig talks about, right?) just doesn’t figure. Kill the ‘each team needs to have a player’ angle. Cut down on the pompous pre-game stuff that always takes forty-five minutes. Other complaints that I can’t think of right now.

  8. Levi Stahl - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    I’ve gotten to where I miss probably half the All-Star games; the break serves as a breather from baseball, a couple of nights at home without a game to distract me from getting things done. And I think it derives largely from Craig’s point about how we can see these guys all the time now: when I was a kid, not living in a major-league market, I knew players almost entirely from Cardinals radio broadcasts and baseball cards–which meant that AL stars were almost all unknown. Thus, the chance to see, for example, Bo Jackson in the All-Star Game was really exciting.

  9. Jonny5 - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Don’t worry craig, The NL has it in the bag this season. Howard will also prove his worth, you’ll see. And you’ll ask “why do I watch”???? But love it all the same.

  10. YankeesfanLen - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:29 PM

    Maybe one of my fsavorite Yankees will appear since every team needs a representative.

  11. JCD - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:30 PM

    Stop being an old crank :)

  12. The Rabbit - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    Amen to that!

  13. scatterbrian - Jul 12, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    You are the first person I’ve ever heard supporting this rule. Which is cool, but I don’t think your reasoning is valid. If MLB removed the every-team-represented rule, that wouldn’t change how the fans or the players vote, or how the managers select reserves.

    Or, you could always put a cap on the number of players from each team…

  14. Secretary Cleary - Jul 12, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    Levi hit it on the head for me. My parents refused to get cable, so I taped the NBC Game of the Week, with Vin Scully & Joe Garagiola calling the game, playing it over and over until the next Saturday. The All Star Game was a really big deal to see those players from my baseball cards actually perform on TV. And the Bo Jackson homer was awesome!! Now we have so much baseball online and on cable or satelite TV, and we’re just older and have adult responsibilities, that the All Star game isn’t as big a deal and doesn’t have the same excitement for me.

  15. none - Jul 12, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    I don’t buy “they cared more back then,” but the AL-NL rivalry was real “back then.” Before 1959 there was no interleague trading (except waivers), so few players changed leagues. And of course no interleague games or free agency.
    Paul Richards, who managed the White Sox and Orioles, moved to the NL as GM of Houston and Atlanta. When he went from Baltimore to Houston in 1961, his wife and daughter chided him about “going slumming” in the NL. You can find quotes from players such as Ty Cobb, Dizzy Dean and Ted Williams expressing loyalty to their league.

  16. jd1 - Jul 12, 2010 at 6:26 PM

    If by “prove his worth,” you mean strike out twice and prove most of the smarter baseball minds right, then yes, you are correct.

  17. Ditto65 - Jul 12, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    We should let computers decide, like the BCS. Because that works so well…
    Stay Classy, HBT.

  18. Utley's hair - Jul 12, 2010 at 7:00 PM

    There goes old cranky Calcaterra again, out on his lawn in the tattered robe, yelling and shaking his fist at the blasted whippersnappers.

  19. Al - Jul 12, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    Can we please have a permanent moratorium on anyone ever saying “stay classy” again?

  20. Al - Jul 12, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    I don’t have cable or an mlb.tv subscription, so I’m just looking forward to being able to watch a ball game on TV.

  21. Old Gator - Jul 13, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    I found the home field advantage rule idiotic from the outset, but look whose idea it was in the first place. To call one of Bud Light’s ideas idiotic is, after all, like calling one of Niels Bohr’s ideas non-Newtonian. Otherwise, the game lost my interest a long time ago, not for any on-the-field reason, but because of all the cornball hoopla and horse poop that attends it, the insistence that we’re all tasteless and stupid and our attention can’t be attracted and held any other way. I mean, is this supposed to be a ballgame or another Michael Jackson tribute concert?
    .
    At one time baseball seemed to me the most significant single element of popular culture that was not inherently kitsch. It was mythic enough so that inferences of the grave and constant in human experience glimmered through it. Now, especially where the All Star Game is concerned, it’s just another grayish-green schmear of Madison Avenue cliches, presided over by a doddering fool who looks underdressed without his eyeball hat.
    .
    Pardon me, I’m going to take down my weatherbeaten little copy of Bart Giamatti’s Take Time for Paradise and try to remind myself what the game really is all about. With any luck, I’ll be able to ignore the white noise of the next four days or so as easily as I was able to ignore the smorgasbored of ennui that was the mercifully just concluded backandforthandbackandforthandbackandforthball cup.

  22. DGL - Jul 13, 2010 at 9:36 AM

    You don’t need to shrink the rosters or get rid of the “every team is represented” rule; all you need is one of the managers to take Bud at face value: You say the game matters, so I’m going to play it like it matters:
    – If I think a starter is the best player at his position, he’s playing the whole game, unless I decide to pinch-hit for him late because of a platoon advantage or to put in a defensive sub.
    – Conversely, if I think a starter isn’t the best player at his position, he’ll be out in the field for one inning or get one plate appearance because the rules say he’s a “starter”, then he’s gone.
    – Every time through the order, I’m pinch-hitting for my pitcher. You’ve given me a dozen of the best pitchers in the league and 20 guys who can hit; that’s where I’m going to use them.
    – Everyone else can be happy they’re here, and watch from the bench.
    I would like to watch that game.

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