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Is the All-Star Game a joke? Not to those who are here

Jul 11, 2011, 10:08 PM EDT

Ricky Romero Reuters

PHOENIX – Where’s Derek Jeter?

That seemed to be the question on the mind of many during Monday’s media day leading up to Tuesday’s All-Star Game. Jeter, the Yankees shortstop, decided not to play in the game, as he has recently returned from the disabled list with a calf injury.

Jeter is one of 16 players either unable or unwilling to participate in the game. Some, like Alex Rodriguez, are out because of a serious injury, others because of nagging aches and pains. Several pitchers are not allowed to participate, by MLB rule, because they started games on Sunday.

Jeter is simply the most notable of the 16 in part because of who he is, but also because he returned from the DL six games ago. He has gone 10-for-27 since his return, and certainly seemed healthy on Saturday when he went 5-for-5 to surpass the 3,000-hit mark.

Some say his absence, along with that of several others, makes a mockery of the game. But it’s hard to take credibility away from an exhibition game, and no matter what Bud Selig does to give it some importance, the All-Star Game is just that.

Rest a balky calf for a playoff run or fly to Arizona to play a couple innings in a non-counter? It’s a pretty easy choice. If Jeter, or any player, doesn’t want to play in the All-Star Game, there are plenty of players more than thrilled to step in and take part.

Seattle Mariners rookie Michael Pineda was asked if he ever expected to be an All-Star at age 22: “No,” he said, laughing. “It’s wild. To play in the All-Star Game is unbelievable. I’m very excited to be here. This is a big day for me.”

Pittsburgh Pirates veteran Kevin Correia, selected to his first All-Star Game at age 30, said he suffered through several sleepless nights after being told he was first in line to nab a spot if another pitcher opted out.

“It was a relief (when I finally found out),” said Correia, 11-7 with a 4.01 ERA. “It was just a goal that I wanted to accomplish in my career at some point. To finally get to experience something like this is definitely going to be something I’m going to look back on as a highlight in my career.”

And Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Ricky Romero (pictured), 7-8 with a 3.09 ERA, was positively giddy about being chosen as a replacement.

“I’m just trying to soak everything in,” Romero said. “I’m living the dream.”

Romero spoke about his rise from the baseball fields of East Los Angeles and the importance of representing his hometown. At breakfast Monday morning, his mother told him how family and friends back in California were sharing in his excitement.

“Everyone who watched me grow up and watched me play, they saw how hard I worked and everything I put into it,” Romero said. “It just shows that anyone can make it out of there. It shows little kids that if you work hard you can do anything.”

And if the All-Star Game becomes a regular occurrence for Romero, would he ever consider skipping the festivities and using the break to rest?

“I would never miss this for the world,” he said, beaming. “For me, it’s exciting, and I don’t think I could ever get tired of it. The more, the better.”

One of the best things about baseball’s All-Star Game, what separates it from the others of its kind, is that the players give their all on the field from start to finish. There is no coasting on defense, no taking it slow to avoid injury, no grooving pitches down the middle just to get some work in.

If you start pressuring players to compete who might not be 100 percent healthy you might lose some of that quality of play. And in the end, a pennant race is far more important than an exhibition game.

“I think it’s a personal decision,” said Braves catcher Brian McCann, who will play in his sixth All-Star Game, his first as a starter. “Derek has been an ambassador to this game. He’s been nothing but great. I’m not into nit-picking. He’s here every year. He gives his time, and he does everything by the book. He just got back from the DL, I don’t blame him at all. They’re trying to win the World Series.”

But would a healthy McCann ever turn down an All-Star appearance?

“Never. I always want to be a part of this.”

To each his own.

  1. bbgraf08 - Jul 11, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    The image of Romero beaming speaking about being selected is a great one, and is making me a fan of a pitcher I don’t know too much about. Some people complain about the all-star game/home run derby, but I’ve always enjoyed it.

  2. ezwriter69 - Jul 12, 2011 at 12:23 AM

    Sixty plus guys will play; no position player will play more than four innings, no pitcher will throw more than two; eighteen who were elected or named will stay home, and several of the very best starting pitchers will sit it out because they played on Sunday. Which would be fine if it were recognized and played as the exhibition it is, and should be; to determine home field in the World Series, to have real consequence from this exhibition is what is a joke.
    Either play it as a real game, with real rules and rosters like the other 162 games these men play, with enough rest for the best pitchers to throw and for the best position players to play a full game, can the every team must have a player nonsense so it is truly an honor to play, OR cut the crap and return it to being an exhibition. The MLB game was by far the best of all the All-Star games… now, in Bud’s world, it IS a joke. It IS a fitting legacy for Selig, however… one more part of baseball the babbling buffoon has diminished and ruined.

  3. pjmarn6 - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:20 AM

    What is this game supposed to prove. I tried watching it over 55 years ago and it made no sense then and makes no sense now. Nothing counts in this game. It is only an ego trip for the players.80% of the hitters are not going to get a hit and as none of the pitchers are going to last more than an inning or two, what sense does it make? Some may strike someone else out and some will get a hit. BIG DEAL! After 56 years, I still don’t understand the meaning of this one game. It just doesn’t have any significance at all.

  4. clydeserra - Jul 12, 2011 at 2:38 AM

    I said it in another thread. The all-star game is for children.

    I loved it when I was a kid. It was neat. I loved seeing my players on the team, it meant something to me. I am an adult now, I couldn’t care less, but I am ok with that.

    I bet the players are happy, they work hard for their atta boys.

  5. ulrik3 - Jul 12, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    With all the criticism and cynicism surrounding the selection and replacement processes, it’s cool to see that there’s a positive side to the ASG. At least the guys who are there for the game will enjoy the experience that might not otherwise have been available to them. Good stuff, Bob.

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