Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In the House that Ruth Built - MLB All-Stars



July and August are a busy time of the year for most musicians, so last night when I saw that the MLB All-Star game television coverage was scheduled to begin at 8 pm Eastern, I figured I'd tune in around 10:30 to catch the later innings and hopefully, an exciting finish. If you consider Michael Young's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 15th inning exciting, you went to bed a happy baseball fan. For others, like myself, it was a merciful ending after watching the B stars leave runner after runner in scoring position for seven innings.

The American League is now 11-0-1 in the last 12 All-Star games, and with the win, they secure home field advantage in the World Series. After the infamous 6-6 tie in Milwaukee's 2002 All-Star game, Commissioner Bud Selig claimed there would never be another tie, but last night was dangerously close to the same ending as 2002. What would have been more embarrassing; another tie game or a position player pitching the 16th inning? AL Manager Terry Francona and NL Manager Clint Hurdle had eventual MVP, J.D. Drew, and the Mets David Wright preparing to pitch the 16th inning if the game went that long. How would a team feel losing game 7 of the World Series on the road, knowing they could have been at home if not for a bad pitch by a 3rd baseman in the All-Star game? Although, in the "House that Ruth Built", it would have been interesting to see the winning pitcher also have a two-run home run.

I'll give full credit where it is due; the MLB All-Star game is perhaps the closest thing to a real game among the big 4 sports. The NBA, NHL and NFL All-Star games are nothing like the real thing, defence is a four letter word during their mid-season showcases. But, if as Bud Selig says, "this time it counts", and the MLB All-Star game decides who has home field advantage for the World Series, it's time to change the way teams are selected and the way the game is managed.

In the days before 24 hour sports channels and Inter-League play, the rule that each team be represented in the All-Star game was appropriate. As a boy growing up near Montreal, it was always a thrill to see Expos stars like Gary Carter and Andre Dawson taking their place among the best of the National League in the mid-summer classic. The only time those of us living in a National League city saw the American League stars was in the World Series and the All-Star game. Now, with every team available at the click of a button on a remote control or computer, should a deserving player be left off the squad so one player from the Florida Marlins or Baltimore Orioles can represent their team? Fan balloting needs to play a lesser role in choosing the teams as well, a committee of General Managers should select the squad with fans choosing only 3 or 4 players for each team. Statistics should choose the starting line-up, not the Internet.

The Managers for each League also need to manage to win from the start, instead of trying to insert every player into the line-up. All the big names and big stars are gone by the third or fourth inning. What we are left with is a situation like last night; Dan Uggla of the Marlins, after hitting into a double play with the bases loaded to end the 12th, went on to commit 3 errors and strike out 3 times in 4 at-bats. Had there been another player available on the NL bench, you can be sure manager Clint Hurdle would have made a switch. It was uncomfortable watching the young 2nd baseman struggle, looking like he wanted to be anywhere but on the field. Hats off, and my vote for NL MVP went to Miguel Tejada of the Astros. Besides several defensive gems at short, he continually went over to Uggla after each error to calm him down and say, "don't worry about it".

So after 15 innings, the longest All-Star game, the fourth and last All-Star game to be held at historic Yankee Stadium finally ended on a sacrifice fly... The Ghosts of Yankee Legends had seen enough and it was time to call it a night.

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