Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Spinal Tap III - These Go to 32

Whitney and I have both spent some time, both in this blog and elsewhere, lamenting the mismanagement of major league baseball. It's a testament to the strength of the game's hold on our society that anyone is still a fan of a league that's as poorly run as this one. The latest sledgehammer to the collective fandom is the farce of the 2003 All-Star game.

How is this All-Star game a disaster, even before its played? Let me count the ways:

1. "This time, it counts." That's Fox Sports' catchy slogan to capture the fact that the winning league in the game will be rewarded with home field advantage in the World Series. The implication is that, because something is at stake, the players will try harder, and the managers will manage like it's a real game, and the fans won't risk sitting through 4 hours of baseball without a resolution (see the 2002 All-Star debacle). The last 7 times a series went to a Game 7, the home team won, so home field does mean something, which makes this even worse.

This idea is asinine on so many levels, but let's start with this one: As a fan of the allegedly championship contending Boston Red Sox, I must rely on Lance Carter, Dmitri Young, C.C. Sabathia, and Mike MacDougal to care enough about the result to try to win. If I were a Cardinals fan, I'd be hoping that Aaron Boone, Rondell White, and Mike Williams did the same. These are all fine players, but their teams are toast, so why in hell do they care who gets home field advantage in the series?

2. If it counts, then why are Pedro Martinez, Curt Shilling, Dontrelle Willis, Mariano Rivera, Jim Thome, Mike Mussina, Magglio Ordonez, and Brian Giles not on the field? If it counts, why does MLB see fit to arbitrarily require a representative from each team? You're telling me that Mike Williams and his 6.29 ERA deserves to be on the NL roster more than Willis and his 8-1, 2.08 marks?

3. More importantly, if it counts, then why are the fans the ones selecting the starting lineups? Fans are idiots, at least in the collective, but MLB trusts them to make the right decision on who should start this 'extremely important' game? When I was a kid, I would get 50 ballots at Fenway, and punch the Red Sox player at every position. Now, through the magic of the internet, millions of Japanese fans can do the same thing from 3000 miles away from any major league ballpark. This is how we get Hideki Matsui as the starting centerfielder for the AL. Maybe the fans can vote on which pitches to throw, and when to hit-and-run, too. Don't laugh - I bet Bud and the Gang have thought about it.

4. If it counts, then why did over 100 players not cast ballots, including half of the New York Yankees? Shouldn't MLB have forced players to participate, or make public the names of those who chose not to? Worse, the ones who did particpate didn't understand how the voting worked, which is how Ramon Hernandez was tabbed as the AL backup catcher over Jason Varitek, despite markedly inferior numbers.

The All-Star game is, has always been, and always should be an exhibition. Something as important as the World Series should not be arbitrarily pinned to it. Baseball has been so tone deaf over the past decade, that I'm more resigned than infuriated that they've created this situation, but when the Red Sox face Game 7 in Pac Bell Park in October after Lance Carter gives up a 9th inning homerun to Mike Lowell next week, I'm gonna be pissed.

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