November 1, 2014

All-Star Thinking

July 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

No, the title of this post has nothing to do with the quality of thoughts that you’ll find here.  With the All-Star Game this evening, it seemed a good time to talk about my thoughts on the game.  I probably have done that before, but it’s always good to rehash and rethinking things.  Below are my opinions on the game–your thoughts or disagreements are always welcome in the comments.

First off, I’ve always been a fan of the All-Star Game.  I still have a fairly complete set of the games from 1989 to roughly 2000 or so sitting around my house, though on VHS tapes that I no longer have a method of watching.  Perhaps due to that focus, it’s always been something I was fairly passionate about, at least when it comes to the general talking points.

Let’s lead off with the obvious: the game should not count.  I watched the 2002 All-Star Game, held in Bud Selig’s stadium.  If that tie happens anywhere else, I’m not sure Selig has the passion to push “This Time It Counts”, but being embarrassed in “his” game spurred him to do something, anything, to make it look less of a fiasco.

And yet, the problem wasn’t that the game didn’t mean anything.  The problem wasn’t that the players didn’t want to win, though I’m sure they didn’t (and, honestly, still probably do) have that deep and abiding passion to win at any costs.  The biggest problem was that the managers decided to run everyone in there, not worrying about the future.  As I read somewhere–VEB, I believe–Matt Morris was in the NL dugout unused.  He wasn’t technically on the roster, but it’s an exhibition.  There probably was an AL pitcher in the park somewhere as a spectator.  Be creative if you have to be.

It really runs back to Cito Gaston and Mike Mussina, in my mind.  Mussina was the hometown representative when Baltimore held the All-Star Game in 1993, but Gaston never got him into the game, creating unrest in the crowd who booed the manager.  After that, it seemed that managers had to get everyone into the game.  That, more than anything, has damaged the game.

Besides, has it really mattered?  Let’s look at the World Series since this has been in place.  We’ll designate visiting team as the team that lost the ASG.

2003–Visiting team won in 6
2004–Home team won in 4
2005–Home team won in 4
2006–Visiting team won in 5
2007–Home team won in 4
2008–Visiting team won in 5
2009–Home team won in 6
2010–Home team won in 5

So we see that the home-field advantage, which is smaller in baseball than in any other sport, really hasn’t played out.  There hasn’t been a Game 7 in the Series since 2001, and as quickly as a lot of these series were over, I doubt the fact that the AL team (save last year) got to start at home really made a difference.  Cardinal fans might argue differently about 2004, but saying that the Series keyed completely on that first game is a tough sell.

Secondly, the fans should always be allowed to vote for the starters.  Are they going to get it “right” all the time?  Of course not.  Are they going to vote based on name recognition rather than advanced sabermetrics?  Most definitely.  However, this is the fan’s game.  The fan spends their money and their time all season long.  Without them, there is no game.  The least they should get is one game where they get to be “in charge”, even if it is only a little bit.  Allow the players and managers to make up the rest of the rosters–that’s great.  It helps rectify injustices and get deserving players on the roster.  Just leave the starting selection with the fans.

To tie both of those together, the starters should play a majority of the game.  That’s who the fans have explicitly stated they want to see.  For example, tonight Prince Fielder should play five or six innings, with Joey Votto coming in around then (and Gaby Sanchez used as a pinch hitter, most likely).  The fans didn’t vote Fielder in to see him take one at-bat, maybe two, and sit the rest of the game.  They voted to see him play and they should get to see him longer than a brief cameo.

Both of those reasons reinforce the first, that the game should not count.  If the fans do something like put Derek Jeter in the starting lineup, he should play according to my rules.  But that’s not giving the AL the best chance to win, is it?  Don’t put something on the line when you can’t guarantee the best of lineups, whether due to voting or injuries.

So, when you think of this logically, the next step is to let players know they may not play.  Are we hurt as a society if the sole representative of the Marlins doesn’t play?  I think we can make it.  Granted, if the game starts to get lopsided, feel free to start running players in and out. But if it’s a 2-1 game in the seventh, do you really want Howie Kendrick batting for Robinson Cano?

The point has been made before, but you remember the All-Star highlight that we’ve been talking about around here, voting for Stan Musial to win MLB’s little contest (and I guess the winner will be revealed tonight on the broadcast).  That home run was an extra-inning shot, but Musial started the game.  He played the whole thing, and that was expected back then.  You really got to see the legends play and that allowed them to make magical moments.

I do have one caveat to the above and that is hometown players should get into the game.  That doesn’t necessarily mean just the players tied to that team.  For example, you want to see all the Diamondbacks get into the action tonight, but the AL should (if he was there) get someone like Mark Reynolds, a former Diamondback who is still a favorite in the area, at least an at-bat.  The All-Star Game only comes around once every 40 or so years, usually, so the fans should have a chance to give their local faves a warm reception.

I do want to make it clear, though, that I believe that every team should have a representative.  First off, do we really want an AL team that is 85% Yankees and Red Sox?  Is that what this game is about?  I think no one outside of the Northeast wants to see that.

Secondly, though, it’s about including all fans.  When I was younger, I was blessed to know that Ozzie Smith was going to be starting in the game.  I never had to worry too much about waiting for that one at-bat or if the Cardinal rep would just be a defensive replacement.  After Ozzie (and before Albert Pujols, of course), there were some lean years.  Still, though, you knew that there would be a Cardinal when they introduced the players.  Just seeing that red hat with the STL on it was enough to make me happy and it was always fun to see them finally get into the game.

I don’t think we should deny that feeling to any fan base.  Sure, if I have my way it’s less likely that they’ll actually see their player get into the game, but they will still be there during introductions, still have that moment of happiness.  It’s the right thing to do.

Finally, get rid of the DH for the All-Star Game.  Of course, I’m one that would get rid of the DH completely, but that’s another story.  (Gotta approve of Lance Berkman‘s stance on the issue, though.)  Just another sign of the creeping destruction of the game, now they are using the DH in National League parks.  How wrong is that?  At least they used to respect the rules of the home team.  Not anymore.

Anyway, the DH was designed to improve offense, right?  Is this really a need in an ALL-STAR GAME?  I mean, you’ve already got the best of the best, supposedly.  You need to juice that up a bit

?Besides, are pitchers ever going to hit in this game?  As much as it would be great to see the game go back to what it was just 20 years ago, with the starting pitcher going three innings, that’s not likely to happen.  So if you are already always using that slot to get a new pinch hitter in, why do you need a DH?  Let David Ortiz pinch-hit–he’s only going to get a couple at bats at the most anyway, so it’s not like you are really shortchanging him.

I’ll watch some of the game tonight.  With Matt Holliday and Berkman in the starting lineup, the only suspense will be figuring out when Yadier Molina will come into the action.  (BTW, questions about last night: Which of them came up with the idea of Molina throwing to Holliday?  And how did that conversation go?  Thought it was neat, though.)  Hopefully the National League can start a nice streak.

Before we head off, though, let’s look in on what is happening with the Cardinals.  Joe Strauss has an article today saying that John Mozeliak is planning his moves for the next 19 days.  While Mozeliak never says anything of the sort, Strauss expresses the idea that the Cards might be more willing to ship off Colby Rasmus and that they might match up with Tampa Bay for some pitching.  If Strauss’s writing is accurate, it does seem that the club is considering moving Kyle McClellan back to the pen if they can get another starter.  Their trade chips are limited, so it should be interesting to see in the coming days!

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