When the All-Star Game headed into the twelfth inning last night, you could see the anxiety building around Bud Selig like an unwanted storm cloud over Iowa. With only two more pitchers left in the AL bullpen (Scott Kazmir having just thrown 100+ pitches on Sunday being one of the two) and the NL bullpen running just as low (which was short Tim Lincecum since he came down with the flu that day), it looked like we were about to have a 2002-tie all over again, or even worse, a forfeit. I think that Selig is waking up this morning saying, “Thank goodness that wasn’t the case.”
It’s times like these that we need to speak a little truth into Major League Baseball and call the All-Star Game exactly what it is: meaningless. Yes, I know home field advantage is given to the winning league, but that doesn’t somehow give this game meaning. It only makes it “count.” In fact, by Major League Baseball trying to pump “meaning” into an exhibition game, they simply created a confusing contradiction which leaves no one really knowing what to think about the All-Star Game in the first place. This is why Jonathan Papelbon argued that he deserved the 9th inning save situation before the game on Monday, and then flip-flopped his opinion saying that because of the context of the game being at Yankee Stadium that Mariano Rivera should get the ball instead (and BiCoastal refused either option). This is also why there is a rule in place that allows you to re-enter a catcher back into the game even after he has been removed, which no matter how hard I try I have yet to accomplish in a regular season game on MVP Baseball. And this is why no starting pitcher wants to pitch, although they ultimately will while their manager tells the All-Star manager that his pitcher can pitch a max of 1 to 2 innings (Cook being the exception in last night’s game, pitching three, but his coach was also the NL manager). Oh, and let’s not forget my favorite debate of the last few years which is whether or not teams like the Orioles, Mariners, and the Nationals deserve to send a player in the first place.
I have to admit, this doesn’t really sound like a real game let alone one that has meaning. This sounds like an All-Star Game that has ways of making sure players play, but in reality is only setup to avoid embarrassing ties. Unfortunately, and we might see this one day, it may allow for an embarrassing forfeit. Soon, we’ll be hearing about All-Star Reserve teams that are to be used in case the game reaches a maximum amount of innings, or new rule exceptions that allow any player re-enter the game just to make sure players like Dan Uggla aren’t left out there while they put on the worst fielding display in All-Star Game history (3 errors last night to add to 3 strikeouts). Can you imagine a dugout with 50 players and a bullpen filled with 24 pitchers, just in case things get out of hand? I’m sure Terry Francona would have appreciated one last night.
Look, let’s bring back the All-Star Game of old, the one that didn’t “count” but ironically was much more meaningful than the current parody. I’m talking about a game for the fans to see their hometown heroes play alongside some of the league’s future hall-of-famers and brightest young stars. That is what the All-Star Game is supposed to be. Please, Bud, rescue it from this ridiculous state we have put it in; give the All-Star Game back to the fans. Give the All-Star Game meaning again.