Bud Selig can’t seem to get out of his own way. In what amounted a ticking time bomb on course to disgrace the game once again (ala 2002’s infamous tie), Selig merely sat on, looking like a cross between Big Bird and Count Chocula, watching the managers squirm in a situation that would never have been a concern if not for his incompetent leadership. In a game that was equal parts atrocious baseball (27 hits with only 7 total runs, 5 total errors) and brilliant playmaking (amazing defensive stops and outfield putouts), the fans were more on edge about how the game would end instead of who would win it. Maybe Selig has a plan after all, if not to make the game itself meaningful, then to make it as uncomfortable as possible for managers and fans alike.
The longest All-Star Game in MLB history came in a shade under 5 hours, and anyone dumb enough to stay up and watch it (ie. me) had to have been disappointed in the ending. Not in that it was ultimately decided by another exciting and close play at the plate, but in a sadistic way we wanted to see what happened if it had to go another inning or two. Part of me thought someone from the Tampa Bay Rays would have come running onto the field like an angry parent and taken their staff ace (Scott Kazmir) off the mound themselves, and the other part of me thought that the game would have been called off altogether as Yankee Stadium patrons pelted Big Bird Selig with debris and insults the like he never heard before. After watching a single meaningless game for over 1/5 of an entire day, it was the only result that would have made me happy.
You see, for all his “brilliance”, Selig is an idiot. With his plethora of advisors that amout to a pencil-pushing geek-squad comprised of Ivy League yes-men, he can’t get something right that 90% of your average fans could easily correct. There is a simple solution that would keep MLB managers from treating the “privilege” of managing the All-Star game like a death sentence for reasons that were quite apparent last night. No manager wants to have his name associated with ruining the career of a promising young superstar or his image tarnished by not playing a deserving guy on the roster. They are almost forced to get everyone some PT to appease each team’s fans, yet can easily find themselves in a position like last night, forced to play guys who can’t (or shouldn’t) even be playing at all. Here are some simple changes to the game that would correct these potential issues:
- If you decide on the Monday before the game that you cannot play or pitch, you do not dress for the game. This will eliminate pitchers like Kazmir and Webb reluctantly jogging out to the bullpen in the umpteenth inning because they feel obligated.
- Each All-Star squad has an additional “reserve squad” selected for the sole purpose of situations like last night. Each team selects their own reserves that are allowed to be inserted into the lineup only in the event of an extra-inning game. Merely expanding the roster will only create a larger burden on the managers to insert even more players into the game, but by limiting these players to a possible extra-inning situation nobody has misplaced expectations.
- Finally, this rule has nothing to do with avoiding a potential roster issue but it still helps solve these late finishes. It will inevitably make it more pleasant for fans and players alike: start the dag-gone game earlier! The game advertised starting at 8pm EST, but in fact started barely before 9pm. I like the pregame hoopla as much as the next guy, but start it two hours earlier! Even if the game did not stretch into extra innings it would have lasted until around midnight. Some reward of an “off-day” for players when it stretches into the wee hours of the morning. Only idiotic fans like me watched the whole thing, and as I mentioned, usually for less than honorable reasons.
As for the game itself, there was quite a mix of dazzlement and befuddlement. We saw some amazing defensive plays, primarily in the extra frames, by Miguel Tejada, Russell Martin, and Chritian Guzman, and laser putouts by Nate McLouth and Ichiro. Then there were issues of poor play, notably some poorly executed sacrifice attempts, lack of hitting with runners-in-scoring-position, and the multitude errors. Speaking of errors, you couldn’t help but feel bad for poor Dan Uggla. The most unheralded superstar in Florida not named Hanley Ramirez, Uggla could not catch a break and ended up with an All-Star Game record of his own: 3 errors. The first one was a tough play up the middle which he tried to get rid of it too quickly, and the second one was a sharp hit that he threw his entire body in front of (even falling over awkwardly after it went by), only to have ball squirt through the one open spot in his goalie’s defensive maneuver. The third one ended up being inconsequential, but in a typical humbling baseball experience, the worst hop the ball takes all game naturally finds the guy with two errors already. Oh yeah, and that was all after he hit into a double play with runners in scoring position and a chance to take the lead at the top of the inning.
The most amazing display of All-Star credentials in this game was the pitching. All-Star games typically are low scoring, with the pitchers outdueling the hitters, but this game was a prime example of how dominant pitchers can take control of the outcome of a game. The starters, Sheets and Lee, lived up to their billing by making the best hitters in the game look pretty foolish. The relievers who were stretched out longer than they were used to were incredible, in particular, Sherrill (Orioles), Soria (KC), and Rivera (NYY). Even Aaron Cook (Rockies), who is a starter, gave three strong innings late in the game and saved Dan Uggla from infamy by covering for his costly errors. Uggla needs to at least send an Edible Arrangement to Cook’s home for that.
I guess I can admit that it was pleasing to see the game end on a very close play at the plate. After all, I love baseball and I don’t want to see it turn into a mockery. I just hate Bud Selig, that’s all. He is a smarmy, smug, unhappy little man and I don’t care for him. But aside from the fact that this was clearly not an All-Star game for umpires (I counted at least 3 blown calls, including some of the most crucial ones of the contest), baseball came out ahead on this one. From the classy moves by Francona (trust me that is hard to say as a die-hard Yanks fan and Sox hater) by showcasing the Yankees in their appearances and substitutions, to unselfish acts by pitchers who had to pitch on one day of rest after 100+ pitch counts, the game came out ahead. I am a sucker for seeing the best players play, and that’s what I got. So if you are like me, and initially hoped for some kind of conspiracy ending, be glad that didn’t happen. The game we love is better for it.
- Don’t blame the loss on Brad Lidge even though he was credited with the “L”. He had warmed up at least 6 different times before entering the game and had the unenviable position of ending this charade.
- I was pleased to see Mets’ closer Wagner cough up a crucial run late in the game; he is the most overrated closer in the game and a loudmouthed jerk to boot.
- As much as Francona was all-class in his handling of both the Yankee players and the concerns with Kazmir’s appearance, Hurdle seemed to have out-managed him at least in the area of personnel moves.
- Speaking of Francona, Jeter must have had a coronary when he saw the Boston manager sitting at Joe Torre- err, Girardi’s desk making out the lineup.
- Apparently nobody was selected to this team for clutch-hitting with RISP.
- I got chills when Rivera came into the game in the 9th. If he didn’t have so much left in him, that would have been the perfect way to hang it up.
- Where were the rest of the living Hall of Famers? Did Tony Gwynn eat them? The sad thing is that Gwynn could still probably suit-up for any team and hit over his current weight (which would surely break Ted Williams’ record).
- Big congrats to both Josh Hamilton and Justin Morneau. Morneau for winning the derby and exhibiting class all the way through when nobody wanted him to win, and Hamilton for putting on an amazing show for the fans. He could have stopped earlier in the first round to save himself, but we got so much more enjoyment from watching that exhibit than we would have from him winning it. Glad to see a guy with unlimited potential finally realizing it instead of almost wasting it forever.