All-Star Game Not The Same


This is when we hear about how the rosters for the American League and National League are screwed up for the All-Star game. Happens every year and every year someone deserving is overlooked and someone who doesn’t belong makes it to the game.

There never will be a time when everyone is happy even with rosters bloasted to 33 players each. It will never work out perfectly. Lord knows Major League baseball has tried, mixing fan votes, player votes and coaching staff votes together in the interest of the broadest based selection process. But stardom is in the eye of the beholder like Miss America, despite whatever statistics are presented.

Of the professional sports All-Star games, baseball’s was always the best. It was the first such game, going strong since 1933. The players seemed to genuinely care and played hard. Although it was always an exhibition game, from the time Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward dreamed it up it was a more meaningful exhibition game in the minds of players and fans because they used it as evidence of supremacy between the leagues.

That motivation is long gone and these days it seems there are always players who wish to be selected as all-stars (might be a bonus in their contract), but who don’t necessarily want to show up and play in the game. It doesn’t mean anything to them.

Before the widespread application of television to the majors with every game on somewhere and often many games available in the same market, if you lived in an American League town the only time you saw National League players play was the All-Star game and World Series. Now we can see everybody so the novelty is gone.

Although Commissioner Bud Selig did his best to make the All-Star game more meaningful again by arranging for the league winner to get the reward of a home seventh game in the World Series the payoff is a bit abstract for the average fan to invest much emotion in it. Turning the All-Star break into more of an extravaganza than one game, with a home run derby and futures game, does help create excitement.

The bottom line, though, is the attitude and commitment of the players. How special it was to see Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Warren Spahn (and later Sandy Koufax), and Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, and Ted Williams on the same teams.

If he gets into this year’s game in Kansas City, fans will revel at seeing Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals pitcher, in an All-Star setting.  Same for Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey or Reds reliever Aroldis Chapman and his 100 mph fastball. Matt Kemp was off to a great start, but he has been injured and didn’t deserve to be voted into the starting lineup. These things happen every year, too.

On the American League side, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is the resident icon and Josh Hamilton is the superstar of the moment. His slugging for the Texas Rangers implies that he is the best player in the game. Hamilton got 11 million votes. That might be more than Mitt Romney gets in November.

It’s difficult to get comfortable with Adam Dunn on the squad. His power numbers are excellent (24 homers, 58 RBIs), but the guy is batting .210. More deserving is White Sox teammate A.J. Piersynski (14, 45, .285, leadership).

Regardless of who plays, the All-Star game in Kansas City next week should be a good show, show being the operative word. Ten minutes after it’s over fans won’t remember who won, but they will be reminded come October if the Series goes to a seventh game. The homecourt advantage might well matter then.