There’s an old saying in the law that goes like this: hard cases make bad law. MLB’s All Star Game is a clear example of the wisdom of that saying.
After the 2002, 11-inning tie of the “Midsummer Classic,” MLB and the players’ union decided that the league winning this otherwise meaningless exhibition game would have home-field advantage during the World Series.
For the other playoff series, that important advantage is based on some degree of comparative merit. For the games actually deciding the championship, the advantage is decided by something completely out of either team’s control. A hard case made bad law.
The idea behind the new rule, in part, was to make this exhibition game authentic and important. The strange thing is that year after year MLB’s All Star Game has become increasingly like the NBA’s farcical no-defense shootout and the NFL’s end of year, two-handed touch affair. This year, both the Home Run Derby and the game itself fell right in line with the recent trend.
I’ve collected a brief, and by no means complete, list of what MLB’s best and brightest were unable to accomplish over the last two days. I also have a few suggestions because I just can’t help myself. I’m leaving names out (with one notable exception) because I have a great deal of respect for most of these guys. I just think they lose all perspective when they get sucked into this narcissistic vortex where the game’s integrity, or what’s left of it, is overmatched by crass commercialism.
Let’s start with the fact that MLB couldn’t find someone actually managing an MLB team to manage the NL All Star team. Look, if we really want to get all dewy-eyed about some retired manager and his retired pitching coach, how about if we let them manage and coach an Old-Timers game made up of the league’s most notorious retired steroid abusers? Manager and coach should feel right at home in that dugout. Whoever wins that game will get hometown advantage in any perjury trials of the team’s players during the next 10 years. I bet you could get Congress to sign off on that deal as long as they get a few autographed bats and balls out it.
Let’s move on to the fact that the captain of the American League Home Run Derby team couldn’t hit a home run even though his dad was pitching to him. That’s right, in a moment more reminiscent of Little League than the Major Leagues, one of the game’s biggest “stars” was a complete bust. Since they’re heading down the Little League path, why not go all the way? Let’s make it the “T-Ball Home Run Derby” next year just to make sure that embarrassing bit of failure doesn’t repeat itself.
How about the fact that the American League’s 2011 MVP and Cy Young Award winner couldn’t get out of the first inning without giving up five runs? Figure that one out. While I’m recommending stuff, instead of Cy Young Award winners, MLB should round up some dads to pitch the game next year (see previous paragraph) instead of the guys who are supposed to be the best pitchers in both leagues. At least that way they’d reduce the likelihood of any long balls (see previous paragraph again).
And how about the fact that the National League’s plus-size starting third baseman couldn’t make a play on a ball to his left? Giants fans know you don’t want this guy at third base when the game is on the line. Don’t believe me? Watch a tape of the final out of Matt Cain’s perfect game. The guy who is supposed to be the best third baseman in the National League is in the dugout, and he’s sitting there because he hasn’t pulled his face out of the fridge since losing 30 pounds a year and a half ago. Or, put another way, the ballot box isn’t the only thing that gets stuffed in San Francisco. Next suggestion – any infielder who is pulled for defense at any point during the regular season is automatically ineligible for the All Star Game. Put that in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
On to the obvious. The American League’s best hitters couldn’t manage to drive in a single run. Not one of their measly six hits produced any runs. They got blanked. Not even the historic flop, the guy who should be referred to from now on as “Home Run Cano,” could redeem himself by producing a run for his team.
You know the feeling you get when your hangover starts and you haven’t even gone to bed yet? Awful, right? Well, that’s the way I feel when I watch MLB’s All Star Game. And like a hangover, the morning after is far worse. That’s when I flat out hate myself for watching.
Jonathan Dyer has been a baseball fanatic since playing Little League in the 1960s, and he’s been following the Oakland A’s since moving to the Bay Area in the late 1970s when he watched Rickey Henderson play for Billy Martin. Dyer, the author of three novels, now brings his long-term perspective to writing about baseball, connecting the modern game to its historic context. You may email Jonathan directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @dyer_jp. You can follow his progress on two new novels he’s writing at www.booksbyjonathandyer.webs.com