Jul 04

All-Star Game Has Lost Its Way; From Voting Process On Down

Jonathan Papelbon’s dissing the notion of Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig’s being named to the National League All-Star team initially brought a reaction of agreement.

A month in the major leagues, regardless of how spectacular it might be, is not a large enough window.

“The guy’s got a month,’’ Papelbon said. “Just comparing him to this and that, and saying he’s going to make the All-Star team, that’s a joke to me.’’

PUIG: Let him play. (LA Times)

PUIG: Let him play. (LA Times)

Then, the more I thought about it, nearly everything connected with the All-Star Game is a joke, and pretty much has been since interleague play.

The luster from the All-Star Game has gradually worn off because there’s no edge to the rivalry of the leagues. The home run derby was once a novelty, but has gotten boring in much the way the NBA slam-dunk turned on the yawn machine.

Bud Selig’s decision to have the All-Star Game winner determine home field advantage of the World Series was gimmick. Selig knew the game was missing something, so he added that condiment. Kind of like putting ketchup on a piece of meat.

A century of tradition was brushed away by the gimmick of interleague play.

Also falling into the category of gimmickry is the voting process. When the voting was returned to the fans, which violated the privilege by stuffing the ballot box, it was initially as a reward to fans that paid their way into the park.

Ironically, now Major League Baseball encourages fans to stuff the box, but to its credit does observe limitations – you’re now only allowed to cast 35 votes. David Wright deserves to be on the team, but the trumping for his was shameless. There’s a logo in the dirt behind home plate telling fans to vote.  Imagine how tasteless it would have been had they gone through with the link to the dating website. It’s that way in all cities.

Also puzzling is adding a serious tone to the game by having it determine home field in the World Series, yet having each team represented, even if it means adding a player not worthy, which is to not field the best team.

The only team mandated to have a representative should be the host team. After that, there should be no push. If a team doesn’t have a worthy player, why should a deserving player be deprived?

The game has changed, and not for the competitive better. How can there be when Barry Bonds hoists Torii Hunter on his shoulder after robbing him of a homer in Milwaukee? You see that and think of Pete Rose plowing Ray Fosse at the plate and wonder what is wrong with that picture.

Two plays in two eras showing two ranges of emotion.

Starting pitchers would work up to three innings, with no limits when the game went to extra innings. In 1967, in Anaheim, which went 16 innings, Catfish Hunter pitched five innings. Starters such as Brooks Robinson, Tony Conigliaro, Harmon Killebrew and Roberto Clemente had six at-bats.

No longer.

If you weren’t paying attention, then the 2002 game in Milwaukee should have sealed it for you. That was the game called a tie after 11 innings because both teams ran out of pitchers. Also, part of Selig’s legacy.

The teams ran out of pitchers because nobody worked more than two innings.

That was also the year, you might recall, when Sammy Sosa put on a sweat-pouring, steroid-fueled display during the home run derby, then took a limo back to Chicago after he was removed from the game.

Aaah, such memories.

The bottom line is the All-Star Game has long lost its spice and its spot in baseball lore. It doesn’t have that special feel to it any longer. So, if Major League Baseball wants to continue making it a gimmick and surrounding the event with celebrities and novelties, then who why should anybody care if Puig is named.

The only reason Papelbon cares is because he has an old school mentality with a passion about his sport, something the keepers of the game have long since abandoned.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Feb 03

Who To Root For In The Super Bowl?

Just came in from a walk and it is a frigid 27 degrees. Interesting that I saw a couple of kids playing catch. Not with a football, but with a hardball and glove. Damn, that must have stung their hands.

To me, baseball season gets underway in my mind the day after the Super Bowl.

Is it me, or does the pre-game get longer every year. The game starts at 6:30 p.m., but the pre-game began before 11 a.m.. Seriously, a pre-game that lasts twice as long at the game itself? I’ve always thought the NFL was a little full of itself, but more power to them if their showcase lets the networks sell the time.

I usually find some hook for a rooting interest in the game, but I don’t have a dog in this fight.

On one hand, after growing up in Cleveland, it is extremely difficult to back Baltimore. Even without that variable, there’s always the Ray Lewis factor. He’s been one of the most self-glorifying figures in sport and it is tiresome. Dancing after the Indianapolis game and taking off his jersey after the New England game was just another example of his me-first attitude. And, by the way, the Ravens aren’t in the Super Bowl because God willed it.

From his Look At Me dancing, to this new image, it is just boring. Now, I’m hearing some commentators on ESPN call him “great” and “the greatest leader in the history of team sports.” What about Mickey Mantle, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Peyton Manning, Roberto Clemente, Johnny Unitas, Walt Frazier, Babe Ruth and countless others.

Lewis has been a great player, but he’s not even the greatest linebacker of all time. Say hello to Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus. I’d even take Jack Lambert over Lewis.

My Cleveland roots aside, the Lewis story has grown boring and tiresome. The NFL is so concerned about its image, yet they continue to glorify Lewis, as if those two people were never killed and he had nothing to do with it. He’s been given a free pass by virtually everybody and it is disgraceful.

I have never seen the attraction with Lewis, who is one I wish would just disappear. Of course, he’ll be on TV. Maybe he’ll preach at halftime.

The 49ers aren’t a day at the beach, either.

Jim Harbaugh is another who I find it hard to cheer for. I don’t like how he handled the Alex Smith situation and he’s got a lot of chest thumpers on his team.

The NFL is making a big deal about player safety, yet Smith, who was having a good season completing 70 percent of his passes, did all the right things yet lost his job after sustaining a concussion. What kind of message does that send? Harbaugh’s decision hasn’t bitten him because the 49ers reached the Super Bowl. But, who is to say they wouldn’t have gotten there with Smith?

Both these teams are difficult to root for outside their home areas. There’s not heart grabbing hook, although Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh is a great storyline, although it doesn’t have you gravitate one over the other.

For me, I’ll watch the Celtics this afternoon, enjoy the Super Bowl from an objective perspective and maybe a rooting hook will emerge. If not, I’ll just have some more wings.

Take care and enjoy the game.