Sunday, June 21, 2009

ON SPORTS ~ All Star...


All Star:

The Red Sox were supposed to have the 2000 “Turn of the Century” All Star Game but because of some logistics and money the Sox agreed to exchange 2000 for 1999. Being the oldest ballpark, it was very fitting that Fenway would have the last All Star Game in the 1900’s.

The carryover from the previous season’s home run battle turned the All Star “Home Run Derby” into a jackpot. The Boston Globe had a tremendous picture from the viewpoint of sitting on the Green Monster (before there were seats there) showing Fenway in the right half and showing Lansdowne Street in the left half with a gazillion baseball fans in awe watching and chasing down Mark McGwire’s out of the park shots.

But what most fans will remember from that All Star Game was Ted Williams. "The Splendid Splinter" himself came out on a golf cart and made his way to the mound. Some will remember that he did not have a Sox hat on but a company instead. He did tip that cap to the fans at Fenway however - something he had stopped doing while a player. There was an impromptu gathering around him on the mound of all the All Stars wanting to talk to and touch “the greatest hitter that ever lived.” The start of the game was delayed while they cleared away the pomp & circumstance and then convinced the All Stars that they too needed to perform in something that Teddy Ballgame held so closely to his heart.

These days when they say that “This Time It Counts” would have truly pissed off Teddy. One of his greatest accomplishments was his clutch performance in the All Star game when he sacrificed his body at the time for the big stage. The only reason they say that “this time it counts” is because it was sadly evident in Milwaukee a few years after Fenway played host that the All Star Game was all about getting everyone IN the game – not about playing the best players to WIN the game.

The media and advertising had made the All Star Game into an All Star Weekend with Home Run contests, Celebrity Softball and Futures games. All of this was very entertaining and enjoyed by the fans there and watching on TV. But – it overshadowed the purpose, which is the actual All Star Game.

Salaries had spiked and contracts were guaranteed. Incentives listed being selected to the All Star Game. So when players were selected it kicked in a bonus, but not going was accepted due to the risk of injury, desire for the extra days off instead of traveling to the circus, having to appear in the side events, etc., etc., etc. If you were an All Star after all, you got to act like one. I suppose this is why the Managers of the All Star Games decided if they made a point of getting every selected player into the game, they might actually show up.

Eventually, after treating the All Star Game as a joke, it came back to bite the players, managers, and the Commissioner in the ass – on live TV. Just as there is “no crying in baseball” there are no TIES in baseball. Unless it was the All Star Game of 2002. Game called – every player used so their fans could see them play often no more than a third of an inning. An All Star tie had happened once before (they didn’t have the enormous amount of players selected then – it was a matter of a true managed game played so closely) so The Commish – in his own team’s Host City decided this impromptu decision was best. WRONG!!!

After the majority of fans exhibited the fact that they were purists and never wanted to see that blasphemy ever evolve again – the “This Time It Counts” slogan appeared. MLB took the All Star Game from something that was perfect, to something that was overdone, to something that was ruined, to something that now has random players helping to determine who has an advantage in the World frickin' Series.

Hank Blalock of the Texas Rangers hit a home run in that first “serious” All Star Game to ensure that the AL received (former alternating rules would have given the NL home field advantage that year) home field advantage in the 2003 World Series. I’m just not sold on the fact that an All Star Player in July really needs motivation to win the game for your League for World Series home field advantage. By the “old” rules, if you were an All Star you were competitive and wanted to win at all costs.

Yet now, if they play for a crummy team I don’t think that they are really motivated to make sure the runaway favorites get home field advantage in October. But as often as players get traded or hit free agency, perhaps they should do their best in the All Star Game for their contract’s cause. Forget about performing for the honor of the game and its fans. Play for the money and maybe the play you made in the All Star Game for the crummy team will get you traded to a playoff team and you can make an even bigger play to win the World Series. Ted’s frozen head is surely rolling now.

next week, CLEVELAND VOWS, where Molly finds a way to follow the Red Sox playoffs while attending a wedding...

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Funniest line I've read in a while: Ted's frozen head is surely rolling now ;) It's fun reading your take on the All Star game.