Tuesday, July 3, 2007

All-Star rants: There’s no fun allowed in the press box

With the announcement this weekend of the All Star Game rosters, the mainstream baseball press is in full-on gripe mode about Mid-Season Classic.

The problem is that too many of these professional grouches look at the All Star starters and reserves, identify the deficiencies, and then take the remarkable leap that the game itself is useless and should be scrapped or completely rethought so as to make it matter more. This is the sort of thinking that brought about the “It Counts” following after the 2004 All-Star game tie debacle, and yet many of these same writers and broadcasters gripe about that without a trace of irony.

Witness Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann’s Grumpy Old Men routine on Monday’s Big Show on ESPN Radio (the archive is on iTunes). Olbermann suggests that the game is a bore, and should be more like the offensive shoot-outs in the NHL and NBA All-Star games, or moreover, that the game should just be one big Home Run Derby. These are the rantings of someone who has clearly lost touch with reality, and forgotten how much more compelling the MLB game is than either of these dull displays, which in no way resemble the sports they are supposed to be celebrating.

The media whinge and complain about all of the mistakes made by the fans in the voting for the starters, and begrudge the fans inclusion in the process. The writers, in particular, seem to believe that their expertise should be used to choose the starters, in addition to the bang-up job they do on selecting nearly all of MLB’s significant awards. (Like Bartolo Colon’s 2005 Cy Young Award, for instance.)

Ultimately, the All-Star game is an exhibition which doesn’t need to have any significant meaning. It needs to be fun for the fans. We love the All-Star, and some of our favorite baseball memories came from the marginalia around the game.

  • Mario Soto wearing white shoes – which were strictly forbidden by the Reds at that time - to start the 1983 game.
  • Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key and David Wells getting the All-Star starting assignment as Blue Jays.
  • Fred Lynn taking Atlee Hammaker deep for the first grand slam in All-Star history in 1983.
  • Pedro Martinez striking out five of the six batters he faced in 1999 (at Fenway, no less), including home run heroes McGwire and Sosa.

Moreover, the talk over the next week on who should have been included and who didn’t deserve the nod shouldn’t be taken as some exasperating chore. It gives us all the chance to talk baseball, and really, what’s more fun than that?

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