It happens every year, with the gripes and moans and complaints pouring out from talk radio and sports columnists and every other new and old media venue: People bitching about baseball's All Star Game.
Perhaps no one embodies the lunacy of complaining about the MLB All Star Game better than the Fan 590's Bob McCown, who hates the game for so many different reasons that his complaints often contradict one another. The players who should play, he posits, are the same players every year because they are the stars and everyone wants to see Willie Mays. But at the same time, he complains that the fans always get the voting wrong when choosing the starters because they are a bunch of dumbasses who pick players based on reputation. Bobcat also complains about the fact that the game "doesn't mean anything anymore", then whines about the fact that it decides home field advantage.
McCown sucks and blows so hard on this topic simultaneously that it's a wonder that his mic doesn't explode from some sort of feedback loop. He even dragged the increasingly-unreliable Keith Law into the mix last week, getting KLaw to crap all over the game while also adding with pride that he hasn't watched it in years.
Really? Isn't this exactly the sort of know-it-all, affectedly weary, axiomatic thinking that the new generation of baseball analysts were supposed to blow out of the water? Did Law have to start hating the game as soon as he received his BBWAA card?
Really, kids: Why so serious?
The All Star Game is a spectacle. It's one that is too slickly produced, and features too much of Joe Buck's voice, but ultimately, the component parts are still there. The player introductions, where even in your team's worst season, you'll get to see one guy there. The players wearing their respective uniforms, and not some ugly-ass design from Central Marketing. The vote on the starters, and announcement of the bench players, and the naming of the starting pitchers, and all of the ensuing debate.
And jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick: When did we all get so goddamned sanctimonious about who gets named to the team? Why is it that when one guy gets in ahead of someone else, it suddenly becomes a debate about the entire framework around the game and how it's in disarray, and how we need completely new systems to make sure that one guy gets in and one guy doesn't. There are about 60 other players in the game who deserve to be there, and who we'll be pleased to see get into the game at some point. Why can't that be the emphasis? Why can't the debate take on more of a spirit of convivial discussion rather than the childish, stubborn, intractable gainsaying?
(Can we just say: We're looking forward to seeing Cory Hart get into the game. Just because.)
So Omar Infante got into the game. That's a shame, although his making the squad helps to underline the fact that there are still many in baseball who can look at a lucky slap hitter with no power and no speed and say "Hey! .311 batting average! All Star!"
(Is it worth mentioning that Dave Concepcion, the MVP of the ASG in Montreal in 1982, had a first half OPS under .700 that year?)
Whenever people start talking shit about the All Star Game, we start to think back on the 1983 edition in Comiskey Park. That game that featured Tim Raines, Andre Dawson, Al Oliver and Gary Carter in the starting lineup versus Dave Stieb. It featured Mario Soto's brilliantly white shoes, which he couldn't wear normally because of Marge Schott's edict that Reds only wear boring black cleats.
It featured the first grand slam in All Star Game history, with Fred Lynn teeing off on Atlee Hammaker. It featured starters like George Brett, Rod Carew, Dale Murphy and Robin Yount, who would become favorites of ours throughout our early years of baseball fandom. Rickey Henderson subbing in for Carl Yastrzemski. Dan Quisenberry closing the game out with his way-cool submarine delivery. How cool is that?
That one game had a lot to do with your faithful blogger becoming the sort of baseball fan he is. As such, it's more offensive to us to think that people have forgotten that sort of fun than it is to gripe over one first baseman getting snubbed over another.