Monday, July 5, 2010

How can you love baseball and hate the All Star Game?

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.


dlbrows said...

Cosigning every last sentence.

dlbrows said...

KLaw also had a "means nothing" reaction to Drabek's no-hitter. Of course it doesn't mean this kid is for sure an ace in the bigs, or even gets to the bigs for that matter. EVERYONE FUCKING GETS THAT. It's fun, though. It's neat. It makes you smile when you watch the video ( And if that isn't your first reaction than you're a boring old stiff.

Navin Vaswani (@eyebleaf) said...

Great post, and great picture. Uniforms were a lot tighter back in the day, weren't they?

As with Hall of Fame selections every year, I think we've all become used to the outrage surrounding the All-Star game. Way to call people, especially Keith Law, out on it. While I was too young to experience the '83 All-Star game, it was fun to read about what that particular game meant to you, and how it molded you into the baseball fan you are today.

I enjoy the All-Star games, too. Will never forget when Toronto hosted the event, or when Cal Ripken was ordered back to shortstop in his final appearance at the classic. And you're right: it has gotten too serious.

I was feeling in the mood to bitch about the Infante selection this morning, after learning that Manuel hand-picked him. Then I read that upon getting a call from his GM, Infante originally thought he'd been traded. Once he was told he was off to Anaheim, he jumped around for joy with his family. And you know what? That's fantastic. It's something the Infante family will cherish forever. Life's too short. I made my beer league hockey all-star game once, and I won't lie, it felt good. So insignificant, but it was fun to be there. I can't imagine what will be going through Infante's mind when he's announced as an All-Star.

Apologies on the long-winded comment. I won't be able to watch this year's game, and that saddens me, because I'd have loved to see Wells announced. It will be fantastic, surely. That's my guy.

ALL THAT being said, I'm going to vote for Joey Votto in the coming days.

Ty said...

Awesome. I couldn't possibly agree more. It seems like every year in the ASG there's at least a few "HOLY COW!" moments, and I'll be the first to admit how cool it feels to see Mariano Rivera coming on to close out a game for the team I'm actually cheering for once a year. Throw in a chance to see a few Jays show off for the rest of the baseball world, and it's a welcome break from the regular season.

Remember back in 2006 when Vernon nailed a runner at the plate with a perfect throw from center field, setting up a late-inning comeback win for the AL with Troy Glaus scoring the go-ahead run? That was fucking awesome.

Ty said...

Also, with each passing year I'm becoming more and more convinced that Keith Law actually hates baseball. Unfiltered cynicism is such a horseshit trait to build your persona around.

Tao of Stieb said...

And, at the risk of sounding like I'm contradicting myself here, I'd also note that once they get between the lines, no one dogs the All Star Game. It's way serious.

You might disagree with who was chosen, but for the most part, you're seeing the best against the best for most of the game.

LJ said...

Agreed, 100%. I liked Joe Posnanski's observation that most of the complaints arise out of the fact that everyone has different ideas of what the ASG is supposed to be, and MLB has little choice but to try to do a little bit of everything. It seems to piss people off when they can only get things 20-50% of their way, and not 100%.

Keith Law said...

I can tell you where I was when Fred Lynn hit that home run. That was a great game to watch as a young (10 years old) fan.

But today's ASG doesn't resemble the old one, with the giant rosters, the everybody-has-to-play mentality, and the resulting short appearances for marquee names. Keeping the starters in the game longer, with a smaller bench and fewer than 13 pitchers, would make it a much better game for the fans.

I said on that appearance with McCown that I love the Futures Game, which is an undercovered event as part of All-Star Weekend. The ASG itself, to me, is only a little better than the Home Run Derby, although I don't watch either. That Tuesday was usually a day for me to hit the Cape Cod League, but this year I'm rolling off a redeye that morning so it'll be a day for me to do things like drink coffee.

Ty, you can't be even 10% serious with that remark. Criticism isn't the same as cynicism, for one thing, and for another, I think all the prospects I've talked up one way or another is strong evidence of how much I love baseball.

Keith Law said...

dlbrows: Nice misquote. My actual response to a request for "thoughts" on the no-hitter: "Great for the kid, but if you're asking for significance, there is none."

Anonymous said...

I agree with K-Law, he isn't that cranky or cynical. I would say he only measure in at around 0.4 Wilners.

William J. Tasker said...

Wow. A KLaw response on a Tao of Steib post. Way to go and cool.

But I disagree with him. I've been watching All Star games every year for almost fifty years. They are always the same. Lots of changes, lots of guys getting in games. Some of the old stars did stay in the game longer because there was no DH and the pitcher's spot allowed a lesser god to pinch hit. But other than that, nothing really has changed. And do you really want to miss the best players in baseball (except for a few missing due to selection errors) all collected in one place?

WTG, Tao. Great post.

Darren Priest said...

Beauty post, dude! Loved it. I especially like that you took some much-deserved shots at KLaw. That guy is a douche bag who makes it more painfully obvious with every appearance that he just doesn't want to say a single positive thing about the organization that saw no reason to keep him. They might as well call him up to expound on some girl in high school who wouldn't give him a hand-job.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Tao's got talent. Too bad he's stuck on a desk at the Daily Planet playing second fiddle to some chick named Lois and constantly having to put up with that closet case assistant, Jimmy.

SP said...

Re: KLaw's Cynicism (actual name of a team in Tao's roto league), no one has the right to claim you don't love the game but it's obvious you're just a cynical personal in general. Snark is a spice that should be used sparingly, after which it becomes overwhelming. Your Twitter feed, chats, and radio appearances are filled with borderline rude discourse and cynicism. I remember a radio appearance you did for a Philly station about Howard's contract. You were arguing and talking down to a guy who wasn't even taking a side (btw, I agreed with your points). That type of stuff gets tiring and cringe-inducing fast.

SP said...

P.S. What Tao said.

Darren Priest said...

In any sport, but especially baseball, assuming the worst is going to make you right most of the time. Even Manny in 2004 "only" hit a HR every 13 ABs. I could have said, "I guarantee Manny will never hit a home run this at-bat" and I would have been right over 94% of the time. I would probably also have a "B" shaped scar in the back of my head.

Going on radio to shit on the Jays is nothing to be proud of. Who are the Jays' most prominent cheerleaders? They are few and far between it seems.

Drew said...

Darren I think you're taking KLaw's criticism of the Jays a little personally. \

He "shits on" every team and ever move he doesn't agree with. The fans of every team think he has it out for them and all the their players.

Remember, he's in show business more than anything.

Darren Priest said...

Yeah, I would plead guilty to that charge, Drew. I realize Klaw is probably a nice enough guy and nobody is going to hire an analyst to say, "Well, ya never know..."

It just seems like since 1993-ish the Jays are always struggling with attendance and most of the national voices on the issue can't wait to dance on their grave. People can shit all over the Leafs because they are firmly entrenched and will never struggle with attendance or whispers of them re-locating. The Jays are a different matter. Sometimes I wish the national sports media would light a proverbial candle instead of constantly cursing the darkness.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to put on Antony and the Johnsons and hang myself in the attic.

Ty said...

Re: Keith Law (real? fake? either way...):

No, I wasn't being serious about you hating baseball -- that's obviously not even close to the truth -- but I'm well aware of the difference between cynicism and criticism, and I meant it when I referred to the former. I generally find your criticism to be well-founded, but it's a bit grating to listen to someone who automatically assumes everybody else is an idiot (even if that is the case more often than not). To be specific, I was mostly referring to the tendency to look down upon those who still enjoy the game as fans -- especially, God forbid, fans of any one particular team -- with the apparent assumption that doing so somehow precludes one from being well-informed or intelligent. I'm not sure if that's the intended message or attitude, but that's how it all comes across to me.

Anonymous said...

Mario Soto's cleats mark the only time that Marge Schott favoured something black over something white.

Team Scrappy said...

I started watching baseball in 1983, with a great deal of my focus on collecting stickers after every Little League Game (I swear I still have extra Claudell Washington ones if anyone wants to trade). The next year I got my first Bill James and I was good to go.

Was Mario Soto the most underrated pitcher in the 1980s? Those were some crap Reds teams he was on and sadly he was done by the time the team as good.

Good on KLaw for coming on here and defending himself. I wish other of his ilk would do the same.

With the added confidence that Omar Infante now has, he's going to own the second half of the season.

Anonymous said...

There is not NO significance to a AA no-hitter. I agree that there is far less than either a no-hitter in the bigs or a full season of quality pitching (which is pretty obvious) but apart from not walking those guys what more could he have done? If that's not significant, what is???

Drew said...

I think, in KLaw's defense, he meant the no-hitter had no significance on his status as a prospect nor does it mean he's any more ready for the show than he was before.

It means something to Drabek has a life event, but it doesn't alter his professional perception or career arc.

Note: I'm an apologist.

dlbrows said...

Sorry Keith, I'm not an ESPN Insider so I didn't get to see your full quote on the no-no.

Ty said...

Drew, even then, I don't buy the idea that a guy completely dominating his peers at AA has no significance on his development. It doesn't mean he'll automatically be an ace someday, but it does mean that he's doing a pretty good job right now.

Darren Priest said...

Sorry, Ack. I didn't mean to...what I mean is, well, I don't mean you're Lois. I guess that just leaves this guy.

Anonymous said...

McCown is overly fond of referring to the Pete Rose-Ray Fosse collision, to the point where I wonder if he thinks it's the only valid highlight in the entire history of the All-Star Game. Or if it's the only thing he chooses to remember.

I'd prefer it if he didn't put so much emphasis on an a-hole move by an a-hole player.

Another of McCown's hobby horses: that the ASG was such a big deal in the late '50s that they decided to have two of them.

He's wrong on that one. The idea was to raise money for the player pension fund. And reaction was mixed.

The second game in 1959 was played at the L.A. Coliseum. The Dodgers outdrew the rest of the National League by about 80 percent. But for this showcase event, in a stadium that could hold upwards of 90,000, only 55,000 went to the ASG.

The next year, the second game was played at Yankee Stadium, with the added attraction of Willie Mays playing in New York for the first time since 1957. That one drew 38,000 customers.

Counter to McCown's view, fan interest might actually have taken a hit in that era because of (a) too much of a good thing and (b) the commissioner taking the vote away from fans after the Cincinnati fiasco in '57.

Gay Jays Fan said...

Keith Law is such a little bitch. But he has gorgeous eyebrows and the palate of a Queen. Many nights I have dreamed about dinner with Keith at Sotto Sotto followed by shots of tequila off J.P Ricciardi's hairy chest.

Mark said...

I imagine this post would have been completely different if one of the "deserving" Blue Jays hadn't made the All Star team.