A Very Modest Proposal That Most People Probably Don't Agree With

July 15, 2009 | Comments (0) | by Wolter

How is Mark Buehrle not a Cardinal?
The All-Star Game Sucks. Get rid of it.

I should probably say more on this subject.

St. Louis sucks. Get rid of it.

Ok, I'll elaborate on both of these notions.

First: St. Louis, you couldn't get any classier if you assigned monocles to every single bemulleted Jorts-wearer in St. Louis County. Booing Ted Lilly? Classless. Booing the sitting president? Seditious. Cheering the former president louder than any other, despite the fact that man-ape ran the country about as well as Peter Angelos runs the Orioles? Dumber than Ronny Cedeno opening a baserunning school.

Second: the All-Star Game is just a giant letdown. It always is. And I'm not just talking about the fact that the NL couldn't win against the Washington Generals. I'm talking about the fact that it isn't really ever much of a good baseball game, involves more lineup changes than even Tony LaRussa can stomach, and is about as culturally relevant as a Pro-Bowl with a better publicist.

Once upon a time, the All-Star Game made sense. There were two leagues that only played each other for 4-7 games a year, max - and that was only the two best teams. Free agency was an insane pipe dream that hadn't even twinkled in Marvin Miller's eye. Good players on periennial sucky teams (like Ernie Banks or Warren Spahn) didn't have a chance to show their stuff against the other league. And beer cost a nickel, dammit!

Even after Curt Flood made a small crack in the reserve clause, and those after him shattered it, the All-Star game was still a fun little break from the regular season. It was a meaningless game, meant to be an exhibition of the best talent baseball had to offer. For fun. The fans voting for whomever they wanted to see play made sense. Because, you know, it was for fun. A game.

But then, Bud Selig had to do what he does best and douche it up by doing the following:
1. Starting Interleague play
2. Making it count.
Addressing the first point: I'm not 100% opposed to interleague play. At least not opposed enough to rant about it. But, alongside the rampant team-hopping of the free agency era (which I am not opposed to at all - I'm glad players aren't the slaves of the owners any more. As greedy as some of these jagoffs players are, they are saints compared to most owners) it renders moot the coolest part of the All-Star Game: finding out how good your favorite player is against the best of the other league. My dad (though a lifelong Cubs fan) idolized Stan Musial as a kid. What a thrill it was for him to find out just how well The Man would do against an AL ace like Whitey Ford or Early Wynn (assuming they ever faced each other...I'm just being rhetorical here).

Fast-forward to today. Most fans with google and patience could tell you how well any given All-Star has done against the other league in general, and often, any other player in specific. Using my own pathetic favorite team, I don't have to wonder how well my favorite Cubs would do against any of a number of AL players, because at some point I've seen the matchup before. Although, to be fair, I could safely assume that the Cub player would probably screw it up this year.

But I digress. More than usual. My point being: it's not a big deal to see these player matchups these days.

I'm going to do my best to be brief and not to rehash the numerous criticisms many have made regarding the second point: making the ASG "count." The main problems I have with this are that

A) That can't be much motivation to the numerous skilled players who are playing in cellar-dwelling (or at least mediocre) teams. If you play for the Orioles, why on earth should you hustle and possibly injure yourself so that some Massholes will be the ones celebrating in October? Honestly, if you're the kind of person to play your hardest with that low a level of incentive, you're the kind of person who would play that hard in an exhibition anyway.

B) Most people playing in the ASG are very good at what they do. But most of them have never played together before this week, and probably never will until next year. This isn't a team playing another team. This is a lineup of skilled individuals that have no vested interest in each other playing against the individuals on the other team. I don't really believe in the hokey notions of team chemistry overriding talent, but on some level not playing with the group you've gotten used to working with day-in, day-out over the course of a season has to be a tricky prospect.

C) It's just not as much fun. Christ, there are 162 regular season games that "count." If you have to have an exhibition game midway through the season, make it a joyous celebration of playing a game on a summer evening just for the joy of the game. Baseball is awesome, folks. It doesn't have to mean something to be awesome. I for one would love to be able to watch a great AL homerun or defensive webgem without thinking to myself "dammit, even if the Cubs somehow pull this shit off, they're going to lose home advantage."

Ultimately, all this is moot because it's not really like watching a real baseball game. By the time one pitcher finds his rhythm, his inning or so is done. There's no real sense of "uh oh, Player X is running out of gas and the heart of the lineup is coming up. Who do we have in the pen?" There's no thinking "if Player Y strikes out, Player X might be able to finish out this inning against the bottom of the lineup." It's just: "Inning over. Next inning will be a new #1 starter or last year's best closer facing 3 solid hitters." No flow, no game rhythm, no dynamics. That gets old. It's the reason hardcore bands don't make 18 minute songs.

In conclusion: the All-Star Game sucks. Get rid of it.

Unless the NL ever wins one of the damn things.