Finally! All-Star Game goes back to being an exhibition

This time it doesn’t count! This is a time of great rejoicing and merriment, with dancing in the streets, parades and hoopla.

Well, all right. I suppose that might be going a little bit overboard, but there should still be at least some quiet celebration. Major League Baseball has finally come to its senses.

Mlb-asg-2017This year’s All-Star Game will have absolutely nothing to do with which team gets to host Game 7 of this year’s World Series.

At long last. Our long national nightmare is over.

For the first time in 15 years, the All-Star Game will once again be what it was truly meant to be: an exhibition. Nothing more, nothing less.

In every one of those 15 years, I’ve written columns (you know, back when I got paid for doing that) condemning the idea of giving home-field advantage in the World Series to the league winning the All-Star Game.

You can tell how much impact I had. Hey, you give me 15 years to champion a cause and eventually the people in charge will listen to other more prominent people and make a change. Don’t mess with me, buster.

In case you’re not familiar with this whole journey, in case you’re not a big baseball fan, in case you’re reading this column just because you’re one of my friends and you’re being nice, here’s the backstory:

In 2002 at the All-Star Game in Milwaukee, the American and National leagues played to a 7-7 tie in 11 innings. At this stage of All-Star Game history, it had really devolved into becoming more important to get all the players into the game than to win it. In fact, much of the time, once a player had been in the game and replaced, they were gone. Gone out of the dugout, out of the clubhouse, out to the airport to catch a flight home.

In Milwaukee, AL manager Joe Torre and NL manager Bob Brenly had run out of pitchers after the 11th inning and so commissioner Bud Selig declared the game would end in a tie.

This was a source of embarrassment for Selig, who lives in Milwaukee and was instrumental in bringing the Brewers to the city. MLB and the players union came to an agreement that, starting with the 2003 game, home-field advantage in the World Series would be given to the league winning the All-Star Game.

Of course, this still didn’t guarantee the All-Star Game wouldn’t end in a tie, but managers were instructed to hold back some players in case the game was still in doubt in the late innings.

The World Series rule did make the All-Star Game more competitive, but integrity and pride should’ve made it that way all along.

In its publicity for the ’03 game, Fox started using the phrase “This time it counts,” as if to say, all the other All-Star Games before this one were meaningless. Why did you even bother watching them? What saps you were!

The All-Star Game was created in 1933 by, of all people, a sportswriter. Arch Ward, the sports editor of the Chicago Tribune, put the game together as part of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. It was literally an exhibition at an exhibition. While a natural rivalry grew between the two leagues, it was never meant to be super competitive in the first place. The All-Star Game was, and is, just a little higher in competitive significance than a spring training game.

Of course, being Americans, we want a winner, and so the members of Tuesday night’s winning team in Miami will each receive $20,000. The losers get nothing. Don’t worry: They’re professional athletes; it’s not as sad as it sounds.

As for the World Series, before 2003 the leagues simply alternated home-field advantage. That was also a lame idea, one made back when travel considerations couldn’t be as spontaneous as they can be now. So starting this year, the team with the better record will have home-field advantage, a concept used in every other major pro league and one that should make the World Series better.

Everybody wins. That should count for something.

THE WEEK JUST PAST

Now, while wondering what I’ll write about before next year’s All-Star Game, here’s a look at the week just past:

  • If you’re like me (and already this is unlikely), you’re marveling at the Dodgers’ 61-29 record at the All-Star break and at the same time, you’re a little horrified by it. How is this possible? How can there be stories at this point of the season wondering if the Dodgers — the Dodgers — can win 110 games?
  • Mariners 116 wins
    The 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games, but didn’t even get to the World Series.

    However, here’s a cautionary tale: The 2001 Seattle Mariners tied the major league record, winning 116 games. They led the league in most runs scored and fewest runs allowed. They beat Cleveland in the Division Series — then lost to the Yankees in the Championship Series, four games to one. I’m not telling you to be a pessimist, I’m just warning you to never be too optimistic.

  • It is nice, however, to see the Dodgers get six players onto the NL All-Star team: Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. That’s just what they deserve.
  • It’s especially nice since it came after Jansen called out Dodgers fans last week for not voting for his teammates. Jansen, who later clarified that the Dodgers have great fans, never otherwise backed away from his comment. And while he’s still right, it did play a part in getting Turner in as the winner of the Final Five vote.
  • The Home Run Derby is Monday night in Miami and Chris Berman won’t be calling it on ESPN. Berman has semiretired, spending most of his network life on the NFL. Taking his place will be the more subdued Karl Ravech. Maybe we can watch with the sound up this year.
  • Still, if Ravech doesn’t do just one “Back, back, back,” as a tribute, he’ll be missing the mark.
  • They call the second Monday at Wimbledon “Manic Monday.” That’s because the tournament takes the second Sunday as a day of rest and has to play a lot of matches the next day to catch up. Just like the rest of us.
  • This whole 2024 or 2028 thing between the Los Angeles and Paris Olympic committees is coming to a head. I hope L.A. gets the ’24 Games. I’d just like to see the U.S. host the Olympics again in my lifetime. Literally.
  • Vin Scully will be honored at Wednesday night’s ESPYs with its Icon award, according to Sporting News. The Icon Award goes to “individuals whose careers have left a lasting impression” on sports.
  • The SEC is staging its football media days this week, before any other conference. The Orlando Sentinel says, “No other league can even come close to the buzz generated” by the media days. That’s just what the SEC needs: more buzz.
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