Thursday, May 13, 2010
MLB All-Star Game becomes watered down -- and yet it matters?
For many pitchers who are selected to the MLB All-Star Game, it'll likely mean a nice vacation -- a chance to exchange gossip with fellas from other teams, sit in the grass with camcorder in hand watching the Home Run Derby and wondering who's juiced, and, um maybe pitch to a batter or two?
Seriously. This is how ridiculous the All-Star Game that "matters" has become. It's still, easily, the best ASG in professional sports because the players are serious, it happens in the middle of the season, and there have been many close -- yes, even "dramatic" -- games in recent years.
So, of course, Bud Selig and his crew are "trying" to improve it -- and by improve, I mean make silly. How? Well, each team will now have a 34-man roster. Yes, that's right -- 21 position players and 13 pitchers for a nine-inning game.
Now, granted, in 2002 Selig stopped the Midsummer Classic after 11 innings because A) He was worried teams would run out of players; B) He wanted to make it to his favorite Milwaukee restaurant before it close; or C) It was past his bedtime. And 2008 produced the 15-inning classic, which had managers worried about overusing guys.
I get it, then. Baseball's powers that be feel the leagues are so evenly matched, we'll have more 12-, 15- and even 23-inning nailbiters. I get it! But wait -- actually, the tally in recent years has been a bit lopsided. As in, the AL has won 13 in a row.
Bottom line: While I can kind of see the reasoning for expanding rosters -- they've steadily climbed from 28 (the number from 1969-97) to 34 -- it's taking away the whole point of the Classic: seeing the game's best players on center stage. If Albert Pujols is the best position player, then let us see him for at least five innings. If Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in baseball, then it's a complete crock to only see him throw the first two innings and then watch the ninth-best starter in the National League blow the lead in the seventh.
That's like LeBron James only playing in the first quarter of an NBA playoff game (wait, didn't that happen the other night? Oops, sorry, LeBron).
The fact that 13 pitchers are selected to each roster is the most preposterous part of the deal. From a manager's perspective, say you save three pitchers for extra innings regardless of the score. And the three you select haven't pitched in a while for their teams, so you can legitimately ask them to each throw three innings -- meaning you're set through the 18th -- without their managers cursing you out and stomping at your feet the next time you meet during the regular season.
OK, that still leaves 10 pitchers to use during nine innings. Ten! And you know you're giving the starter and probably the next guy two innings apiece -- even though the starter, as mentioned, should get five. So that leaves five innings, or 15 outs, to split up among eight guys. That's not even two outs per pitcher.
Who wants to get all warmed up during the All-Star game in the fifth inning only to enter, force a popout, and then hit the showers?
I'm sorry -- it's ridiculous. I have no real problem with teams having 21 position players. Basically, that's two at each position, and managers can keep three on their benches for extra-inning scenarios. Also, under a new rule, a manager can select a player to re-enter the game if necessary. So that works for me. The best position players should be given five innings, the next-best guys four (or five/six if it goes to extras), and then bring in the last three -- and possibly bring back the Pujols.
Nothing broken there.
Also, the special committee for on-field matters, approved making pitchers who take the mound on the Sunday before the game ineligible. Another good move. It'll ease managers' concerns. But the other guys? They should be able to throw to more than a batter or two. Which is why the rosters should be slimmed down to eight pitchers at the most.
Let the best players in the league compete. And if the Royals or Pirates don't have an All-Star, then don't give them one! This game's about the best in baseball going after each other.
After all, there's more at stake than in any of the meaningless, I'd-rather-be-watching-M.A.S.H. ASGs.