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Gary Armida's Blog
Much to Love about the All-Star GamePosted on July 4, 2012 at 08:09 AM.
Certain aspects of the Major League Baseball season are like clockwork. Hall of Fame balloting is like a yearly reminder that the United Stats once held the McCarthy Trials. Opening Day is filled with excitement. The first month is over-analyzed. The draft is filled with hope. The All-Star balloting begins too early. Then comes the present time: the All-Star game and all of its implications. Since the announcement of the balloting and the subsequent online vote for the final spot for each team, readers are all treated to the same thing. There are columns and commentary about what is wrong with the game, why it isnít smart to have it count, and why Bud Selig has managed to botch the only All-Star game in professional sports that is watchable.
While it makes for good copy and no sporting event is ever perfect, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game has so much good in it. There is still much to love about the exhibition that counts towards something. Despite its imperfection, the Mid-Summer Classic can still captivate and still works as the pseudo-competition.
The most oft-criticized aspect of the Commissioner Seligís exhibition is the idea that World Series home field advantage is tied to the gameís outcome. Yes, it is an exhibition. Yes, the best pitchers throw an inning or two at the most. Yes, Managers like Ron Washington make it a priority to play everyone. But, isnít highlighting all of Baseballís first half stars the priority of the game? Donít some of the best players come off the bench because the fans may have voted in someone who wasnít as good as the bench player? The style of game management shouldnít matter. It is still a game with each leagueís most talented players.
If homefield advantage gives this game just a little more intrigue, so be it. The topic certainly keeps the game in the news. It is still, even after all of the years, taking up talk radio time. While most bemoan the practice, Baseball is getting exactly what it wants. People care about the game and are talking about it. Football canít say that. Basketball may have a better skills competition, but its game is a bastardized version of the sport.
And, World Series home field advantage may actually be overrated. For the past decade, homefield advantage really only came into play in two series--last seasonís Fall Classic with St. Louis winning the final two games at home and the Angels doing the same thing back in 2002. For something that seems to be important, it doesnít come up all that often. Add in the fact that there is no real way to determine home field advantage, and it make sense to have it tied to this game. Before this method, home field was merely alternated each season. There is no fairness in that. Best record doesnít work because of the unbalanced schedule. 95 wins in the American League East is far more of an accomplishment than winning the same total or more in the National League West. The little intrigue does make the game slightly more competitive; that is never a bad thing.
Aside from the meaning of the game, the pageantry of the game is always the best part. Most Baseball purists will watch the player introductions. With the advent of MLB.tv and MLB Atbat, games can be heard and seen all over the world. A true Baseball fan will know and be familiar with players, unlike the 1980ís when a New York fanís only glimpse at Tony Gwynn was during the All-Star game. But, there is still the thrill of player introductions. Watching each player have their moment, whether itís a rookie like Mike Trout or a veteran like Derek Jeter, is a thrill for fans. That part is still there. Itís a part that takes each fan back to his childhood and waiting for ďhis guyĒ to get introduced.
This yearís introductions also hold some of the best storylines. Chipper Jones was already named as a replacement for Matt Kemp. His introduction will allow fans to give a goodbye to one of the Gameís best third basemen of all-time. Like fans did with Cal Ripken years ago, they will have the opportunity to give Jones one last standing ovation on a National stage. Jones will the opportunity to play in that moment. It makes it even more exciting that Jones is a deserved All-Star. His production, despite missing time on the disabled list, is still elite and vital to the Bravesí success.
Mike Trout should hear the first of many ovations as he makes his first All-Star appearance. Trout wasnít the gameís most celebrated call up---that title went to Bryce Harper---but, Trout has been Baseballís best rookie and is a legitimate MVP candidate this season. Watching Trout make his first tip of the cap while Jones makes his last is what connects us to the game. We say goodbye to one unique, elite talent while saying hello to the next, elite one.
The game, much like the sport, is about the players. It is a chapter in the 2012 seasonís novel. It is a time to highlight some players with great stories. RA Dickey may just be the National Leagueís starting pitcher. He was almost out of Baseball a few seasons ago yet he mastered the knuckleball and is having one of the all-time great knuckleball seasons. Dickey has been open about his tough childhood. Knowing all that he went through both personally and professionally, seeing him pitch in a game with the sportís best talents is one of those magical moments.
Joe Nathan worked hard to return from Tommy John Surgery. The velocity wasnít there last season, but in season two, he is back to being one of the best closers in the game. Heíll be recognized and likely the one the American League will turn to in the 9th with a lead. Paul Konerko is highly underrated, but he does make another All-Star appearance. We get to see Josh Hamilton and Jose Bautista in the same outfield with Curtis Granderson in the middle of the them. David Ortiz gets to show why he is one of the best ambassadors of the sport.
Buster Posey caps off his incredible comeback from a leg injury with his first All-Star game appearance. Melky Cabrera takes another improbable step towards stardom by making his first appearance. Aroldis Chapman gets a big stage for the first time in his career. The phenom--Stephen Strasburg--gets his inaugural appearance, even if he wonít get to throw a pitch. Bryan LaHairís improbable season gets even better. Andrew McCutchen will get the chance to show just how valuable he really is this season. Tony LaRussa will get one more game in a Major League dugout as Baseball made the right call and have him manage the game even though he is retired. Itís a unique situation and already made for some great discussion with some of his selections or lackthereof.
Even the final vote adds to the experience. It already gave Bryce Harper another chance to show that he truly gets it. After being announced on the same ballot as Chipper Jones, the 19 year old Harper stated that he is voting for Jones. Few players would verbalize such a thought. Fewer 19 year old rookies would ever be able to do that. Yet Harper exuded class and showed a maturity that few thought he had. Perhaps this will end those perceptions.
Most importantly, the game is just fun. Sometimes we can analyze so much and over-think that we forget why we watch. The entire process, from voting to the homerun derby, the futures game, and the actual All-Star game is simply fun. Itís not perfect and, in some cases, it could be awkward, but that doesnít mean it doesnít draw us in. Watching baseball with a field filled with the gameís best playing a semi-competitive game can be thrilling. The other major sports only wish they could have this type of exhibition to represent their sport. Baseball should be proud of their showcase. Fans should let go of their misgivings and simply enjoy. There is so much to enjoy.
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BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 214 days ago)
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