|Wednesday, July 10
Feeling cheated? Get used to it
By Jim Caple
Sadly, this was the perfect, fitting ending to the All-Star Game played in a season that might end with a work stoppage.
Sorry, folks. Glad you enjoyed the first part, but we're calling it a night. Nobody wins. Thanks for your interest. Thanks for your money. Now go home while Bud holds a press conference.
I wrote Monday that the biggest problem with the All-Star Game is that nobody cares who actually wins the game anymore, and Tuesday proved it. Rather than play the game to its logical conclusion -- a victory by either the National or American League -- baseball told the fans to go to hell and called the game after 11 innings with the score tied 7-7.
What a disgrace. The night they name the MVP award after Ted Williams, they didn't have one. What a shame. The night they name the award after a legend who played the entire 1941 All-Star Game and won it with a ninth-inning home run, they stopped playing after 11 innings. What an embarrassment. The night they honor a baseball giant who played the entire All-Star Game several times, they ran out of players.
Ted would be spinning in his grave had his son not frozen him and placed him upside down in a refrigerator.
Of course, fans felt similarly abused after paying $175 a ticket (and remember, baseball now requires that if you want to go to the game, you must buy tickets to the Futures Game, the Home Run Derby and the FanFest as well), only to see the game end in a tie.
Fans in Milwaukee threw garbage on the field and chanted "Let them play," as if it were "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" instead of the All-Star Game. That was fitting, too. After all, the managers treated the game as if it were a Little League game, making sure everyone got into the game so as not to hurt anyone's feelings.
And it was also fitting that no one listened or cared what the fans think. Hey, we have planes to catch, people.
Afterward, managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly were very defensive, saying they had no choice, that they ran out of players and they weren't going to risk injuring anybody. That's only partially acceptable. Freddy Garcia hadn't pitched in five days, yet he had only pitched two innings and 31 pitches when the game was called. Why couldn't he have pitched longer?
Granted, Torre and Brenly should not have risked injury to any player for an essentially meaningless game. But they managed themselves into that corner by following recent All-Star tradition of running players in and out of the game so quickly.
Barry Zito, one of the best starters in the league, pitched to exactly one batter. He threw three pitches. He was as superfluous as Jimmy Smits in "Attack of the Clones."
Brenly actually screwed up before the game when he put only three starting pitchers on his staff.
Torre, Brenly and Bud Selig sat in front of reporters after the game and said how unfortunate it all was but how it couldn't be avoided. Selig said he thought as hard as he could for a solution -- insert punchline here -- but couldn't come up with one. He talked about how it was a unique and unfortunate situation that had never happened before.
Well, there's a reason it never happened before, Bud. They did things differently in the old days. They let pitchers pitch more than one inning. They let players bat more than once. They didn't care whether everyone played. They tried to win.
You know why the 1941 game Ted Williams won with his homer is so treasured? Because winning was paramount. Not only did Ted play the entire game, so did Joe DiMaggio. Each team used just four pitchers each. You know why we cared so much about the 1970 game that ended in 12 innings? Because Pete Rose cared so much. Because after replacing Hank Aaron midway through the game, he stayed around long enough to crash into Ray Fosse instead of showering and leaving after one at-bat.
It doesn't work that way anymore. That's why interest in the game keeps declining. That's why Tuesday's catastrophe took place. The disaster hit Tuesday, but this has been building for a long time. People will say this was the last thing baseball needed, but this ending was what the All-Star Game needed most.
The All-Star Game once was one of baseball's crown jewels, the true Midsummer Classic. But it has been rotting steadily in recent years while everyone focused on all the glitzy events surrounding the game. Tuesday's travesty will force baseball to address the problems and fix them.
Hey, it's great if everyone can play. But this is the major leagues, not Little League. We don't need to worry about hurt feelings and low self-esteem. If a player doesn't get into the game, tough. He can buy himself a lot of snowcones with the $50,000 incentive clause in his contract.
Trust me. The world will survive if Robert Fick doesn't get into the game. If a player is truly an All-Star worth worrying about, he'll be back next year.
People may not care who wins the All-Star Game anymore. But they sure as hell care that someone wins.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org