Fifteen innings into Tuesday night's mid-summer classic, the American League was out of pitchers. Word was that Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew was next in line to take the mound if the game had gone a 16th inning.
The idea of a position player pitching in the All-Star Game was yet another morsel for the talking heads of ESPN and Fox to feed on and fill air time. Why do real analysis when you can simply point out "that something has to be changed."?
Oh yeah? Like what?
Does anyone really want to turn baseball's All-Star Game into the ridiculous exhibitions the other major sports hold?
The NFL Pro Bowl is a non-event. I have seen bigger hits in flag football games than you ever see in Hawaii (assuming you have even watched a portion of the Pro Bowl).
The NBA stars play defense for...well, they don't play any defense in their All-Star Game.
Hockey? No checking.
Those games are true exhibitions. The players know it, the fans know it, and as a result, they are three of the most uninteresting sporting events of the year.
Baseball is an entirely different story. With a few exceptions here and there (Larry Walker/Randy Johnson come to mind), the game is played exactly as it is during the regular season. Pitchers use all their pitches, runners steal, hitters bunt, and unlike the NFL, only a handful of stars try to beg out of the game.
You can argue the merits of whether the All-Star Game should decide home field advantage for the World Series, but I personally think that is a fine idea. With at least half the teams in each league still believing they have a playoff shot in July, home field advantage is important to a pretty fair portion of both squads.
Frankly, deciding home field this way seems to make more sense than simply alternating each year or comparing win-loss records between two teams with incredibly different schedules.
At any rate, that the game went 15 innings and the teams were essentially out of players is not THE PROBLEM. If nothing else, playing that many innings and making the kinds of plays that led to the length of the game, adds fuel to the fire that the All-Star Game really is important to the players.
That fact, in and of itself, tells me that the game does not need fixing.
Oh, but what about the possibility of injury? What about it, Steve Phillips? If an All-Star pitcher blows out his arm on the second pitch of the second inning, should we ban overhand throwing?
Ask Ray Fosse about the injury possibilities of an All-Star Game—his career was essentially ended by a hard (and fair) Pete Rose slide. Injuries happen.
If Scott Kazmir had hurt his arm throwing 14 pitches on Tuesday (after 100+ on Sunday) then the blame could be placed, not on the game itself, but on AL Manager Terry Francona.
You see, it was Francona who decided that this game was an exhibition and not a game. It was Francona who, despite the use of the designated hitter, had burned through seven pitchers in the first eight innings, and then used Francisco Rodriguez for TWO batters.
Could he have foreseen a fifteen inning contest? No, but with an extra inning contest occurring roughly once every five years in recent history, the idea of needing to stash some pitchers in the pen should not have been too foreign a concept.
You want to fix the All-Star Game? Tell the managers to manage the game, not try to placate the fans of every city in the league. Tell the players that the honor is in the selection and that playing time is not assured. Sure, fans who don't get to see "their" player play might grouse, but I bet they will still watch.
They'll watch because the All-Star Game means something.
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