The cries are audible, "In my day, the All-Star game meant something." Baseball purists hearken back to the days of yore when the All-Star game stood on its own merit. The players hustled, the nation stopped to watch.
For various reasons, that just wasn't the case anymore until the past few years. An embarrassing tie game in 2002 led to Bud Selig's decision to attach meaning to the "Midsummer Classic".
For 2003 and 2004, the winning league would receive home-field advantage in the World Series. A spike in viewership led to an extension of the home-field advantage incentive to 2005 and 2006 and eventually, to a permanent installment of this plan.
The purists complain that the attachment of home-field advantage to the game is asinine, but admit that they have more interest in the game in that they will now have to tune in. Mission accomplished for Selig.
There are also a few more things the purists must get used to: set-up men and utility players. In today's era of pitch counts, the protection of investment stars with big contracts, and computer printouts of match ups and tendencies, there are more than just nine men on the diamond.
No, I don't simply mean the Designated Hitter. I am talking about mid-relievers, set-up men, and utility players. Those three positions have taken on an increasingly important role as baseball has progressed and evolved over the years.
The most important outs of an MLB game are typically handled by a setup man in the seventh and eighth inning. Purists have criticized the selection of Evan Meek and Arthur Rhodes to the All-Star team, but they are truly the best players at the relatively new set-up man position.
Finally, the selection of Omar Infante, a man who doesn't always start for his own team, the Atlanta Braves, has been heavily criticized.
However, in today's age of baseball, where most players don't play a full 162-game schedule, and where maneuvering of players late in games is a must, every team must have a "jack of all trades" type.
While most of these players are flawed, Infante is the best of that group. He plays plus defense at any position and is sporting a lofty .321 batting average at the All-Star break. He is truly the All-Star of his position; the utility man.