All-Star Shame? Hype And Methods Invite Cynicism

Lenny KosteckiCorrespondent IApril 23, 2009

NEW YORK - JULY 15:  (L-R) National League All-Star Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals, former MLB player Paul Molitor of the Milwaukee Brewers and American League All-Star Milton Bradley #21 of the Texas Rangers look on prior to the 79th MLB All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium on July 15, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It may not be All-Star Game time quite yet, but the winding fuse of hype has been lit.

Ticket lottery. Schedule of events. Voting. The mid-summer classic is an event involving a euphoric overdose of sunshine and hot dogs for baseball fans, but all its fever can invite a nasty bug of cynicism.

And I should include myself here as far as being a fan soaking in all the guilty trappings, especially since the event is being held in my hometown for the first time since the Johnson administration. This breezy little fact really flashes across the coals and causes my first embers of cynicism to smolder.

Considered by many to be one of the premier baseball towns, why has it taken so long for this flagship event of MLB to find its way back to a flagship baseball hotbed like St. Louis?

It seems MLB lost its key to the gate of the Gateway City and
hasn’t been too worried about locating a locksmith. I understand the city of St. Louis has had something to do with this lack of appearances, but 43 years? That’s nine presidents!

And speaking of presidents, let’s talk about the almighty dollar and its influence on fans for game day. The lottery for ’09 All-Star game tickets unfolds today. Depending on which camp you rely on for facts, available seats for Joe Fan (and his limited budget) vary.

In the camp with a fire that burns intensely hot (and usually involves fans wearing well-worn jerseys soiled by mustard), the number batted about is 3 percent. That percentage signifies the number of available seats for your typical fan—3 percent…out of 100 percent.

In the camp with more smoke than fire (anything involved with the business end of MLB), the more popular number is two-thirds, as in two-thirds of Busch Stadium will be devoted to your true-blue, run-of-the-mill fans.

I don’t know whom to believe.

I have yet to hear a concrete definition for “fans,” but my BS detector starts pinging wildly at any definition that includes the term “common man” and excludes any mention of a sport coat-wearing ticket holder who is willing to purchase an over-priced keepsake come game day.

On another cynicism front, voting has already kicked off for the ’09 All-Star Game. The season is in its infancy, and people are already filling out ballots?

How could All-Star caliber possibly be detected at this point? Can three weeks worth of stats point to a season worthy of mid-summer glory? Three weeks is a hot streak, not an All-Star season.

Is the voting process getting it right?  I hear arguments from both sides that make sense to me.

Some say baseball people should be choosing sides.

Now if your idea of a midsummer classic is to watch the players having the best season, no matter their names or legacies, then this idea floats. After all, it is supposed to be the best pitted against the best, a real field of all-star talent, no matter the name on the jersey.

But can an All-Star be like a one-hit wonder in the field of music, where the talent burns hot for a short time and then fades?

Perhaps our definition of an All-Star isn’t fine-tuned.

I can easily guarantee A-Rod will collect a multitude of early votes…even though he has yet to play a single 2009 inning. Is he having an all-star season, or is he just a perennial all-star?

Do star-struck fans want to see a galaxy of shooting stars or established planets?

If the All-Star Game is indeed a showcase of talent for fans to enjoy, why shouldn’t they be the voices behind who is showcased?

Had I been around during Ruth’s day, you can be damn sure I’d have voted for him, even as his career faltered. Hell, he could’ve swung a cane and made me giggle like a schoolgirl.

I’m just saying, every chance I get to see a legend is one I’ll eagerly embrace.

I don’t care if the guy is hitting his shoe size, if there’s a chance of a magical moment taking place on a hot July night, I’m on board. See game MVP Cal Ripken, 2001.

Could we have fans pick nine starters for each league and allow the managers/players to pick the rest of the rosters? Would that be a compromise swallowed by both camps? Just ballpark food for thought.

I’ll climb down from my hot box now.

If I’ve poisoned the waters that quench your all-star fever, I do apologize. I admit to being a cynic when it comes to MLB. On a more optimistic note, I’ll very likely be watching the 80th edition of this reality show come July 14.

I wonder, could they create a hologram of The Babe and allow him to pinch-hit?

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