Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell!

In the last ten or fifteen years, I have probably skipped more All Star games than I have watched. Why?

1. It's a spectacle, not a baseball game. Excessive pomp and circumstance has buried the actual baseball. As a kid, I remember All Star games as fun - the memory of Larry Walker putting his helmet on backwards and batting from the wrong side of the plate stands out in my mind.

The phrase "pomp and circumstance" comes from Othello (Act III, Scence III):
I had been happy, if the general camp,
Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body,
So I had nothing known. O, now, for ever
Farewell the tranquil mind! farewell content!
Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars,
That make ambition virtue! O, farewell!
Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!
And, O you mortal engines, whose rude throats
The immortal Jove's dead clamours counterfeit,
Farewell! Othello's occupation's gone!
This is after Iago lies to Othello about his wife's infidelity.

Modern All Star games are infidel to the game of baseball.

2. There are too many teams in MLB, resulting in too many not good players on All Star rosters. People complain about the rule of having one from every team, but I wouldn't watch without a Reds player on the roster, and I'm sure there are others like me.

I'm an advocate of contraction. There should not be baseball teams in Florida - nobody goes to the games anyway. Florida is for Spring Training. Thirty teams has watered down the pool of talent and contributed to having guys like Omar Infante on All Star rosters (ok, so that one's Manuel's doing.)

3. The internet has destroyed any meaning the fan vote had. Granted, the fan vote has always had its flaws (Larkin should have started at least two or three of the games Ozzie did), but at least it was more, well, legitimate? Now you can vote a billion times with a few clicks. Bored at work? Click click click! It's gotten so bad that teams are actively trying to stuff ballot boxes (1957'd).

4. The unlevel playing field that arose during Selig's reign between large and small market teams, admittedly ignoring historical New York dominance, the advent of free agency, and the willful incompetence of Carl Linder, has made me disinterested in watching someone from the Pirates or the Royals come to bat. (I imagine people feel that way about the Reds, or at least felt, but at least we had some decent players like Griffey and Dunn over the last decade, though Dunn usually got the shaft.) Selig's inability to put more salary controls than the Yankees/Red Sox revenue sharing scheme has given rise to the Yankees/Red Sox/Dodgers/Angels/Cubs/Cardinals/token other two teams annual playoff scenario.

5. MLB has partnered with E$PN and Fox$ to dictate to us what teams to watch, instituting a blackout policy that has fans of other teams yelling at that television sets and cursing baseball. Without looking it up, I'd be willing to bet that 90% of nationally televised games on these channels have featured at least one of these teams: Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, Cardinals, Phillies. There are 22 other teams in baseball. People see players from these teams and vote for them. I don't want to watch a Phillies-Yankees All Star game. I want to watch the best players on my team mix with the best players from other teams.

6. The current All Star games lack the luster of historical ones. Who among us has not seen footage of Pete Rose plowing into Ray Fosse or Tony Perez's blast in '67 or Reggie Jackson hitting the light tower at Tiger Stadium? But can you name one memorable moment from the last decade? I mean aside from the tie?

So I am usually indifferent to the All Star game for these reasons. The "this time it counts" nonsense is the moldy icing on the stale cake. The NL hasn't had homefield advantage in what - a decade? When half of the AL team comes from the almost $400 million payroll of the Yank Sox, how is the NL supposed to compete?

But this time, I'm interested. Excited, even.

Four Cincinnati Reds are going to the All Star game. FOUR Cincinnati Reds get to show that country that this historical franchise has returned to the glory of its past. Some past All Star facts:

  • In 1975, the Reds had four starters - Bench, Morgan, Rose, and Concepcion - as well as a reserve - Perez.
  • In 1976, the Reds had five starters - Bench, Morgan, Rose, Concepcion, and Foster - as well as two reserves - Griffey and Perez.
  • In 1990, the Reds had two starters - Armstrong and Sabo - and three reserves - Larkin, Dibble, and Myers.

That is, of course, if Charlie Manuel plays them. He couldn’t even pick arguably the leading NL MVP candidate on the original roster – what are the chances he plays him after we took it upon ourselves to get him in? And even after all of the national coverage, Manuel still doesn’t get it, for he chose Ryan Howard as DH.

Guess it’s just another reason not to like the modern All Star game. But hey, FOUR Reds! GO NATIONAL LEAGUE!

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