Tonight, when you get ready to watch the All-Star Game with your cold drink in hand and bowl of chips about to tip over onto the carpet, you’ll probably be taken back to your childhood, when you used to watch players such as Gary Carter, Cal Ripken, Jr., Ozzie Smith and other future Hall of Famers take the field in a matchup of the best baseball players in the majors.
But this year, instead of seeing guys such as Ryan Braun, Felix Hernandez, Mariano Rivera and some guy who just reached a thousand hits for the third time, we’ll be treated to the likes of Scott Rolen (.241, 5 HR, 36 RBI), Russell Martin (.220, 10 HR, 36 RBI), Brandon League (1-4, 3.44 ERA).
In other words, we’re not seeing the All-Star Game. Rather, we’re seeing the Some-Star Game, where some stars will make courtesy appearances and the rest of the players will need to wear name tags for anyone to recognize them. (Aaron Crow? Jordan Walden? Kevin Correia and his 4.01 ERA and .270 opponents’ batting average?)
Things weren’t always this way at the Mid-Summer Classic. The 1971 All-Star Game featured nine future Hall of Famers in the outfield alone. No one needed to be introduced to Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Lou Brock, Frank Robinson, Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline or Reggie Jackson. They let their résumés speak for themselves. In all, there were 20 future Hall of Famers who played in that All-Star Game, including Rod Carew, Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, Harmon Killebrew, Jim Palmer, Johnny Bench, Willie McCovey, Steve Carlton, Ferguson Jenkins, Juan Marichal, and “The Franchise” himself, Tom Seaver. In addition, both managers (Earl Weaver and Sparky Anderson) were elected to the Hall of Fame.
None of those players called in sick (I’m talking to you, Mariano Rivera). None of the pitchers needed the extra rest because they pitched on the Sunday before the All-Star Game (that’s a silly new rule) and none of them were physically or emotionally exhausted (you figure it out).
The fans vote these players into the All-Star Game because they want to see them play on the national stage among their peers. Let’s take a random All-Star and change his name so as not to single out any particular player. We’ll call him Dirk Jitters. Mr. Jitters received millions of votes from the fans to start for his respective league in the All-Star Game. But Dirk decided he’d rather take the time off and not even bother to show up to the game that he was voted to start in.
That would be similar to Americans voting Barack Obama into the White House, only to have him say “you know what? I think I’m going to stay home and watch the White Sox instead, but thanks for voting.”
Unlike some of this year’s All-Star crop, including the aforementioned Dirk Jitters (remember, we changed his name to protect the guilty), San Francisco Giants’ closer Brian Wilson actually gets it. He’s thankful for the opportunity to represent his league and feels other All-Stars should not take this honor for granted, saying:
“I would say that you (should) show up, unless you need these three days to recover. You are representing your team, so it would be good to be here. I don’t know if (it’s an) obligation, but it’s one of your duties as a player, out of respect, knowing that there was a guy that really wanted to be on the All-Star team, and his stats were right there, and he would have loved the chance to be here.”
If I wanted to watch a “Some-Star” game, I’d watch a Mets game, because the Mets have “some stars” on the team. But when I tune into the All-Star game, I expect to see the best players in the major leagues. I don’t want to see players no one voted for. I don’t want to see players who were replacements for injured players who were replacements for players who would rather be on paid vacation. I want to see the players who will someday join those members of the 1971 All-Star squads in the Hall of Fame.
As fans, we deserve to see the best players participate in the All-Star Game. If only the players could see the same thing.