This week Cincinnati came to town. Now, imagine for a moment, if as you walked into Citi Field you were handed a ballot where you could choose which Reds you would want playing that day. Safe to say, we Mets fans would probably decide that Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce deserve a day off. We could have Jack Hannahan bat clean-up. Johnny Cueto? Are you kidding me? Of course not.
Why would we do this? The answer is obvious. We want our Mets to win.
Now, of course that would never happen. When do fans get to pick their opponent’s team? Unless, it’s the All-Star Game.
Growing up and becoming a fan in the 1970’s, the Mid-Summer Classic was a highlight of the season for me. It gave me a chance to see my baseball cards come to life. The game was steeped in tradition. It showcased the top talent in the game. It was an opportunity for America to see the best and brightest from each league battle for ‘bragging rights.’
We had the opportunity to see dream match-ups that only existed in Strat-O-Matic. We could watch our own Tom Seaver try to fan Rod Carew, a young cocky Roger Clemens trying to sneak a fast ball by Tony Gwynn, Charlie Hustle digging in against Catfish or Rickey Henderson challenging the arm of Dave Parker. Yes, this is what the All-Star Game was. And what it is meant to be.
As we all know the game regrettably has changed. League loyalty is gone. Not only do players not stay with one team for most of their career, but they have no qualms about switching leagues. Guys like George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Jim Palmer, Willie Mays and countless others never would have dreamed about ‘crossing over.’ Nowadays, however, one doesn’t have to look far. Pujols, Cabrera, Fielder, Beckett, A-Gon have all switched.
And that’s fine. But in the midst of this, league loyalty fades away.
Yet, in 2003, Bud Selig elected to add a disturbing nuance to the ASG when he decided that the winner of a ‘meaningless’ game in July determines who has home field advantage for the World Series.
Obviously, thanks to the commissioner, the contest is no longer a simple platform to display the top stars. The game now has major significance, huge importance. The All-Star Game has a direct outcome on who may become World Champions. Since the inception of this rule a decade ago, the league that won the All-Star Game has gone on to win the World Series 7 out of 10 times. And the last four in a row. (The only exceptions were the 03 Marlins, 06 Cardinals and 08 Phillies.)
Now, being a NL fan, I obviously want the NL to win. And since this is the case, explain to me why I should vote for the top stars from the AL. Are you joking? I’m rooting for the NL—But yet I am supposed to vote for Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols and Dustin Pedroia and Torii Hunter??? The heck with that! I’m going to vote for the worst hitters I can find, some guy from Seattle or Kansas City I never heard of. I’m supposed to vote for Ian Kinsler or Howie Kendrick when Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis is on the ballot? Come on people. Get real.
And since Commissioner Selig has turned this exhibition game into something of great significance, I, as a NL fan, want the best NL-ers out there. Since the point is to win, why does every need need to be represented? Why does every player need to get one at-bat? Why are the managers equally concerned with making sure every player gets in the game as they are with winning the game? Since the purpose is to win, I better see Buster Posey and Bryce Harper out there the entire night. I want to see Kershaw for 8 and Romo to close it out.
When Giants manager Bruce Bochy set his line-up for game 4 of the World Series last year, he didn’t decide that perhaps Pablo Sandoval needed a day off. He didn’t elect to give Posey a rest and put Hector Sanchez behind the plate. He put his best team on the field. Why? Because it was a must-win game…just like the All-Star Game has become.
Now, of course, this would never happen. Dodger fans would be up in arms (and rightfully so) if their ace “wasted” a start in the “meaningless” All-Star Game. But really, how meaningless is it?
So, as a Baseball fan, I will vote for the 2013 All-Star Game. But as a Mets fan, and as a fan of the National League, I will be voting for the worst the American League has to offer. And I will continue to do so until Selig reinstates the Mid-Summer Classic to what it was and what it should be: A traditional setting where fans could sit back and enjoy the best our National Pastime has to offer.