By West Coast Craig
Wrigley Field (Los Angeles version) — Yes, yes, I know, Iâ€™m not saying anything new here when I say that, generally, all All Star Games pretty much suck. Theyâ€™re like a sequel to a movie you really loved, promising everything you dug about the original, only bigger and betterâ€”with more stars!â€”and then they fall flat, inevitably feel phoned in, unable to possibly recapture the magic of the real thing. The NHL and NBA games are yawners, even with scores that run up faster than the national debt, and the Pro Bowl always spurs a reaction deep down that says: â€œNo, seriously, is this some kind of joke?â€ Baseballâ€™s version, however, is more apt to deliver the occasional Wrath of Kahn or Godfather II.
The original and inarguably the best of the lot, baseballâ€™s grudge match between the Senior and Junior Circuits has its flaws, but our National Pastime rightly holds a premium on tradition and the ASG is as traditional as fireworks on the Fourth of July. The selection process is a bit skewed, but to the majority of sports wags and bloggers out there who are scandalized by the idea of the wrong person getting voted in by an ignorant public, I say this: Thatâ€™s Democracy, warts and all, you commies! The idea that every team must be represented might seem a little sillyâ€”do Oakland fans even know who Andrew Bailey is?â€”but a big part of what makes baseballâ€™s All Stars great is that they all wear their regular uniforms, and I like the idea that the classic green and yellow Aâ€™s colors will be there. The fact that â€œit counts!â€ is overblown as well, as there are plenty of World Series that end in five games as well as seven, in which this so-called â€œadvantageâ€ is meaningless. And besides, an October game seven decided because of a July exhibition mightâ€™ve been a knee-jerk reactionary device after the horror (to be whispered, Kurtz style) of a tie in 2002, but itâ€™s not too bad an idea in and of itselfâ€¦if only somebody would inform the managers itâ€™s not entirely an exhibition game anymore. These guys are just as sentimental when it comes to picking â€œtheir guysâ€ as the public is, and then they protect everyone like swaddled babies. Would John McGraw or Leo Durocher or Billy Martin or Earl Weaver (or, dare I say, Bobby Valentine) worry about whether every player gets into the game or not, or if their precious arms might get hurt, if the outcome indeed meant something even the slightest bit tangible?
The All Star Game still is very capable of providing some thrilling moments and entertaining games. The Home Run Derby, however, stinks. Yes, yes, again, I know, itâ€™s innocuous funâ€¦as Cookie said on Friday, itâ€™s enjoyable to watch the players all having a good time, yukking it up with each other, videotaping the proceedings (how come none of these tapes ever gets edited on iMovie and put on YouTube? Youâ€™d think thereâ€™d be one media/tech savvy player out there capable of more than just Twittering). You come to see the big dogs eat. To see them smack batting practice pitches enormous distances, to say â€œwow, human beings can do that?â€ People like it, it draws big crowds every year, and one of those ridiculous ESPN Sportsnation polls yesterday had 70% preferring it over the All Star Game itself. I like it tooâ€¦for the most partâ€¦but itâ€™s even more flawed than the game. How a guy can whollop fifty dingers in the second round, totaling the distance from the earth to the moon, and then lose to a guy who hits five in the finals is just wrong. Itâ€™s got to be cumulative, can anybody make any kind of valid point why it isn’t?
I also think it drags on too long, too many rounds, too many line-drive hitters sprinkled inâ€”Iâ€™m looking at you, Joe Mauerâ€”too much Chris Berman. I think there should be some more added incentivesâ€¦how can we say â€œThis time it counts!â€ for the Home Run Derby? The winner gets to choose to be traded to a contender? Maybe heâ€™s allowed one at-bat in a real game, in a situation of his choosing, in which all the position players must sit off the field. Perhaps heâ€™s allowed a Get-Out-of-Drug-Test-Free card. I think the event can be spruced up a bit as well. I like the idea of a moneyball, a secret ball that explodes on contact like one of those blue-dye cartridges bank tellers will put in the bags of money that robbers steal. A dye-splattered jersey would fetch a lot on eBay for their favorite charities, not to mention how hilarious the look on the playerâ€™s face will be! I also want more targets for them to hit. Fill the stands with all the teamsâ€™ mascots, tied to their seats, and win cash prizes for smacking them. Better yet, put all the sports columnists whoâ€™ve ever appeared on Around the Horn out there. Set up mini-trampolines around the outfield grass, so high pop ups have a chance to bounce out as well. This may also give those lucky kids out there the chance to bounce up and take some away. Come to think of it, put Jose Canseco in the outfield, to help head balls over the wall. I think there should be cars, big gas guzzlers, filled with explosives spaced throughout the stands, which blow up real good upon impact. Best yet, strategically place giant windows out there, and when a player smashes them, all the other players have to scatter off the fieldâ€¦and the last one to get away has to be yelled at by an old man in a tank top and pay for the damage.
Yep, the Home Run Derby is in danger of becoming as stale as the Slam Dunk Contest, but thereâ€™s a lot of untapped potential there for a real spectacle. Iâ€™ll be taking diligent notes during todayâ€™s contest, and sending these suggestions to Bud Selig afterwards. Hopefully some can be implemented by next year.