The 2009 MLB All-Star game has come and gone and for the 13th consecutive year the American League has not been beaten. The 12-0-1 record is not a pleasing reality for the National League, yet few who played in the game and those in the NL who did not will spend little time mourning.
The game remains but a sidelight to the pomp and circumstance of the festive All-Star week.
Players go and are genuinely honored to be there, but they aren’t kidding themselves about the MLB sales pitch that “this one counts.”
That is the slogan that originated when the All-Star game seemed to be slipping into a “let’s get out of here fast” game. The attempt to save the game was giving the winning league the home-field advantage for the World Series.
If it counted, starters would stay in the lineup, the best player in the game, Albert Pujols, wouldn’t be pulled midway and the goal of the managers wouldn’t be to get as many players as possible into the game.
The game is what it is. The pitchers throw strikes, the batters swing early, the substitutes come in droves and there is a beaten path between the bull pens and the mound.
That is why 83 percent of players responding to a recent Sports Illustrated poll said the home-field advantage for the World Series should be based on the best regular-season record, not the All-Star game.
Again, prior to the game this week, Commissioner Bud Selig reiterated that hotel and travel arrangements need to be made in advance for World Series play and that can’t happen if MLB waits until the end of the season to see who has the best record.
Well, there are eight teams that enter the postseason and only two will go to the World Series and nobody knows who that will be until the playoffs unfold.
The NHL and NBA have many more teams in the hunt for the final prize and they have to adjust travel arrangements as the series play out.
The attempts to make the All-Star game have meaning by creating an unfair reward is not genuine.
Still, the pageantry was good entertainment. The inclusion this year of the “heroes among us” people was heart-tugging. They were folks whose work in their communities to assist others was deserving of national recognition.
As MLB hoped, the players who had been previously introduced and were standing along the baselines, moved to greet the “heroes” prior to the playing of the national anthem.
Prior to the game, Charlie Manuel, the NL skipper, sat in his office, which was really the office of Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, and talked with broadcasters about the game.
He sat on a folding chair beside LaRussa’s desk. I asked him if he was superstitious about sitting in another manager’s chair.
“No,” said Manuel, “I’m not superstitious. That’s Tony’s desk, that’s all.”
Respect. That is what the All-Star game is about: player to player, manager to manager, MLB to real heroes.
Nice moments, a decent game where the managers just let the players play, and the players play fast.
The game need not be more.