Every year when July rolls around, a great tradition takes over the baseball world. No, it’s not the fun of the annual MLB All Star Game, with this year’s edition taking place in Kansas City this evening, but instead it is the world of baseball pundits coming together to denounce random things about the game itself, and it has begun without fail already.
From pontificating about how stupid it is that the game controls home field advantage in the World Series, to belly-aching about rookies not having to pay their dues before they gain entrance into the game, to the reality that the players sure ought to be given three days off instead of trotted out for a meaningless exhibition, you will see complains that will run through all of these topics, and perhaps new ones will come up every year.
This phenomenon is not limited to writers this year, however. In addition to that, you have had several big player-related stories coming out as the team rosters were announced. You had Dusty Baker complaining about National League manager Tony LaRussa snubbing his Cincinnati Reds (to which LaRussa replied on The Dan Patrick Show that he felt Baker had “stabbed him in the back”). You also had Chicago White Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski complaining that he had been left off the roster while Joe Mauer was selected by American League manager Ron Washington.
There is even controversy about who is STARTING in the game this year, with pitcher Matt Cain getting the ball over New York Mets starter RA Dickey, despite his sterling record and ludicrous strikeout totals. This was done because starting NL catcher Buster Posey allegedly would have had a tough time handling Dickey’s knuckleball, but while this does seem a bit stupid, as Dickey should have been given the honor of starting the game, the reaction to it was overblown and completely unnecessary.
What all of these complainers seem to fail to realize in their protests is that the All-Star Game is, frankly, one of the only exhibition sporting events that fans seem to actually enjoy watching. Preseason football games, the Pro Bowl, and various other games of that nature never really seem to draw a significant audience, but the Midsummer Classic does, and there is a reason for that: fans want to see the best players in the game battling it out on a day when there are literally no other sporting events worth noting going on.
Now, there are some reasonable criticisms that are leveled at the game. The notion that this game has an impact on playoff teams seems kind of stupid in the face of the policy of the league of having every single team represented (even the Chicago Cubs, owners of just about the worst record in baseball, only a half game ahead of the Houston Astros, have TWO All-Stars). These types of arguments are just fine, but when they are repeated over and over again, not only do they lose some of their validity, but they lose their sexiness, and pundits don’t seem to realize that.
Belaboring the same points year after year may make for easy column writing and a quicker exit to the buffet lines at Kansas City barbeque joints, but they really aren’t worth reading ad nauseum, and baseball writers would be well suited to stay away from this absurd ritual in the years that follow this one.
Baseball is just a freaking game, after all, and it doesn’t seem like it would be too much to ask to get people to focus on the fun of it instead of everything that is wrong with it. The jingoistic rooting for your “league” is a fun departure from lustily booing players that happen to play for divisional rivals, and it is cathartic in a way to be able to root on guys you normally hate during the regular season.
Whether it be a Giants fan cheering for Matt Kemp, a Red Sox fan rooting on Derek Jeter, or any other slew of combinations that you can think of, the MLB All-Star Game is a rare moment that should unite baseball fans, and instead, it has become a flashpoint that divides them across lines that have already been argued to death.
I have a simple plea to all of the guys lucky enough to be covering the festivities: Let the guys play the game, and just enjoy it, won’t you?