First, I have to apologize for letting Bud and the Buddy System off the hook for getting utterly gleeful over the passing of his All-Star game-cum-Seventh Game of the World Series plan by the owners. From the ESPN article:
"This energizes it. This gives them something to really play for," commissioner Bud Selig said after the 30-0 vote. "People pay a lot of money to see that game. They deserve to see the same intensity they see all year long. Television people pay a lot of money for the game. It was not and should not be a meaningless exhibition game."
I had already written about it so I thought it a closed subject, at least in my closed mind. But my friend Doug emailed me about, and so I re-thunk the issue.
Basically, I think it's stupid, but since they alternate homefield advantage between the leagues each year, who cares? It won't work if it's intended to motivate the players. They see through the ruse.
"That's crazy. You've got the All-Star game with players from different teams. I don't think that's right," said Chicago White Sox catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., a six-time All-Star. "That's totally ludicrous."
"How many times is it going to wind up a tie?" Paul Konerko of the White Sox said. "It was doing pretty good the way it was. I don't think we need to start tinkering with it to make it the seventh game of the World Series."
Boston's Johnny Damon also opposed the change, saying "I think Bud's just trying to create something that will make him look good in the fans' eyes." Damon thought forcing players to put more importance on the game would cause more to turn down invitations.
"You're going to see guys reject it even more. They won't take a chance of injuring themselves for a game that's for the league," he said. "Imagine if Nomar (Garciaparra) goes there and he gets hurt?"
The players risk looking like the bad guys in the fans' eyes if they reject the proposal. If they approve it, you may see a player overused in one spot (like Barry Bonds), which is unfair but I doubt will induce undue injury. They could see one manager, whose team is involved in the playoff hunt, being more interested in the game than the opposition if its manager's team is out of the playoff hunt. Probably none of those things will happen because these men are professionals who once played the game themselves.
However, by the same token, if this move is not motivating the players, which appears to be the case at least from its more vocal membership, and probably won't change the managerial approach, what's the point? Well, Bud the Lorax speaks for the poor wayward fans who gather their pennies to pay the admission to the game and "deserve to see the same intensity they see all year long." What of them, Mr. Scrooge-y baseball player (i.e. Tug McGraw)? "Bah, humbug," you say?
I'll reserve comments about the year-long intensity for a more appropriate time. But I have to ask if Bud was watching the same game that I saw last year. The All-Star game was exciting, great play all around. It went into extra innings. It just didn't have an ending. Well, that was a shame, but no one who paid for the game got gypped in the least. If anything they got the extra inning. Besides Bud could care less (my opinion) about the poor fan as long as he keeps laying out the kale to attend. Otherwise, Bud will be the first to contract his team's ass out of existence.
The players' intensity will never reach the level it had been at in the past because the players have a real union and make real salaries now. They can't be bullied by baseball executives into winning at all costs (remember Ray Fosse?). And it is less of carrot than it had been because the extra funds are no longer required to keep up the players' pension fund.
I think this plan is just a bone that they are throwing to Fox for last year's tie game: "Television people pay a lot of money for the game. It was not and should not be a meaningless exhibition game." They feel that they need to re-instill public confidence in the game to keep the networks happily paying usurially for it.
Bud vowed that something would be forthcoming to ensure that the game never ended in a tie again. I guess this is it. It's easier than coming up with a plan for extra-inning games (HR contest, extra squad, players held in reserve, etc.). "But those things would cheapen the game, make it an exhibition," Bud would sputter.
First, it is an exhibition. It counts in no standings. It's for fun. Why did they add the home run derby and futures game to it anyway? Because people like to see them.
Second, what has cheapened the game is a number of moves by Bud and the leaders at MLB. They introduced interleague play making Roger Clemens-Mike Piazza meetings commonplace. They shut down the league offices and standardized the interpretation of the rules across leagues (i.e., the strike zone). By and large, the only distinction between the leagues today is the DH rule, to which the NL teams now get some exposure during interleague play. Speaking of interleague play, why not use that to determine homefield in the Series? The league with a better interleague record gets homefield, at least that would reflect in some small way how the better teams in each league performed against each other.
The owners can't have it both ways. They can't homogenize the majors and then expect the players to have an intense rivalry with the players from the other league.
Baseball also continues the negativity and witch hunts. Bud's demeanor is downright McCarthyite in trying to root out the problems in the sport, which invariably are remedied by measures that put more moola in the owners' pockets. So now it's the All-Star game that he is fumblingly tweaking like Anse Bundgren pathetic attempt to smooth the covers of his wife's soon-to-be deathbed in As I Lay Dying (Too obscure?). Does it really matter what they do? No. But all of this disingenuois Buddy Knows Best really irks me
Meanwhile, in the NFL they can't even figure out who wins their playoff games and no one seems to mind all that much.