Saturday, July 06, 2019

Weekend Post

The All-Star Game is this Tuesday night in Cleveland. The All-Star Game is always a big deal for me, and it used to be for America, but now I don’t know.

The reason I like the baseball All-Star Game over the other sports is that it’s the only one that’s really competitive. In the NBA and NHL no one is really playing defense. NBA final scores are 154-148. The NFL Pro Bowl is after the season (so really who gives a shit?) and no one is going to play hard. It borders on Darwin Report to get injured in the Pro Bowl.

But in baseball you have the best pitchers trying to get out the best hitters while some of the slickest fielders are in the field. And by and large, the players play hard. (Sometimes too hard like when Pete Rose barreled into catcher Ray Fosse effectively derailing Fosse's career.)

World Series managers from the season before are the NL and AL skippers – so Dave Roberts and Alex Cora. I don’t envy them. I’m sure they’d like to get every player into the game, but you need reserves in case the game goes into extra innings. Teams have been burned before. Plus, it’s a delicate issue how they use pitchers. If I’m the manager of the Houston Astros I don’t want Justin Verlander pitching three innings.

One thing that seems to happen every year is several All-Star players claim injuries at the last moment (like this weekend) and other players take their place.

But it seems to me the interest in the game depends mostly on how many recognizable stars are in the game. And we’re starting to enter an era of remarkable new young talented players. They’re not household names yet (unless they play for the Yankees) but they’re spectacular athletes. Cody Bellinger, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Gio Urshela (who IS a Yankee but not a household name), and Charlie Blackman are just a few of the outstanding position players.

Not surprisingly, the Home Run Derby the day before the All-Star Game is starting to get more interest than the game itself. There used to be a TV show called HOME RUN DERBY in the ‘50s. Why hasn’t someone brought that back? Wouldn’t more people watch that than Steph Curry’s miniature golf show?

One All-Star that should be participating in the game on Tuesday is Cleveland’s fabulous announcer, Tom Hamilton. If I were commissioner he’d be calling the national radio broadcast.

Like I said, I’ll be glued to my TV Tuesday night (imagine – watching an event on TV – LIVE). Let’s see if America joins me. For several years they instituted that idiotic policy that the winning league got home field advantage in the World Series. So now “the game counts.” What a joke that was. Like the Seattle Mariner All-Stars are really going to bust their humps so the Boston Red Sox get home field advantage in the World Series. Thankfully, that policy was dropped.  Other than Pete Rose, no one bets on the All-Star Game. 

Watch because these are some of the greatest athletes in their sport, and if you don’t know who they are it’s a great way to be introduced to them.

“Play Ball!”


Mike Bloodworth said...

What would make the game really interesting is if they had an earthquake during it. Although, at this point it's almost a cliche.
If I can't find anything else to watch or do on Tuesday then I may tune in.
Maybe they'll have a tornado and/or a hail storm. Baseball size, of course.

Scottmc said...

I can't recall where I used to see episodes of Home Run Derby but there was something oddly compelling about. You would see players like Hank Aaron, who'd be a 25 million dollar a year player today, trying to win the contest so he could get the $500 top prize. Current shows like Jeopardy try to get your attention by highlighting how much the champion has earned. In the original version the runners up kept their accumulated total, which impacted how they bet Final Jeopardy. Today, the 2nd and 3rd place finisher receives a flat fee. I would love to see a new Home Run Derby, hell we have new Match Game, Pyramid and others. I would like a Trout, Judge or Alonzo face off. Players like Judge or Alonzo, who haven't signed for big money yet might be interested. The payoff would have to be better than $500 though.

Anonymous said...

The problem is the All-Star Game has ceased being competitive.
It used to be a source of pride whether the AL beat the NL or vice-versa.
Th players never saw their counterpart stars in the other league save for the World Series.
With interleague play, that's no longer true.
And the "competition" now is whether some pitcher can strike out some hitter or whether the hitter will launch a 450-shot.
They are not playing to win. And everybody has to get into the game, which didn't used to be.
So you can run out of players. Ted Williams, baseball's best hitter at the time, hit a walk-off in the ninth inning.
Today he'd have been pulled after an at-bat or two.

Fun fact. Ray Fosse was from Marion, Illinois. Hometown hero.
Pete Rose was sent to the Federal Prison in Marion.
Needless to say, the local prison people cut him no slack while he was there.

Tom said...

Too bad they're only inviting CC Sabathia to be honored at the game -- he's retiring after this season and is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, for non-baseball fans among Ken's readership -- when after the career he's had, he should not only be on the AL team, he should be starting the freaking game.

Jeff Boice said...

Baseball's had a lousy year- the NBA really dominated the coverage first with the playoffs and then all the free agency moves this week. Kawhi Leonard's in the van! And now NFL training camps are about to start. Seems like MLB has been completely eclipsed in the media this year.

The All-Star game was more important when they didn't have interleague play. And that tie game didn't help either.

Peter said...

Ken, Trump's hilarious fuck-up in saying the Revolutionary Army took over the airports in 1775 is just crying out for one of your posts in which a historic figure is "guest blogger".

Mike Barer said...

Great post! I remember back when the All Star Game and World Series were huge deals. Somehow, baseball just doesn't seem to be what it used to be.

Patrick Wahl said...

Baseball really needs to get rid of the rule that every team has to have at least one player on the All Star team. Some of the players selected to satisfy that rule are not all stars. My sense is that the players don't have the same competitive zeal they had 20 years ago. Seems like they get a couple of innings in then get subbed out. The best players used to go 7 innings, now it seems just a few innings.

DwWashburn said...

I do not share your enthusiasm for the All Star Game. I lost interest in the late seventies for an opposite reason that you mention -- it was NOT competitive.

I have watched an inning here and there and decided to totally boycott the game in the early 2000s when Bud Selig (God, he was a terrible commissioner!!) decided that an exhibition game could not end in a tie and then took the absolutely insane step of making this exhibition determine home field advantage in baseball's crown jewel, the World Series.

The All Star Game today is meaningless because of inter-league play (another Selig stupidity). Additionally the World Series is losing its relevance for this very reason. And don't get me started on the Home Run Derby. I've never been a fan of batting practice and that's all the Derby is. And in many cases the participants have substandard second halfs of the season so the Derby had to have something to do with it.

I'll take my four day break from baseball starting Monday. I can hear my wife cheering.

Rays profile said...

Agree totally about Tom Hamilton. He got his start in Wisconsin where I lived before moving on up. Now I watch MLB Network Plays of the Week. He is always on at least once, going nuts over a great catch or throw.

blinky said...

And baseball players are cool. During the recent LA earthquake the pitcher didn't even notice the shake or stop pitching.
Plus baseball players perform amazing athletic feats and don't even change expressions let alone do a goofy little dance like a football player.

E. Yarber said...

I was fascinated that the ball park in HOME RUN DERBY was surrounded by ordinary homes. It gave the show an extra tension that eventually Harmon Killebrew would break someone's kitchen window with a long line drive and he and the entire crew would run away before getting yelled at.

sanford said...

I always watch the game. Yes the player actually play like it is a real game for the most part. But I remember when there were players who played the entire game. Yogi Berra played all 12 innings in the 1955 game. Many of the All Stars played most if not all of the game. The starting pitchers used to pitch 3 innings. Lucky if they go 2 now. A 38 man roster is too many. 13 of them are pitchers. In 1950 the all star game was 14 innings. 25 man rosters just like the regular season. I am ok with adding a few extra players now that there are almost double the teams in each league. No one played the entire game, but some played long enough to have six at bats. Robin Roberts the starting pitcher pitched 3 innings. Larry Jansen of the Giants pitched 5 innings of relief. 4 of the American League pitchers pitched 3 innings a piece. Two were Yankees. In 1955 Mantle and Berra played the entire game for the AL. And it looked like Schendinst (sp) and Kluszewski played the entire game for the NL. 4 pitchers for the AL 3 of them pitched 3 and one of the 3 3.1 The NL used 6 pitchers. But 3 pitched 3 innings each and of those 3 pitched 3.1

Anne in Rockwall, TX said...

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio. My family had Reds season tickets fourth row up from the dugout from 1968 to 1980. I saw the boys of summer for years. Rose, Bench, Concepcion, Perez, Morgan, Foster, Griffey, Geronimo, and good old Sparky. It was a magical time.

Dissing Rose is the in thing now, but back then he was truly special.

VP81955 said...

The ballpark in "Home Run Derby" was Los Angeles Wrigley Field on Avalon and 42nd, built in 1925 and longtime home of the Pacific Coast League Angels (later used for the AL Angels' initial season of 1961). It also hosted boxing and other activities before it was razed in the late '60s.

Ken, did you ever go to any PCL games? I understand the Angels-Hollywood Stars rivalry was fierce, though the passion had apparently waned a bit by the mid-'50s.

Bill Slankard said...

I don't like the DH, but it should be required in every All-Star game. Also, the game should be limited to 9 innings.

Ed from SFV said...

The main issue for me is they no longer have the players' wearing the various uniforms representing their teams. In the brave new world of players dictating where they will play (Hello Kawhi!), an ever more mobile America which engenders less local loyalty, and an overall loss of institutional affinity, this is another erosion.

Among my favorite All-Star moments was when Steve Stone had his magical year and struck out the side in his one-inning appearance. This was at a time when strikeouts were not the norm. He went on to carve out a fabulous TV analyst career, first with Harry Caray, an amazing run as a restaurant entrepreneur, and now, it turns out he is actually psychic, calling plays and results just before they happen!

Y. Knott said...

I enjoy baseball, but The All-Star Game is a snooze. 56 players rotating through the positions, in a game with all the tension of a dead jellyfish. If not for the the contract incentives of being named to the All-Star team, most players would give it a pass ... and it clearly shows.

Pre-interleague play, the attraction was in seeing mid-season pitcher/batter match-ups that would otherwise never take place outside of the World Series. That's long gone, of course. Now, the major source of excitement is wondering if they will run out of players before the game ends....

Tony.T said...

In Australia there are four football codes: Australian Rules, Rugby League, Rugby Union and Soccer.
Soccer and Union have a busy international calendar, hence no all star style game.
Rugby League and Australian Rules have a concept called "State of Origin" whereby players represent the state in which, broadly speaking, they were born.
In Rugby League SOO is the pinnacle of the code and players are desperate to play in the best-of-three SOO series. They are also pulled from their club matches to prioritise SOO.
In Australian Rules it was the opposite: clubs invented injuries to keep their stars out of the SOO matches. I use the past tense because winning a premiership was so much more important than winning a SOO match that the AFL canned SOO in 1999. The downgrading of SOO preeminence was on the back of the expansion of the national competition which mean state teams were playing each other every week.

Colin Stratton said...

I dunno. Three to four hours of Joe Buck and John Smoltz and useless, mind numbing stats? Maybe if the volume is muted and I can pretend Vin Scully is calling the game.

DrBOP said...

The old Home Run Derby's are available on dvd (and if you check other purchasing sites, I've seen them in 3-pack versions):

The Aug 8,1981 All-Star game in Cleveland was the 1st game of the year because of the strike-shortened season. On the original scheduled date of the game, the strike was still on. But that didn't stop a bunch-o-goofs in Cleveland holding their own All-Star game on that date....and Bob Feller threw out the first dice:

Friday Question: By any chance, are you a fan of professional basketball? According to many, including Magic Johnson, LA is the new "King Of Basketball" after all the very recent free agent signings. Being in Ontario Canada, I think Toronto has earned the right to carry that title UNTIL someone takes it from us. MANY sportswriters are acting like the Lakers and Clippers are the ONLY two teams to watch during the 2019-2020 season. (Blasphemously) I'm a long-time fan of both those LA teams.....but sheeesh! Your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

As a sidelight I feel that one way to make the NFL post season game interesting would be to make for players who have retired after the previous NFL post season game and throw enough money in the pot so winning would offer a nice little bit of cash ( vacation money, toys, or as we used to call it in Commercial fisheries "Whisky Money")
Since they are retiring the risk to their careers is over so they might take some pride in winning versus worrying about injuries.

ps Do you mean a "Darwin Award" instead of a Darwin Report"? that Australian local paper has nothing to do with this.

Roger Owen Green said...

Once I tried to do the box score for an All-Star Game. The batting side was a mess, and they'd change fielders and not announce until there were a couple outs.
Still, it WAS better before interleague play.

Anonymous said...

In the 1934 All-Star Game, Carl Hubbell pulled off one of the greatest pitching feats in history.
He struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession.
Hall of Famers all.

Granted Ruth was past his prime, but Gehrig and Foxx were at the height of theirs (more than 1000 home runs between them) and Cronin and Simmons were the best at their positions in the League.

stephen catron said...

I root for and watch The Phillies. Could not care less about baseball other than that, especially anything having to do with the American league, which isn't baseball.

SayItAintSo said...

And talk about blasphemous:

Unknown said...

MLB has too many teams and far too many games on their schedule to be relevant in this day and age. Their embrace of tradition could very well be the thing that drives them to further irrelevancy.

TimWarp said...

We aren't sports people. In fact, in our sports-centric town of Pittsburgh, we're rather famous for not being sports people. But I managed to win tickets through my husband's office for the All-Star game here in 1994 - because Meatloaf was singing the national anthem. He did a fantastic job.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Hy said...

Ken, speaking of Ray Fosse, I just read a book on the early 70's Oakland A's called Dynastic, Bombastic and Fantastic (and no I did not write it) I didn't realize Fosse was a big part of those teams. I thought his career ended on the Pete Rose play.

Great book detailing the absolute dysfunction and excellence of that team and Charlie O. Highly recommend it for a baseball aficionado like you if you haven't read it already.

Jahn Ghalt said...

The Pro Bowl has always been a travesty - as it should be, given how brutal the game is and how beat up regulars are after 20-plus games.

The NBA all star contest used to feature nominal defense (more than these days) until the 4th, when pride kicked-in, and the players got down to business. What would it take to get the players to try it the "old way"?

The NHL has innovated with a two-round playoff between the four divisions featuring three-on-three for (2) 10-minute halves and a shootout to settle ties. This sounds pretty good, actually, even without checking.

Baseball remains the most legitimate contest - and would be more so with old-school sensibilities:

1) Just to ride the all-star bench used to be an honor - and still is. So what if your hometown favorite doesn't get in?

2) I wonder what would have happened in say, 1969, both teams had run out of pitchers with a tie? Any little league coach knows what to do - why didn't they know that much in 2002?

I do agree with holding thoroughbred pitchers down to strict, low, pitch counts - even a "horse" like Verlander (especially on short rest.)

I believe all the the Home Run Derby's from 1960 are available on YouTube. They were smart to avoid "fairness" in that they brought back future hall-of-famers multiple times - most in their prime - Aaron, Mays, Mantle, among others. The money was good - $1,000 to show up, $2,000 to the winner. Three-in-a-row - $500, four-consecutive - $1000, $1,000 each for subsequent consecutive homer.

For spoilers see here:

Jahn Ghalt said...

the ball park in HOME RUN DERBY was surrounded by ordinary homes. It gave the show an extra tension that eventually Harmon Killebrew would break someone's kitchen window

IIRC, one of those houses was said (by the announcer) to have been struck by a drive.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Thanks to SayItAintSo for notice of that Daily Mail article about the first "baseball match" - relevant excerpts follow:

the first recorded game of baseball actually took place in England.

Now, 270 years on, a blue plaque has been unveiled in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, to commemorate the first time it was played as a competitive sport.

The match (sic) took place in (some Middlesex estate)

In a game loosely connected to the older English sports of cricket and rounders, players struck the ball with the palm of their hands.

The plaque was unveiled by local residents, comedian Bobby Davro and his Olympic runner father Bill Nankeville.

It's interesting to note that several commenters, all from Britain, say "it's rounders". No comment on that, as I don't really know what rounders was (or is).

Also interesting, that a "comedian" was one of the "unveilers" of the plaque - not to mention that no actual evidence was cited in the article - which would have been far more interesting than this stunt. No surprise, I suppose, that the writers of the article show themselves to be just as lazy as American newspaper and magazing writers.

My comment: so far as I know, all variants of baseball use a bat. Trying to be charitable, it seems incongrous at best to call a batless game "baseball".

E. Yarber said...

Now I'm going to have to watch the entire season of HOME RUN DERBY all over again just to catch the moment when somebody's aluminum siding gets boinked.

I'm reminded of a story about the comic strip THE KATZENJAMMER KIDS. It seems there was a character in there with a wooden leg, and one day the cartoonist got a letter from a reader who had been waiting thirty years for the artist to draw that guy with the peg on the wrong limb. It finally took place in a panel where all of the men were in a football huddle. The reader felt such incredible satisfaction after decades of anticipation that he simply had to share his excitement with the creator. Not all of us are so fortunate to find our dreams come true.

Phil In Phoenix said...

To follow up on the Revolutionary War All-Star Game post by "Unknown"(named after his/her father, perhaps?), it was the first time players took trains to the game. All of the planes and airports were being used for the war effort.

More 1776 baseball All-Star Game trivia: it was the second All-Star Game appearance and first start for pitcher Bartolo Colon.