All-Star Game proposal doesn't sound advantageous

January 21, 2003|By LAURA VECSEY

SO IT WAS embarrassing what happened to "commissioner" Bud Selig last year when he had to call the All-Star Game tied 7-7 in the 11th inning.

Oops, said the managers. No more players in the dugout.

So we all cringed and screamed and threw things from the upper decks - or at our TV sets - because we could not believe what we were seeing.

So now, because of this ill-fated night in Milwaukee that could have been prevented had there simply been a rule that no All-Star Game will exceed 11 or 15 innings, the "commissioner" has gone completely overboard.

It's eerily a lot like last winter, when contraction was proposed to alleviate all the ills of baseball's financial house of cards.

So what if we wound up at the Metrodome, the Minnesota Twins living to play for the right to go to the World Series? Contraction was the panacea.

Now Selig is off on another January tangent. He has won unanimous approval from the owners on a half-baked scheme to turn the All-Star Game into:

A MidSummer Smackdown - Brought To You By Fox.

Talk about turning one monstrously embarrassing moment into something relentlessly and unalterably bad: allowing the outcome of the All-Star Game to determine home-field advantage for the World Series.

The World Series, for those who can't recall in the face of the looming spectacle called the Super Bowl, is a best-of-seven championship series that, unlike the one-shot, neutral-site Super Bowl, is actually contested in the ballparks of its two contending participants.

The World Series is also where 15 of the past 17 holders of home-field advantage have become champions, where the home team has won eight straight Game 7s.

To understand the psychological and statistical magnitude of home-field advantage, which alternates between the leagues, all we must do is hark back to October.

In the suburban sprawl of Southern California, the otherwise disassociated population found a unifying force in the Anaheim Angels. The masses overcame strip malls, freeways and cast-off housing developments to rally themselves around weird little monkeys and ThunderStix, making Edison Field the deafening crucible of seventh (game) heaven for the world champion Angels.

Think Barry Bonds wants to play another Game 7 in that part of California anytime soon?

Now, in a random act of nonsense, the "commissioner" wants to take an exhibition game played by All-Stars voted upon by fans and attach it to baseball's crowning event.

Do we smell a big ol' Fox in baseball's henhouse on this one? It sure seems that way, considering that Selig could not help but mention that Fox, which shells out beaucoup cabbage for the rights to broadcast the All-Star Game, is "strongly" in favor of this new setup.

How strong is strong?

Well, think about it. These are the lowdown days of reality TV, when the insatiable voyeuristic mentality that TV panders to has found us deluged by shows depicting opponents (real people) scratching, clawing, lying and cheating their way to victory.

In this cyber-paced, real-time climate, why would cutting-edge (translate: profane, sexist, tawdry, indecent) Fox want to roll its cameras on and deploy its hyperbolic "color" crew to a pleasant little evening of exhibition baseball between the game's best players?

Why should Fox take the time to beam out spontaneous little exchanges between baseball's best pitchers and hitters when it could have ...

"All-Star Armageddon: Where the fate of the World Series is all on them."

Why don't they just send Selig and union leader Donald Fehr to Bora Bora, roll the tape, make them eat the heads off live animals in vaguely satanic settings? Bring in Ozzy, Sharon and all the Osbourne kids?

Tonight at 9: "Eat or Be Eaten."

Heaven forbid that the exhibition game stands for itself. Heaven forbid that the grueling, six-month, 162-game baseball season doesn't require a breather for players and fans - real fans who actually appreciate the up and down times of the long season.

Maybe the brain trust altering the rules in midstream couldn't care less that there are people who like to see the game's best players gather and cavort so we can assess their numbers, compare them to greats of the past, speculate on the second half of the season.

Remember when Ken Griffey or Bonds or Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire would have 30-plus homers at the break? The All-Star Game was a nice way to savor and honor that.

Remember when Juan Gonzalez was chasing the all-time RBI record? Remember anything Randy Johnson did to Larry Walker or John Kruk?

It would be nice to think, as Selig suggested last week, that this decision to make the All-Star Game competitive and therefore attractive to the fans who pay $175 per All-Star ticket is the root of this revolution. But after contraction, we're not biting on altruism.

Now the players union has another battle on its hands. They're lining up to tell Selig there are so many problems with this All-Star plan, it makes your head spin.

For instance: It is fans who vote for the All-Stars; every team must be represented; a big roster to honor guys having a good first half necessitates substitution.

Imagine this scenario:

All-Star manager Joe Torre asks Pedro Martinez to go another inning, since Pedro and that mail-slot fastball is about as a sure thing for a win as it comes.

What do you think Pedro tells Torre about winning one so that the Yankees can have home-field advantage in the World Series?

I'm thinking it sounds something like: "Kiss my royal Dominican ... "

Of course, watching that exchange would be worth $175.

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