The 2009 All-Star Game
Highlights from baseball’s big event, including the Home Run Derby and the rosters for the AL and NL teams.
Selig has received plenty of flack over the years for that decision. How could he give such influence on the World Series, critics ask, to an exhibition game?
But frankly, I like it because it makes the All-Star Game more than just an exhibition. It gives the game meaning once again.
The All-Star Game used to be a point of pride between the two leagues, each eager to beat the other. It wasn’t as intense as a playoff game by any means, but there were definitely bragging rights at stake. The rivalry was intensified by the fact that aside from the World Series, it was the only time AL and NL players would face off.
Remember when Pete Rose ran over Ray Fosse to win the 1970 All-Star Game? Sadly, the collision injured Fosse, perhaps even altering his career, but Pete was just playing the game the way fans expected him to play.
That feeling began to erode with the introduction of Interleague play in 1997. The novelty of seeing AL and NL stars face each other began to fade. The All-Star Game became a gentleman’s game, and no one cared who won or lost.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, guys were starting to back out of the game. You could almost sense that even though a guy made the game he would rather have the time off.
Now, with World Series home-field edge at stake, the game is meaningful again. Players go and participate, and they’re realizing that they’re not going just for themselves, but for their league.
It means something for a player on a last-place ballclub to participate and maybe have an effect on the outcome. Remember Hank Blalock’s dramatic, pinch-hit home run in the 2003 All-Star Game? Ichiro’s inside-the-park home run in 2007?
This year, maybe the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman will be the hero. Or the Orioles’ Adam Jones. Or the D-backs’ Justin Upton. Their teams are going nowhere, but you know these guys are excited to be there, and they can help their league get home-field advantage in the World Series.
ANY EFFECT ON DECIDING THE WORLD SERIES?
Interestingly, since Selig’s move in 2003, the rule hasn’t really even come into play in the World Series. That year, the Florida Marlins defeated in the New York Yankees in six games. Every World Series since then has been decided in either four or five games.
Furthermore, the AL has won every All-Star Game since the rule was put into place, yet has only won three of those World Series: 2004 (Red Sox), 2005 (White Sox) and 2007 (Red Sox, again), with the NL winning in 2003 (Marlins), 2006 (Cardinals) and 2008 (Phillies).
So far, the All-Star setup has had little effect, if any, on the World Series. With or without home-field advantage, it really shows that the hottest team in October is going to get it done.
MORE CHANGES FOR THE GOOD OF THE GAME
Selig wanted the All-Star Game to mean something, and he accomplished that. I know from watching the game over the years, that there is so much that has gone into making the festivities better, and more fan-friendly.
Back in 1973 when I played in my first All-Star Game, it was basically just the game without all the other stuff leading up to it. In 1985 they added the Home Run Derby, which has been thrilling to watch for players and fans alike. It’s very fan-friendly. Remember Josh Hamilton dazzling the crowd last year? He ran out of gas and didn’t win the contest (that would be the Twins’ Justin Morneau), but everyone remembers his impressive power display.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
There is also the Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, and other activities over the wekeend. Fans don’t just come for one day any more, they come for four days of fun. They come to celebrate baseball.
And that’s the way it should be — for the fans. They come from all around the world to see an All-Star Game, and they pay very good money to do so. So you want it to mean something.
Bud Selig made it so the All-Star Game is a big deal once again, and that’s a good thing.
HBT: Carlos Ruiz was lifted from Sunday afternoon’s game against the Reds after straining his right hamstring while running the bases in the bottom of the second inning.
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