All-Star Shame?

Posted: Jul 10, 2007 10:25 AM

Maybe it's just me, but when I was a kid in the 1980s, the All-Star game seemed to matter more than it does today.

Now, in fairness, some of this may be that everything seems bigger when you're a kid (one time I visited my elementary school to find that the "huge" basketball court was the size of my bathroom), but there is no doubt that the "Mid-Summer Classic" is much less important today than it used to be. (After all, winning was once important enough for Pete Rose to bowl over Ray Fosse, for crying out loud)

A few years ago, the game ended in a tie (which seems un-American), causing MLB to give the game more significance by giving the winning side home field advantage in the World Series. Still, the game matters less than it used to, and after consulting my baseball advisor, Jim Eltringham, the question to ask is what did the All-Star game used to mean ...

Here's what we came up with: Once upon a time, the All-Star game was a chance for fans to see players whom they rarely (or never) saw, because they were in the other league (back in the old days, a Yankees fan might never, ever see a National League star like, say, San Francisco's Barry Bonds).

And since fewer games were televised, Yankees (or Red Sox, or Orioles) fans, for example, wouldn't have the chance to see Bonds on TV much, either. And because few TV channels existed, and fewer games were televised, this was also a rare chance for stars to showcase their talents nationally. As such, they would go all out.  In short, there was an incentive for players to play hard, and there was a true league identity, which, no doubt, fueled some true animosity between the leagues.

Today, free agency, inter-league play, and more baseball on TV have conspired to give fans what they want during the regular season -- but the consequence is a meaningless All-Star game. At least, that's my theory this year....

Some would argue that the players have gotten lazier, and have a bad work ethic, so they slack off. My argument would be that players are smart. They played hard when it mattered. And since it doesn't matter anymore; the level of their play corresponds to the importance of the event. So they slack off. It's just human nature, I tell ya.'

The bottom line is that we should just get used to it. Nostalgia for the All-Star game is fine, but it's tantamount to missing the good old days when people sat around "watching" their radio. It's of a bygone era. Sadly.