At least the Ringling Brothers know their “Greatest Show on Earth” is just a circus. For all the goofy changes Major League Baseball made hoping to put a serious face on their All-Star Game, they may as well have had the starting lineups pile out of a VW Bug in clown costumes.
At least that would have spiced up Tuesday night’s near three-hour snoozefest, where for the first time, the designated hitter was used in a National League park. With a record 34 players on each roster, there weren’t enough reserves available to pinch-hit?
I guess that no longer matters because the designated hitter is now used at all Midsummer Classics, regardless of which league is hosting the game. Obviously, ringmaster Bud Selig doesn’t want any hint of authentic baseball strategy to spoil all the fun.
Don’t forget the designated replacement player who can re-enter the game at any time if someone gets hurt. Or the catcher replacement rule enabling each team to replace an injured catcher.
For those keeping score at home, forget it. Even home plate umpire Dale Scott laughed when checking his overflowing lineup card in the eighth inning. Despite the never-ending substitutions, a record 16 All-Stars did not participate this year. Six pitchers, including the Giants’ Matt Cain, were ineligible because of the rule that prohibits any hurler from appearing in an All-Star Game if he started his team’s final Sunday game before the break. Give NL manager Bruce Bochy credit, he came within two outs of keeping all four of his Giants pitchers out of the game, before calling on Brian Wilson to get the save.
The American League, clearly suffering from a severe pinstripe shortage — no Alex Rodriguez, no CC Sabathia, no Mariano Rivera and no Derek Jeter — was beaten for the second straight year after not having lost to the NL since 1996. Maybe if it wasn’t for that danged 7-7, 11-inning tie at the 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee, baseball wouldn’t be trying to infuse so much importance into an otherwise meaningless showcase.
After homeboy Selig decided to call the game because both sides had run out of pitchers, I interviewed countless angry fans filing out of Miller Park who couldn’t believe baseball would let a game end in a tie. The following year, Selig decided to give the winning All-Star league home-field advantage for the World Series, not to the team with the better regular-season record like they do in virtually every other pro sport.
Thanks to baseball’s twisted logic and one swing of the bat from Prince Fielder, whose fourth-inning, three-run homer decided the game, the National League pennant winner gets to host Game 1 of the Fall Classic.
Of course, the Giants hope winning a glorified exhibition game in July is just as much fun the second time around for the World Series opener on Oct. 19.
KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.