This is traditionally the one day of the sporting year that nothing happens.
No baseball, football, basketball or hockey. Not a single NASCAR race; nary a championship in a minor athletic competition. Nothing. Nada. Zip.
We watched the All-Star Game last night and for the first time in 14 years, the NL won. Meaning that if the St. Louis Cardinals were to take the World Series to 7 games, that game would be played in Busch Stadium. Of course, the chances of this actually taking place are slim.
So I’d say that there is a .1% chance that last night’s 3-run double by Atlanta Cather Brian McCann or the on-the-toes outfield play of Chicago Cub Marlon Byrd could be the most important play in the Cardinals season.
I won’t lie. The All-Star Game is very boring to me. As are most exhibition competitions. We all know that these guys have just gotten huge (sometimes up to 6 figures) to go to a city for a couple days and party. The game is incidental to them… the poo-nanny and parties are the biggest draw. But unlike every other sport, this game does have impact on games that really do count- deciding home field advantage for the World Series.
Now, simplistically using the Cardinals as an example, I mentioned that a game 7 would be played in an NL ballpark. But more importantly, the NL will start off the World Series at home. There is no way to verify this claim, but baseball, I do believe, is a sport where familiarity produces increased production. So it’s to the home field team in the World Series advantage to get those first 2 games under their belt at home. You know the park and it’s quirks. You’re comfortable. Generally, the other league’s opponent is not.
In 2004, I believe the Cardinals could have beaten the Boston Red Sox. But they had to go on the road to Fenway for games 1 & 2. The Red Sox dealt them a huge body blow before they could get back to St. Louis. By then, it was too late. Boston was comfortable. The Cardinals were not. And that was determined though the All-Star Game that season.
MLB’s mid-summer classic is mired in a tough spot. It wants to be fun for the guys that, probably, deserve to have fun at it. But it also does have an impact on 2 teams come late October. So which way does a skip play it?
I guess the way they did last night. Try to win and keep some match-ups alive, but still get everyone in there. It’s fence riding, yes. But I don’t know in today’s media culture if a manager has the stones to do something like pitch David Price 7 innings. Or keep Albert Pujols in the whole game. Personally? I’d love to see a real game with real implications attached.
Or maybe just go back to the old way and make it a farce and have John Kruk bat lefty against Randy Johnson losing control of his fastball.
But enough with the middle road. Pick a side. Make it something. And then we can decide if we want to watch.