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As a kid in Cleveland, there was this amazing moment of pride when they would announce the Indians player on the team, even if that player happened to be Dave LaRoche (1976), Dennis Eckersley (1977), Jim Kern (1976 and 1978), Sid Monge (1979) and, Lord help me, Jorge Orta (1980).
Baseball’s All-Star Game is the one that has tried the hardest to stay relevant -- in large part, I suspect, because it plays such a big role in baseball’s history. There is nothing in any other All-Star Game to compare with Carl Hubbell’s successive strikeouts, Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse, Ted Williams hitting the eephus pitch out, Dave Parker’s throw, Fred Lynn’s grand slam or Bo Jackson’s massive center field homer. I just came up with six All-Star moments off the top of my head -- it would be difficult to come up with one in any other sport.*
Other moments I remember are Reggie Jackson's light tower home run,
the reaction of the stars when Ted Williams was driven out to throw out the first pitch
1975: Bill Madlock
1976: Steve Swisher
Oh, and the alternating WS HFA was the best and fairest way to do it.
But given a choice between "This time it Counts" and "Is the year Divisible by 2?", I'll take Bud's Brainchild.
1) There's no justification for the "stronger" team getting HFA to begin with that doesn't run counter to the notion that a playoff tournament is needed to decide a champion.
2) Even if you don't accept 1, there's no good way to determine the stronger team when teams play different schedules, especially vastly different schedules. Throw in things like injury problems during the season (but with the players healthy now) or vice versa and the identification of the stronger team becomes more problematic. Giving HFA is necessary (assuming we don't want tied series or crappy tie-breakers) but introduces unfairness -- but you can't reliably reward the team you want to reward.
3) Winner of the ASG must be the dumbest possible way you could try to determine the stronger team.
4) Therefore you don't pretend you can determine who the stronger team is. An arbitrary method is fair and loses you nothing in terms of meaningfulness. Whether you want to do this by alternating or flipping coins doesn't matter.
This is a personal opinion: I would kind of like to see baseball go the other way. Instead of trying to add meaning to the game, it seems to me, it should celebrate the fact that the game doesn’t mean anything. If it does that, it can take some chances. I think the All-Star Game is the perfect time to try all sorts of things that fans might like to see, just once. It should try full-fledged replay. It should try robotic umpiring -- with the umpires wearing special headphones that beep when a pitch is called a strike by the computer. It should play with a juiced ball one year, a dead ball another. It should choose a pile of All-Stars and have the two managers draft them. It should have players wear the old wool uniforms, it should have them use the old gloves, it should make it more interactive -- there are a million things it could do to make the game fun and tie it to history without changing the rules. I think it should try all of them.
1998: Rolando Arrojo, TB
HFA is just another gimmick to try to make "meaningless" games "meaningful."
And what's remarkable is that there weren't really any decent options, other than maybe McCutchen. Unless I'm missing someone, most of the guys who finished with decent years (a list of maybe three or four hitters) played better in the second half other than Ryan Doumit, who wasn't all that good really. Meek may have been the most deserving Pirate, not merely a beneficiary of the roster games. The Pirates have come along way in two years from that horrible team.
So many memorable moments...
Randy Johnson vs John Kruk.
Arrojo wasn't a bad pick at all though. He had a 3.06 ERA at the break in 1998, would have been good for a 155ish ERA+ at the time.
2003 Mike Williams (P)
The notion of playoffs (or any tournament) is entirely based on the idea that all playoff teams are "equal."
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