This column was originally posted on July 14, 2000.
I hope you'll pardon another column about the All-Star Game, but it still seems to be on everyone's minds. I promise, this will be the last one until next July.
I feel that a great way to bring up excitement to the game would be to have a USA vs World All-Star Game. This could be either a substitute to the current All-Star format, or it could be an additional game during the All-Star week or perhaps after the regular season.
I believe this would generate plenty of excitement and would help baseball market itself internationally. Also, the players (and fans) would really be interested in who wins because of that nationalistic pride that lies inside all of us.
Enjoy your column,
Nationalistic pride, huh? Gee, it seems to me that nationalistic pride has gotten a whole bunch of people killed over the years. Aside from that, it's wonderful.
Seriously, these competitions that pit one nationality against another just don't excite me, with the possible exception of soccer's World Cup. And the U.S.-against-the-World idea really doesn't excite me. I just don't enjoy the thought of baseball fans in this country sitting on their couches and screaming, "Yeah, go Americans! We kick ass!" And then the drunken high fives ensue.
I'm not exactly sure why, but distinguishing between people based on oceans and rivers and imaginary lines doesn't make a lot of sense to me, so I can't support doing more of it.
This always occurs to me when there's an airline crash in another country, and the anchorman always says something like, "All 135 passengers are believed dead. There were reportedly no Americans aboard."
Now, presumably we're supposed to be relieved that not a single one of the 260 million U.S. citizens were on board the unfortunate aircraft. And the 135 non-Americans? Tough darts, better them than us.
Hey, don't get me wrong. When the Americans beat the Soviets in 1980, I was jumping up and down like everybody else. But 1) the Americans were the big underdogs, and 2) I was only 13 years old. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I've still go much growing up to do. But I no longer cheer for people just because they happened to be born within the same borders as I was.
OK, so if no international division, then what? Here's the reality of the situation. If you like the All-Star Game, then you've got nothing to worry about. As long as it's a money-maker -- and it is, falling TV ratings or not -- the All-Star Game will be around in its current form. As a sop to the players, the rosters will probably be expanded by two or more players per squad, but you won't see a difference on the field; there'll still be players shuffling in and out, all willy-nilly.
If you don't like it, you're stuck, because there's really no way to "fix" the All-Star Game. I mean, there are some things -- smaller rosters (or at least fewer substitutions), dropping the requirement that every team is represented -- but those things are not going to happen, and anyway it's just playing around at the margins. So you can either sit back and enjoy it, or -- as I plan to do beginning in 2002 -- consider the All-Star break a vacation from baseball, just like the great majority of the players.
As for another weighty matter -- MLB contraction -- it's better that we don't spent much time on the topic, because it's not going to happen. Think about it ... if the owners can't agree on something so simple as moving one or two teams from one league to another, how could they possibly eliminate two teams.
Yes, I do think it's a good idea, especially if a dispersal draft would help the remaining poor sisters of the game. But there are so many impediments -- possible political action, possible legal action, Donald Fehr -- that it's completely pie in the sky, and just another pointless waste of time for the Lords of Baseball.
I've grown less sanguine about contraction, but I still don't think it will ever happen, and indeed it has been a pointless waste of time (among other things).