By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) The MLB All-Star Game needs something extra to get me interested. Taking a bunch of the game’s best players in the post-television, post-DVR, post-MLB Network, post-streaming Internet era and putting them on the same field just doesn’t have any spark on its own, for me at least.
I want to see the Chicago connection do well, and White Sox pitcher Chris Sale and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo not as of yet on the American League and National League rosters, respectively, is a bit of a baseball crime (you should vote them in here). But each local team already has two representatives (including Jeff Samardzija for the Cubs), and possibly five or six players from teams a combined 20 games out of first place is sort of amazing. Still, though, that doesn’t make the game much more than “watchable solely because it’s the only sports on TV.”
More of a crime than player snubs is that this game contains the worst rule in pro sports, bar none. NFL overtime, NHL shootouts, Chris “Birdman” Andersen — they all pale in awfulness compared to baseball’s exhibition game determining home-field advantage in its championship series. And that’s on commissioner Bud Selig, who in typical Seligian fashion not only did something dumb but is wholly aware of how dumb it was and still won’t fix it.
“That isn’t unconstitutional or immoral,” Selig said last year about FOX wanting to improve ratings (which have still lagged since the rule change). “You have a TV partner, they are paying you a lot of money, so I guess you’d like to make them happy.”
As he approaches his final All-Star Game before retiring next January, let it be remembered that Bud Selig, supposed champion of baseball integrity, stands firm on pro sports’ most asinine rule because of the money. Such is any commissioner’s difficult task — maximizing profit while still passing off the game as a Norman Rockwell painting. Selig is tough on crime, though, and has done that juggling act for years when it has come to performance-enhancing drugs in the game. Decry them on camera, condone them when their residual effect equals butts in stadium, barstool or couch seats. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were the first poster children become sacrificials for hypocrisy. Alex Rodriguez was so as recently as 2007.
The public beatings/suspensions have had a wonderful effect on cleaning up the game. Forty-four players have been suspended since 2005 for PED use. Three former league MVPs were suspended in 2013. Seventeen suspended players have been All-Stars.
One of those All-Stars happens to be Nelson Cruz, who currently leads all of baseball in home runs and RBIs. And despite Cruz missing 50 games last season because of PEDs, fans voted him as the starting designated hitter on the AL team this year. This bothers the guy who tries to hurt players with projectiles, John Lackey.
“I’m not even going to comment on him,” Lackey said after Cruz recently treated Lackey like a wife being divorced while she has cancer, going 3-for-3 with a home run. “I’ve got nothing to say about him. There’s things I would like to say but I’m not going to. You guys (in the media) forget pretty conveniently about stuff.”
Surely Lackey refuses to also speak to teammate David Ortiz, squeezed out of an All-Star appearance this year by Cruz, Toronto’s Edwin Encarnacion, and Detroit’s Victor Martinez.
But there it is — my reason to have interest in the All-Star Game. Nelson Cruz is my saving grace. He is my ticket to Selig schadenfreude as Ol’ Bud tries to enjoy what will be an awkward attempt at a tribute to himself in Minnesota. The only thing better would be had Cruz not declined an invite to the Home Run Derby (another annual quiet embarrassment for the league — having some of the biggest hitters refuse to participate in the slugfest).
I want Cruz to hit two home runs and be the game’s MVP while snatching a home-field advantage possibility from Selig’s favorite contending team, the Milwaukee Brewers, who are an otherwise great story and a team I’m pulling for to keep the St. Louis Cardinals from winning another division title. I want FOX to have to dance around that elephant on the field while trying to put lipstick on the pig of Derek Jeter’s last All-Star Game while he isn’t even a good player anymore.
I want farce. I want squirming in Selig’s ill-fitting suit, and I want a reporter to ask him about Cruz because I want a stuttering, frustrated answer on the commissioner’s well-pooped party.
Bud Selig’s legacy will be steroids and a brutally stupid All-Star Game rule. And I will be watching the 2014 exhibition game to hopefully see a fantastic car crash at the intersection of the two.
You can follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe.