I didn’t know it was possible to foul up an all-star game
July 12, 2002
Until this week, I didn’t know there was a way to foul up an all-star game.
But Major League Baseball managed to do just that on Tuesday night, when the 11-inning, almost four-hour affair ended in a tie.
I didn’t care about the tie. Although I always root for the National League, it’s still just an all-star game. It doesn’t count. Who wins is secondary to the spectacle of watching baseball’s best have fun on the field.
And a wonderful game it was. Scoring, defense, and a little bit of pitching — all in all, a satisfying game.
I wouldn’t have been one of those chanting “Let them play, let them play.” I was ready for it to be over, and if I had been in the stands I would have been headed for the exits to try to beat the traffic out of Milwaukee.
I was, nevertheless, disgusted. Because the way the end of the game was handled is indicative of baseball’s problems generally.
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By the eighth inning, everybody watching the game knew there was a pretty good chance it would go into extra innings. Announcers Tim McCarver and Joe Buck talked about the possibility, and they also made the point that managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly had used almost all their players.
This is the goal of an all-star game. Get the all-stars on the field. Torre and Brenly were doing a great job of managing their rosters and still trying to win the game.
In fact, that’s what baseball managers do best. They’re looking at least two or three innings ahead at the various possibilities. Who will be coming up? Where do we double-switch for the pitcher? Who will be facing whom?
So by the time the ninth inning started, anybody who was paying attention could see exactly what was going to happen. You didn’t need to be Connie Mack to figure out the strategy.
Either one of the teams scores and the game ends, or we’re going into extra innings. If it’s extra innings, then each team has only one pitcher left.
The one guy who apparently didn’t have a clue was Bud Selig, baseball commissioner. This should not come as a surprise to anybody who follows baseball.
“Obviously, in your wildest dreams, you would not have conceived that this game would have ended in a tie…. I really had no choice,” Bud said afterward.
Hey, Bud. Wake up.
You had a lot of choices. You just didn’t make ’em.
First, it probably would have been prudent for somebody to have considered this scenario on, say, Monday before the game.
Let’s see. It’s baseball. They keep playing until somebody wins. There have been nine extra-inning all-star games over the years. Gee, what if it happens this year?
And since the managers are supposed to make sure everybody plays, what happens if we get into extra innings and they already used all the pitchers?
Maybe we should have a plan.
Instead, Bud and his boys waited until the middle of the 11th inning to hatch a strategy. They spent a good five minutes debating their options, while the fans and players grew restless, and then Bud and the boys did the wrong thing.
They announced — in the middle of the inning — the game would end in a tie at the end of the inning, unless the National League scored and won the game.
Brilliant this was not. For one thing, you don’t change the rules in the middle of an inning, even in an all-star game. For another, you don’t announce it to the fans while there’s still a game going on.
That gave a full house the chance to boo on national television for the last 15 minutes of the game. The tie was not the public-relations disaster; botching the handling of a fairly simple problem was the public-relations disaster.
Now they’re talking about expanding the rosters of both teams so there will be enough players. How stupid can you get? Do these people understand baseball?
So what if there are 35 players on each side? At the end of nine innings, 10 of them will still be sitting in the dugout. At the end of 19 innings, they could all be used up and the score could still be tied.
All Bud has to say this: “Baseball’s annual All-Star Game will go no more than 12 innings.”
Players, fans, managers, television announcers would all know the rules going in. Torre and Brenly would save one pitcher, just like they did, in case there are extra innings. And they would know exactly how long he would have to pitch.
The fans might not be happy with a tie, but I think they would have reacted like me: Oh, well. Good game. Time to go home.
Couldn’t they have thought of this on Monday?
Apparently not. Because baseball is facing another contract deadlock and the possibility of a strike. Everybody knows it; everybody has seen it coming for months.
Bud and the boys, though, will probably wait until the middle of the 11th inning to figure out what they should do. And then they’ll get it wrong.
Barry Smith, editor of the Nevada Appeal, is a St. Louis Cardinals fan.
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