Archive for Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Eephus pitch

July 17, 2008

I was prepared to write this column about how MLB needs to do away with the rule that gives the winning league of the all-star game homefield advantage in the World Series.

After the conclusion of the 2008 Mid-Summer Classic, however, I knew that such an argument was indefensible.

I consider myself somewhat of a baseball purist, in that I don't like the designated hitter, I don't like the body armor that hitters wear over elbows, wrists, forearms, shoulders, you name it and I prefer to see a runner score from first on a double rather than on a long ball any day.

But with this rule, it's hard to argue with the change.

Tuesday's 15-inning, longest all-star game ever, brought to the surface just how important this game now is to the players. And after the disappointment that baseball fans everywhere felt when the 2002 game was ruled a tie, it's quite a nice change.

Certain things related to pitching and participation need to be tweaked, as I'll get to in a moment, but Commissioner Bud Selig made the right move by implementing this rule.

After Tuesday's game, American League manager Terry Francona talked about how every player in the American League dugout was on the top step late in the game. Every team, save a few, like the woeful Mariners and lowly Nationals, still has a chance to find themselves in the World Series. Thus, most players care about winning the game, as evidenced by a Twins player and White Sox player exchanging a hug after Justin Morneau scored the winning run.

The main point is there is no other way to make the game mean as much to the players as it currently does, which is only fair to the fans.

Players on the winning team could be given a bonus for winning an all-star game, but then who, as a fan, wants to root for that? I know I don't care who gets an added chunk of change when salaries are already bloated beyond belief.

Another possibility is to give the league that wins the right to host the following year's game, but that, too, is problematic.

As much as I hate everything Yankees, if that were the case and the National League would have stumbled upon a victory last year, The House that Ruth Built wouldn't have been presented with the opportunity for baseball fans everywhere to bid the stadium farewell.

Furthermore, it may have been years before the Cardinals got to host the Classic in their brand new stadium.

And would the players really care about which league hosts? The majority of all-stars are going to be on the road regardless. So why would a player be that passionate about winning so that they may visit a ballpark that, being in the same league, they visit regularly anyways?

It was awesome to see players on both teams competing so hard and no one retreating to the clubhouse out of indifference.

What needs to be changed is there needs to be more pitchers taken and less emphasis on getting every position player into the game.

Dan Uggla struggled, and probably should have come into the game later and not been given as many chances to kick balls around. Either that or he should have started and Chase Utley should have come in around the fifth so in the event of extra innings, the better ballplayer was playing.

And there must be more pitchers taken. Brandon Webb worked an inning despite throwing 108 pitches Sunday. That sort of overload should only happen in the World Series.

But for fans, the show that these players - the best in the world - put on when they really care, and the World Series implications, has made the Mid-Summer Classic a must-see event for baseball fans everywhere.

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