Everyone seems to complain about the All-Star Game, whether it be about the game or the players selected, yet they still tend to watch it every year. I’m guilty of this as well – I complain and make fun of it, yet I probably haven’t skipped viewing one in 15 years. There used to be a time when I anxiously awaited the game each year, and was excited to see the representatives from the Indians and Pirates (although during lean years it tended to be token representation). I’d be furious when someone I felt was “worthy” didn’t make the team over a bigger name in their declining years. I was so dedicated, I would max out my 25 online votes for all Indians in the AL, and all Pirates in the NL (yes, I even voted for folks like Ryan Garko and Ryan Doumit). Never mind the fact that those guys weren’t exactly “worthy,” because being an admitted homer got me off the hook in my mind. At some point, maybe 3 or 4 years ago, I stopped caring. I don’t even fill out the ballots at the ballpark anymore, a tradition for me since I was a child. Even the idea that “OMG THE GAME COUNTS” didn’t really seem to have any influence over me.
This year, there was a great push from the Indians to vote for Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. I couldn’t open my e-mail, or visit a social networking site, without being bombarded by pleas to put them over the top in voting. Never mind that they were still a sizable distance behind the front runners, it’s as if fans could will them into the All Star game anyway. Cabrera and Chris Perez ended up being added to the team, while Kipnis was not. In the past, I could’ve told you who was starting at second, all of their stats, and how they compared to Kipnis’s stats. This year, I didn’t even know who was starting at second base. (Robinson Cano, I checked while writing this before the game). I think there was a point where I woke up and realized that the more popular players, the bigger names, would always earn the starting spot from the fans. Heck, Ryan Howard was fifth among NL first basemen with nearly 900,000 votes as late as June 26, and he had yet to play a major league game yet this year at that point.
The other thing that I started to notice is that it seems like most of the deserving people end up on the team in the end. I know that Kipnis didn’t make it, but think of some of the others – Jake Peavy looked like an oversight, but he replaced an injured C.J. Wilson. Someone always ends up injured, or decides to skip the game, and it opens the door for whatever player was slighted by the fan, player, or manager vote (or the “final vote”). Once you get through the idea of who is on the team, then it’s time to gripe about the starting pitchers, the batting lineup, and how reserves are used throughout the game.
This year, people were upset about Matt Cain starting over R.A. Dickey for the NL. Dickey was a feel-good story, and I was even secretly hoping he’d get to start in the game. He still got to pitch though, even if he didn’t get the honor of pitching his 1-2 innings at the start of the game. Look at Justin Verlander – there wasn’t much controversy over his start, and he gave up five runs in the first inning. I was kind of “meh” on Pablo Sandoval, but he’s already driven in a chunk of the runs. It’s a complete crap shoot, so the guy you feel “deserves” to be there, may end up being the goat.
So yes, of course I’m still watching…I’m even watching with the TV un-muted so that I listen to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. (I can’t think of McCarver without this bit from Family Guy). It’s just that I’ve lost my enthusiasm for the game, and its outcome, despite the fact that IT COUNTS.