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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Seeing stars (all-stars, that is)

I’ve never worked on the sports side of the newspaper business (that sound you hear is Freeman Sports Editor Ron Rosner breathing a sigh of relief), but anyone who knows me, reads my blog or has ever spent five minutes with me knows I’m passionate about the subject, especially when it comes to baseball. So indulge me, if you will, as I spout off about the recent Major League All-Star Game.

* Even when the game doesn’t go 15 innings, as this year’s affair did, it always starts and ends ridiculously late, eliminating not only the youth audience, but also most adult fans who have to get up for work the next morning. (The game always is on a Tuesday night.) Knowing this, why not follow the lead of hockey’s All-Star Game, and play baseball’s Mid-Summer Classic on a Sunday afternoon; or football’s Pro Bowl, and start the game early on a Sunday evening? And don’t feed me any bull about needing to schedule the All-Star Game during prime time because of advertisers’ demands; even the NFL’s Super Bowl, the most-watched sporting event of them all, starts around 6:30 p.m.

* The umpiring in the bottom of the 11th inning in Tuesday’s game was dreadful. Saugerties native Tom Hallion called the American League’s Ian Kinsler out at second on a steal attempt when Kinsler clearly was safe, and Derryl Cousins called Dioner Navarro out on a tag at home plate when Navarro clearly was safe. The blown calls ultimately didn’t matter – because the American League won the game four innings later – but the players and fans have a right to expect better.

* Looking at a list of the players selected for this game leaves no doubt that the voting is a popularity contest rather than a reflection of who the game’s best players are. How else can one explain why Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, the National League’s current leader in home runs and runs batted in, was left off the team, while Mets closer Billy Wagner, who blew six save opportunities in the first half of the season, was chosen? Well, at least Wagner lived down to his reputation: He came into the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, with the N.L. leading 3-2, and gave up the two hits that allowed the A.L. to tie the game. Another blown save. What a shock.

* Along the same lines, it was absurd that not a single offensive player from the Angels – the team with the best record in baseball at the break – was chosen to play in the All-Star Game. Are we to believe there’s no one of All-Star caliber among the likes of Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Garret Anderson and Gary Matthews Jr.? Yeah, right.

* Baseball officials and the All-Star Game’s announcers constantly try to convince us that the game has mattered more since 2003 because the winning league gets home field advantage in the World Series. Baloney. The All-Star Games in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 all were won by the American League, yet the National League team managed to win the World Series in two of those five years. The World Series – like all major sports championships – is won by the best team, not by the team with home field advantage. Good teams can win on the road. That’s part of what makes them good teams. It’s not like they suddenly forget how to play away from home when a title is on the line.

* Lastly, I grew sick and tired during the late innings of this year’s game of hearing how the two teams were in danger of running out of pitchers (the same problem that caused the 2002 game to be declared a tie after a mere 11 frames). If American League Manager Terry Francona and N.L. skipper Clint Hurlde wanted to have enough pitchers available for a potentially long extra-inning game on Tuesday, maybe they shouldn’t have used a combined 16 hurlers during the first nine innings. I realize their intent was to let every selected pitcher get some time on the mound, but if this game really mattered – as baseball officials and the announcers constantly tried to convince us – then Francona and Hurdle should have managed it like it mattered. They didn’t. And if they had run out of pitchers, they would have had no one to blame but themselves.



Blogger Jeremy Blaber said...

I'm surprised you did not post a comment about the death of Tony Snow. I remember you had a posting about his departure from the white house, and I commented that I thought that might mean his cancer had taken a turn for the worse. I'm sorry that I was right.

July 17, 2008 at 5:37 PM 
Blogger Jeremy Schiffres, City Editor said...

Sorry I never got around to writing about Snow. It wasn't meant as a snub to him; I just had a busy week and other topics that I wanted to write about.
I wasn't a big fan of his, but his passing is sad, nonetheless. No one should have to suffer that kind of fate.
That said, it's worth noting that most of the stories written upon his death made the same point that I made when he left the White House: that he had stated emphatically that he was quitting the Bush administratiion for financial reasons, not because of his cancer. And if I have my facts straight, I believe he was in remission at the time.
The cancer, unfortunately, came back -- as so often is the case -- and ultimately took his life.
Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.

July 17, 2008 at 6:22 PM 
Blogger Jeremy Blaber said...

I know it was not meant as a snub..I only mentioned it because of our previous online conversation about it.

I felt then and now that Snow held back the real reason he left the white house. I think he didn't want people to know he was still sick.

I liked him on Fox's Weekend Live. Although I was not a fan of his politics, he had a way of drawing me in.


July 18, 2008 at 7:35 PM 

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