July 13, 2014 in Sports

Patrick Reusse: Criticism of baseball’s All-Star Game format unjustified

Patrick Reusse Minneapolis Star Tribune
 

MINNEAPOLIS – This is an NFL-loving country for many reasons, including the fact it’s not hard work to be a zealous follower of your favorite team.

NFL teams play 16 games in 17 weeks. They give you an excuse to drink heartily on weekends, with one bye in the middle to dry out and pay attention to the kids.

Who can’t handle that?

Baseball is different. It’s hard work to be a zealous baseball follower – games every day, 12:10, 1:10, 7:10, 9:10, 162 games in 26 weeks, nearly all over 3 hours. Nobody can drink that much and maintain an original liver.

The NFL-loving public, and also the sports media that adore that easy-to-handle schedule, doesn’t ignore baseball completely. It does pause to complain about most any aspect of baseball, as a further validation of its wisdom in being fixated on the NFL.

This makes for a great double standard, such as:

• Steroids and PEDs are a horrendous scandal that brings into question every home run hit in major league baseball, and steroids and PEDs are simply something growing boys are going to do if they hope to make it as a 330-pound pulling guard in the NFL.

• Baseball gets more heat for having Alex Rodriguez than the NFL does for having had Aaron Hernandez in its midst. I read a suggestion the other day that ESPN and other media outlets should stop offering “so many” Hernandez stories.

Are you kidding me? The fact the New England Patriots were eagerly signing a five-year contract extension with a guy who could turn out to be the source of multiple murders might be the most astounding story of my sports writing lifetime.

Still, the NFL worshippers fret over the darnedest things when it comes to baseball, and this is one we hear every July:

Using the All-Star Game to determine where a potential seventh game in the World Series will be played is illegitimate. The bashers get so worked up over this I get the impression they see it as diminishing baseball’s entire postseason.

Let me state that I continue to look at the one-game wild-card showdowns as an awful gimmick – an attempt to fix a wild-card situation that wasn’t broken – but it doesn’t sway my a belief that any championship that comes after a 162-game season will be well-earned.

What exactly is wrong with allowing a strong sampling of the best players from the two leagues to determine where a seventh game might be played?

That’s a big “might,” by the way. The All-Star Game started this incentive in 2003, in the summer after Commissioner Bud Selig was forced to declare a tie in a “Midsummer Classic” played in his home ground of Milwaukee.

The team representing the league that won the All-Star Game is 8-3 in the World Series since then, but only one of those 11 Series has gone to a seventh game. That was in 2011, when Texas lost to St. Louis, and my guy Ron Washington, the Rangers manager, screwed up Game 6 so badly that the Texas loss hardly can be blamed on the American League having lost the All-Star Game.

For 98 World Series from 1903 through 2002 (minus 1904 and 1994), the Series started in a National League city one year and in the American League the next.

It was logical in that won-loss records obtained playing marathon schedules in leagues with varying degrees of overall strength were no more worthy of home field than taking turns.

Even today, with only 12 percent of a 162-game schedule played between the two leagues, there’s no reason to attach sanctity to an overall record when it comes to home field for the World Series.

If this All-Star Game were played in the fashion of the NBA, NHL or NFL all-star confabs, where defense is basically outlawed, attaching a degree of importance to the outcome would be a fiasco.

Fortunately, this is the country’s one major All-Star Game where a very good version of the actual game – best vs. best – can be contested.

And to add a little pizzazz to it with the World Series tie-in isn’t folly at all. It borders on brilliance.

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