Monday, July 9, 2007

The Dead Zone

And so we enter the three most boring days of the summer, the three days when there are no Major League Baseball games to be had anywhere, with the arguable exception of one out in San Francisco tomorrow night. I used to watch the All-Star Game every year, but I haven't seen very much of it lately, perhaps an inning or two if I wasn't busy with anything else and remembered it was on.

The All-Star Game used to be the forum in which you could see all the great players you rarely even glimpsed otherwise. Even after the advent of cable TV in the 1980s, we got mostly Cubs and Braves games, so if you wanted to see a star from one of the nonglamorous American League teams, like Lou Whitaker or Robin Yount, your choices were This Week in Baseball or the All-Star Game. Now, it's an odd night when we don't get at least two games on television, and although they still mostly skew NL, if you haven't caught at least a couple of outings of Vlad Guerrero or Joe Mauer, you haven't been trying very hard.

But that's not the real reason I've lost interest in the All-Star game. The biggest thing is that the teams aren't trying to win, which makes the game boring. Sure, the individual players are trying to hit the ball when they're at the plate, or catch the ball in the field, but the managers are so busy shuttling guys in and out that it's like a spring training game. The American League has Alex Rodriguez, who is great, starting at third base, but he'll be out of there by the sixth inning in favor of Mike Lowell, a decent player having a good year. By the eighth inning the game will be the battle of the also-rans. If the AL needs a run in the ninth, it won't be in the hands of Ichiro and Big Papi, but up to Alex Rios and Brian Roberts.

There's a name for having a bunch of baseball players playing the game but not trying to win. It's called practice. I generally don't watch practice.

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