Is it me, or has the Major League Baseball All-Star game lost its luster?
I'm a baseball freak, so I watched it on TV Tuesday night with my grandson, but it is a far different game than the one I listened to on the radio with my grandfather in the 1940s.
Back in those days, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams were still around in the ninth inning to spark an American League rally in 1941 at Tiger Stadium. In 1955, Stan Musial hit a 12th-inning home run to give the National League a 6-5 victory.
Today, no starters make it past the fifth inning and few reach that point in the game. When you consider what happened Tuesday night in the NL's 8-0 victory, you have to question if the managers really play the game to win.
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Down 8-0, the AL put two men on base with two out in the last of the fifth inning. Due up were the two hitters most responsible for the New York Yankees' seven-game lead in the AL East -- Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. Jeter is hitting .308 with seven home runs and Cano, a top candidate for AL Most Valuable Player, is batting .313 with 20 homers.
So guess what? AL manager Ron Washington decides to pinch-hit for both of them, sending Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera and Texas' Ian Kinsler to the plate. Not exactly household names, Cabrera is hitting .286 and Kinsler .279.
Cabrera gets a walk to load the bases for Kinsler, who grounds out. End of rally and time to turn off the TV. If he were still around, Dandy Don Meredith could have sung "The Party's Over."
As recently as 1976, 56 players were named All-Stars and 46 played in the game. Last year, there were 84 players chosen for the teams and 60 got into the game. There is hardly room for everyone in the dugouts.
The star power has been diluted because the players' union wants more players tabbed "All-Stars" in order to generate more bonus checks.
And the managers feel an obligation to insert as many players as possible to keep everyone happy. Washington and NL manager Tony La Russa accomplished their mission Tuesday night, getting 61 players into the game.
Up until 2002, the deterioration of the All-Star game was gradual. Then came the famous Bud Selig Classic when both teams ran out of pitchers in the 11th inning with the score tied 7-7 and the once "interim" (now lifetime) commissioner declared the game over.
So thanks to the wonderful managerial skills of Joe Torre and Bob Brenly, who went through 19 pitchers -- we now have a roster that includes 26 pitchers.
Ridiculous. Just like the other revolutionary decision that came as a result of that tie game: awarding the home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star game.
Another shining achievement in the reign of Bud Light. Give that man another raise.
Oops, I forgot -- the Merry Band of Fools already did that last year when they hiked his salary to $22 million a year.
It appears that little attention is being paid to the fact that the All-Star game television ratings have declined four straight years.
In 1976, the All-Star game pulled in a record 36.3 million viewers. That figure slipped all the way to 11 million in 2011, and preliminary overnight ratings show another dip to below 10 million Tuesday night.
And get this: the National Football League's Pro Bowl, a mockery of a game and one that commissioner Roger Goodell considered eliminating this year, is drawing more viewers than baseball's All-Star game.
In the last two years, the All-Star game has lost 3.5 million viewers while the Pro Bowl gained 4.6 million.
Yet, on Monday, Selig said:
"Is the game in better shape now? Remarkably so."
My question: Compared to what?