It is Monday Morning. If you are like me on the first day of the work week you are probably trying to ease the depressing realization that the weekend is over and you have the five day grind ahead of you. For me at the 9-5 desk job I am spending the first hour(s) of my day meticulously analyzing my fantasy baseball team and catching up on sports stories I might have missed during the pregame Friday & Saturday night.
The anxiety could be even higher this week, and I may have to spend the beginning of my day reading about how bath salts turn humans into zombies and why Scientology ruined the marriage between Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. Baseball is at its All-Star Break. Wimbledon is over. The Olympics have yet to begin in London. Football, basketball, and hockey have yet to begin. Might I actually have to start “working”? Ugh, this could get brutal. I better drink another Espresso double shot. Embrace yourselves everyone; we are about to experience the worst sports week of the year.
I mention the All-Star Break for baseball, for the past ten years I have taken a dissenting attitude towards MLB’s mid-summer event. That differs in my apathetic stance towards the Pro Bowl, NHL & NBA All-Star Games, where I can watch the highlights on SportsCenter and live with myself. In 2002, Bud Selig and the MLBPA transformed the event from casual to competitive. I used to hate it. It baffled me that home field advantage in the World Series was indicated by which All-Star Team’s pitchers brought their best stuff during the one inning each of them would get on the mound. It drove me nuts that traditional cellar dwellers like the Royals, Pirates and Orioles (sorry everyone) had at least one player on the All-Star Team, even though there was a better shot of Anna Kournikova coming out of retirement to beat Serena Williams to win the Wimbledon than any of those teams winning the Fall Classic.
This year, I have decided to cave in and embrace the All-Star Game, and I suggest all of you fellow sports fanatics do the same. This year, forget about them ludicrous reasons I mentioned in the previous paragraphs. If you love sports, chances are you are someone who craves competitiveness in sports and life alike. Plus this week, you don’t really have a choice, right? The 4th of July relaxed attitude around your office is over. Daily stresses are back and we are on the full five day work week again.
If you are a Baltimore Orioles Fan, as most of you reading on WNST.net probably are, this is the first time in more than a decade that this game has some real meaning to it. Let’s call a spade a spade, does anyone reading truly believe that the O’s are ready to make a push to play in the World Series? I did not think so. However, heading into the All Star Break, Baltimore is six games back of the Yankees, six games above .500. If the season ended now, the first year of expanded playoffs would open with Baltimore at the Los Angeles Angels for the one-game AL wild card. The guys representing the resurgent O’s this year in Kansas City, Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Jim Johnson, make up a trio that marks the first time since 2005 that the Orioles have sent multiple players to the All Star Game.
“It’s pretty cool,” Jones said of the group the Orioles will send to Kansas City. “For the last seven years, it’s been one player. You have to win to get more than one player nowadays. Representing the Baltimore Orioles, it’s a tremendous accomplishment for us as a team, also.”
Wieters, who was the Orioles’ representative in last year’s All-Star Game also added, “It makes it even more fun that you get to share something with your teammates that you’re battling the whole year with.”
Comparing baseball’s All Star Game to the other major sports in the United States, one cannot forget the fact that just because it is an exhibition game, the play of the field does not change. For example, in the NBA’s ASG, there is little to no defense played. There is an open lane almost every time when either squad comes down the court. While alley oops and monster dunks are cool, when it occurs every possession, it can get old very quickly. In baseball, the matchups do not change. When Clayton Kershaw comes to the mound and faces Adam Jones, do you think he is going to toss a 75 mph meatball for Adam Jones to crank towards the fences? Not a chance. He is going to bring it just like he would during a regular start for the Dodgers.
I mention those All-Stars facing each other as just one example of a potential matchup that makes for a great watch. How about the 23 year old phenom Steven Strasburg going head to head with legend Derek Jeter who is 15 years his senior? How cool would it be to see RA Dickey, the arguable front runner for NL Cy Young, tossing his knuckleball and trying to fool slugger Josh Hamilton? And 2012 will be the last All Star Appearance for eight time all star and surefire Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, who is retiring after this season. It will certainly be weird without him in Atlanta next season that is for sure.
Back in February of this year, I explained to Mike Huber on XTSR Towson Radio why I believed that the second calendar month was the worst sports month of the year. The football season was over. Pitchers and catchers report in the middle of the month, but baseball was still months away from beginning. Basketball, both college and professional, was still in their respective regular seasons. Same applies to hockey. Not to mention on the East Coast, February is typically a cold, dark month (but after this torturous heat wave, I sure would not mind a 35 degree day.) Now we approach arguably the worst sports week, not entire month, of the year. I hope my words give you something to look forward to when it’s quitting time on Tuesday.