Fast forward three months. Our Baltimore Orioles have made it to the World Series for the first time since 1983, matching up against the Atlanta Braves. It’s the situation that we all dream about when we’re kids playing catch in the backyard or taking batting practice on the neighborhood fields.
Game 7 of the World Series. Bottom of the 9th inning. Tied game. Bases loaded. Two outs. Full count. The fans are going absolutely bonkers. Baltimore is a ball four, walk, hit or error away from walking off with their first World Series win in 21 years.
And why is it they are in position to walk off with the win?
Because just three months earlier, Pat Neshek entered the All-Star Game, played at Target Field, home of the 44-50 Minnesota Twins, and gave up three runs to the American League, including a sacrifice fly from Jose Altuve, member of the 40-56 Houston Astros.
It has absolutely nothing to do with what team had the better regular season record. Where the seventh game of the World Series is played has nothing to do with either of the teams participating in the series, unless of course members of those respective teams made an impact, positively or negatively, in the All-Star game.
Rather, representatives from all 30 teams, 20 of which will not make the postseason and 22 of which will not make it past the play-in games, determine where that legacy-defining Game 7 is played.
In what alternate universe does that make sense? You’re telling me that a bunch of millionaires in $25,000 suits got together, deliberated in a boardroom and came out with this solution?
Imagine if Luis Gonzalez’ hit over Derek Jeter’s glove in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series would have simply put the Diamondbacks up 3-2 rather than ending the game? What if history was re-written and that Game 7 had actually been played in New York? In 2001, the American League won the All-Star game. Under our current All-Star game rules, that legacy-defining game would have in fact been played at Yankee Stadium. How might that have changed the legacy of Derek Jeter? He could have six rings instead of five. Joe Torre would have another World Series under his belt. Even Mike Mussina could have a ring to display on his mantle had the location of the seventh game been switched to the Big Apple. Crazy stuff.
We’re talking about a game in which AL manager John Farrell admitted that his main objective was not to win, but to get as many players in the game as possible. And let’s be honest – why does John Farrell care who wins the game? His Boston Red Sox are 43-52, 9.5 games behind the Orioles and they’re more concerned with what kind of young haul they can get for Jon Lester at the deadline than what stadium they’re going to be playing in come October. We’re talking about a game in which Adam Wainwright admitted to grooving pitches right down 5th Avenue to leadoff man Derek Jeter in his final “farewell” All-Star Game sendoff. Jeter doubled in his first at bat and later scored. The American League went on to score three runs in the first inning.
Ultimately, they won the game by two runs, 5-3.
Had Adam Wainwright actually tried to pitch to Derek Jeter, the National League very well may have won the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, awarding them home field advantage in the 2014 World Series. Meaning, of course, that in my above scenario, a run would not walk the game off for the Orioles. Instead, the Atlanta Braves, or whoever their opponent would be in our dream scenario, would get one more at bat in the bottom of the inning with a chance to tie or win the game.
Hundreds of years from now, when all of us are dead and gone, the 2014 World Series winner will live in infamy in countless record books and libraries throughout the sports world. Legacies will be defined. Future contracts will be signed. Statues may very well be erected. Hall of Fame candidacy will be voted upon.
And all of that history could be changed in a flash – because of an All-Star Game played in July amongst members of all 30 MLB teams that served more as a spectacle and farewell tour to Derek Jeter than it did as a real game.
The NBA All-Star game is nothing more than a glorified dunk contest. Roger Goodell has threatened to put an end to the NFL Pro Bowl because the players just won’t take it seriously. And as we saw from Adam Wainwright on Tuesday night, major league baseball players don’t REALLY care about winning. Derek Jeter’s 4th inning moment yesterday was always going to more important than the end result of the game. Undoubtedly, more people know about that moment than know the end result of the game. The same thing happened last year at Citi Field when Mariano Rivera was paraded out in the 8th inning as Enter Sandman blasted over the speakers.
The All-Star Game is an entertainment spectacle. It is NOT a competitive game. Not even close.
By placing such a high importance on the result of a glorified exhibition game, Bud Selig and the powers that be within Major League Baseball are putting the integrity of this great game on the line. It may not seem like such a big deal right now. It’s hard to really understand the significance of something, whether we’re talking sports or life in general, until your life and/or interests are directly impacted.
But when you’re favorite baseball team is on the mound in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7 of the World Series, watching the opposing team walking off the field with a one run win in front of the home fans, perhaps you too will question the logic and integrity of the current All-Star Game format.
In the meantime, I guess all of us Orioles fans should be thankful that the American League won, right?