Tony LaRussa, of all people, inadvertently touched on a reason very few people, if any, have given over the years to why the baseball All-Star Game has lost so much of its earlier luster.
In the post-game press conference carried by ESPN News last night, the NL manager was asked about whether it was fun or interesting or unique to see a player like Ichiro on a night like this, since he played in a different league. LaRussa's answer, essentially, was that he's seen Ichiro plenty of times on TV, so it wasn't as if he was unfamiliar with him. Then he went ahead praising the kind of player he is - so his bigger point kind of disappeared.
That's the problem. With all due respect to colleague and "O, by the Way'' pinch-hitter Milton Kent, for me it's never been so much the interleague play aspect that's diluted the impact of this game. It's that once upon a time (alert: prepare for an old-coot rant), the only time you saw teams and players from the other league during the season was in the one or two nationally-televised games on the weekend, on Saturday afternoon or Monday night, if the networks were doing Monday night baseball that season. Or, on "This Week in Baseball'', when it was narrated by Mel Allen.
If you lived here and saw Orioles games on TV, you didn't see NL games except when the networks picked them as the game of the week. So when All-Star time came around, it was more than seeing Pete Rose face Jim Palmer, it was just seeing Pete Rose and Willie Stargell and Tom Seaver and Lou Brock and the like, period. It's hard to remember when you really couldn't get all the games you could ever want every night, not to mention highlights all night and all morning, but that's how it was, just a quarter-century ago.
You know what else? Gas was only 50 cents a gallon, and we listened to music on record players instead of these newfangled i-thingamajigs. Sorry, lost my train of thought.
Anyway ... to be honest, I can't blame the lack of interest in the All-Star Game on the very premise I'm making - there are a lot of other reasons to not be all that excited about the game, none bigger than the constant bitching and moaning about who "belongs'' in the game. But an event like the All-Star Game can't be that special if you've seen everything the player can do millions of times, the mystery is removed, and you realize you'd rather see it when the game means something rather than in an exhibition (never mind the inauthentic "this time it counts'' routine, the false importance forced into this by the idiotic tie game from a few years back).
It's still a nice event, I suppose, but it just isn't as important as it used to be. That's life. It's not necessarily a reason not to pay attention to it, but don't feel as if you're doing something wrong if you don't.
* Also noted in that same postgame press conference: yes, that reader who pointed it out earlier this season is right - LaRussa is looking more like Harvey Keitel every day.
* Couldn't they have figured out how to get more left-handers into the home run contest Monday? Why have a contest in that ballpark if you have almost no chance of hitting any into the water? This is where Bonds and Griffey would have been huge additions.
* By the way, it didn't seem to bother anybody at all that Griffey backed out of the contest, but we got beaten over the head for an entire weekend with the insult and disrespect Bonds displayed to the fans by not participating. Is there a player in any sport with more of a free pass than Ken Griffey Jr., just because he's not Barry? Well, more than Griffey and Roger Clemens.
* As much as the increased scrutiny of NFL player conduct is needed, this business of players being pulled over, very public arrests and arraignments being made, then the charges either getting dropped, or not getting filed at all, or being beaten fairly easily in court, is unnerving. First Tank Johnson, now Steve McNair. I'm not saying there's anything sinister about it, just putting it out there. Now there's this, from Pacman Jones. Granted, Tank and Pacman dug their own holes previously - but guns in the house and shootings in the club aren't, and never will be, the same as being pulled over for something extremely subjective. Certain readers out there know what I mean. Actually, I hope all readers out there know.
* On that topic, Brian Urlacher continues to float under the radar. As does Bill Maas. Again, just putting it out there. And while we're putting things out there, let's put this out there, too: brawl at the end of an Indy Car race last weekend, with one racer's father getting involved. Not unlike the scuffles that take place every other week after NASCAR races. Good thing it didn't happen on a basketball court, though, because then it would be a real scandal, probably getting Congress involved.
* Most fascinating yet ultimately meaningless spectacle of the summer: NBA summer league in Vegas, every day on NBA TV and now, today, on Comcast (Wizards v. Pistons). Unfortunately, no more Greg Oden (reg. req.), but still lots of Kevin Durant, the other draftees and assorted players you were wondering what had happened to.
* Stevie Francis, bought out in Portland as expected, according to the Washington Post's NBA blog. Now, maybe, will we see him resurrected as a player, instead of as a moody headache with a bloated contract? The bloated contract is out of the picture now.