Selig finally gets All-Star Game right -- anger is the perfect midsummer spice

by | National Columnist
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Bud Selig doesn't care if he hears you, but he puts on a good show about it. (Getty Images)  
Bud Selig doesn't care if he hears you, but he puts on a good show about it. (Getty Images)  

So it turns out that the secret to a successful All-Star Game is as we always thought it was -- the sound of fan bases getting screwed.

For all these years, Bud Selig tried to save the All-Star Game by rewarding more players, by broadening the scope of fan involvement, even by giving the game a tangible meaning that it neither earned nor could ever justify. In short, it became a ghastly, byzantine mess.

But there was drama Tuesday, and fun, and rage, and booing, and impotent shaking of fists. It was the new America in a handy three-hour format, and even though the game's dramatic offerings ended about six batters in, it actually worked.

And why? Because people were unhappy about one thing or another. And the unhappy folks lost.

Robinson Cano got booed for not taking Billy Butler in the Home Run Derby, and the AL won the competition 858-4 or something like that. Mets fans were unhappy that David Wright got voter-frauded out of the starting lineup, and replacement Pablo Sandoval ended the game with a bases-loaded triple. R.A. Dickey, who a lot of people thought should start the game for the NL, made only a cameo performance while the guy who started, Matt Cain, looked sharp and got the win. Tony La Russa made two pitching changes in the last inning of an 8-0 game, reminding people who don't like him why they don't like him.

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Oh, and Melky Cabrera was named the MVP only eight months after being traded from the Royals (!) for the spectacularly ineffective Jonathan Sanchez.

Everywhere you turned, someone was getting wedgied hard in Kansas City, and the game was more interesting than usual -- by a long shot. Apparently, a little bit of nothing for everyone is the best sales gimmick of all.

Now it becomes up to Bud the Tinkerer to find a way to take this cavalcade of organic injustice and make it a regular feature -- though without seeming to do it on purpose. This may be the hardest job of his 218-year tenure as commissioner.

But he can do it. After all, his speech to the Baseball Writers Association of America had its own enduring howlers which infuriated those who paid attention to it.

He said there was little interest in expanding replay, when there seems to be no evidence whatsoever that anyone shares his position. He would have been better answering the question by raising his middle finger and telling the questioner, "Because of this, that's why."

He erroneously and foolishly shamed Tampa Bay Rays fans for not being sufficiently inspired to blackjack their friends and neighbors into going to games, when it is a basic principle of human endeavor that if you can't get people to watch you do something, it is your fault for not attracting them, not their fault for not being attracted. He would have been better off answering the question by raising his middle finger and telling the questioner, "This is what I think of them."

And he completely cleared his nostrils at the San Francisco Bay Area when he said the fight over whether the Giants or A's have the rights to San Jose is "a complicated issue" even though it has taken 39 months for Selig's blue-ribbon panel on the problem to produce no report at all. He would have been better off answering the question by raising his middle finger and telling the questioner, "Because they don't know how bribery works."

The key, though, is the gesture. It is the international sign of "You're not going to like this," and that was the Kansas City All-Star Experience in a nutshell. Everybody got what they didn't want -- except maybe the people who crammed the ballot boxes full of Giants in the final week to make a shambles of the voting procedures.

And somehow, it all worked. The All-Star Game was the first truly memorable one since the infamous Milwaukee Draw, and it may be the last one for awhile. All the deliberate attempts to make the event fairer, more representative and more meaningful, while the one that was least fair and most infuriating will linger long after the World Series it has no bearing in altering.

Frankly, this looks like the start of a new value for the All-Star Experience, and a marketing campaign to go with it. "This Time, It's For ... Oh, Bite Me," next to a picture of Bud flipping you off while standing on a pile of sponsors' products.

If that isn't America in the 21st Century, nothing is.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com).

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