All-Star Game needs more changing
I don’t know about you, but it ticked me off watching the American League lose the All-Star Game with Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander and James Shields in uniform, but ineligible to pitch.
CC Sabathia, though not in Phoenix, was barred from participating for the same reason — the rule that prohibits pitchers who start on the Sunday before the All-Star Game from pitching in the game.
To add injury to insult, David Price and Jon Lester were physically unable to pitch for the AL, and Josh Beckett was scratched after feeling soreness in his left knee warming up for the second inning.
Now don’t get me wrong — the AL scored only one run in its 5-1 loss to the NL, and might have lost even if its ineligible pitchers were available. But in a game that determines home-field advantage for the World Series, each team should be allowed to use its top performers — period.
“You never know what really would have happened if they had some of their best pitchers,” NL second baseman Brandon Phillips said. “But for them not to pitch, all I can say is, ‘Thank you very much.’”
And all I can say is: Enough is enough.
Change the rule. Or move the All-Star Game from Tuesday to Wednesday.
Something, anything to ensure that what happened in this year’s Midsummer Classic never happens again.
Commissioner Bud Selig offered hope Tuesday at a meeting of baseball writers, saying that the sport will examine the rule. Perhaps Selig should talk with King Felix, who said after the game, “It was hard for me. If you’re here, you want to pitch.” Hernandez also pointed out that starting pitchers normally throw a bullpen the Tuesday after a Sunday outing, anyway.
The rule actually is well-intentioned, designed to help protect pitchers and ease the burden on All-Star managers. Too often before the rule was in place, teams would fret over their Sunday starters pitching in the All-Star Game. Too often, the pitchers would show up and say that they only would be available in an emergency, putting their managers in a bind.
Well, there are two ways to solve the problem.
Moving the game to Wednesday would buy an extra day of rest for the pitchers, but push the resumption of the season back to Friday, an idea some clubs (and Selig) might oppose. Expanding the rosters to give each team more pitching depth would be a simpler solution.
Don’t tell me that an increasing the roster size from 34 to say, 36 or 37, would dilute the honor. The honor already is diluted; a total of 84 players were named All-Stars this season due to withdrawals and the Sunday rule.
And what happened after all the maneuverings took place? The pitchers who allowed runs for the AL were not Hernandez, Verlander and Sabathia, but Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson, Angels rookie closer Jordan Walden and Mariners closer Brandon League.
I’m not trying to discredit those pitchers — each, in his own way, was a worthy All-Star. In fairness, the NL also lost two aces to the rule, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain. And Mariners rookie righty Michael Pineda, the replacement for Verlander, arguably was the AL’s most impressive pitcher, striking out two in a perfect, eight-pitch third inning.
But c’mon, if you’re trying to win, you want Verlander, King Felix and every other flame-throwing stud at your disposal.
AL manager Ron Washington smiled when I asked if the outcome might have been different if he had all of his top pitchers available, then offered a politically correct answer, saying he didn’t want to make excuses.
Fair enough, especially when the AL managed only six hits against 10 NL pitchers, half of which — including an Adrian Gonzalez homer — came off Cliff Lee.
Still, Verlander, Shields and Sabathia rank second, fourth and eighth in the AL in ERA, respectively. Hernandez ranks only 18th, but he’s the defending AL Cy Young winner.
“Obviously there were some guys affected by the last-day rule,” said Jered Weaver, the AL’s starting pitcher. “A lot of those guys were among the league leaders in a lot of categories.
“I wouldn’t say it was disappointing, but it kind of stinks for those guys that they couldn’t go out there and show what they do. Hopefully they change the rule a little bit so guys can get in there for a hitter or whatever.”
The rule is hurting the game.