Rocking the All-Star vote
What if All-Star campaigns were more like political campaigns?
Voting for the All-Star Game blends America's two greatest attributes -- democracy and baseball. Of course, if the All-Star fan vote was a little more like the presidential campaign, Fox and CNN pundits would have anointed Carl Crawford the 2012 All-Star front-runner based on a straw poll of general managers at the 2010 winter meetings.
There is one other area the All-Star vote differs from the presidential campaign. Despite having so much at stake -- not only selection to the team but the contract bonuses that go with it -- we haven't seen any attack ads. At least not yet.
With the rise of the Super PACs and the proliferation of outside financial interests, you know it's just a matter of time until we see ones like these:
Attack Ad No. 1
We see video and still images of a smiling Prince Fielder in a Detroit Tigers uniform while cheerful music plays in the background. But the music shifts to a haunting melody, and the video changes to darkened images of Fielder in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform as we hear this ominous voice-over.
"Prince Fielder fans want the first baseman to start for the American League in this summer's All-Star Game. But Prince Fielder played the first seven years of his career in the National League. He even played for the National League in three All-Star Games. He only now says he is an American Leaguer after accepting $214 million from a team in a troubled city that is cutting funding for education. Fielder says he is an American Leaguer but he is not a true American Leaguer. Do you really want your league represented by a proven flip-flopper who changes his league allegiances when it is financially lucrative and politically expedient?
"Say 'No' to liberal American League immigration policies. Vote for a first baseman of integrity who is a true American Leaguer, a leader who has proudly served the American League since the last century not only in multiple All-Star Games but in the World Series as well. Vote for Chicago's Paul Konerko."
(This ad was paid for by "Secure Our American League Borders.")
Attack Ad No. 2
We see darkened video and still images of Matt Kemp striking out, popping up, grounding into double plays and sitting on the bench while we hear this menacing voice-over:
"In spring training, Matt Kemp 'promised' fans he would be baseball's first 50 homer-50 steal player. But after his April stimulus package of 12 home runs and two stolen bases, Kemp is far short of delivering on his 50/50 'pledge.' Mr. April hasn't hit a home run in nearly two months. Mr. April hasn't even been available for 38 of the Dodgers' past 40 games due to 'injuries.' Despite this, Mr. April has accepted $2.5 million since mid-May for doing nothing. And Mr. April won't even commit to playing in the All-Star Game if the fans choose him, though he likely would happily accept contract bonus money.
"America deserves better than Mr. April in the Midsummer Classic. Vote for real change by sending a Pirate to the All-Star Game. Vote for Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen."
(This ad was paid for by "Hope for Baseball in Pittsburgh.")
Attack Ad No. 3
We see video and still images of Derek Jeter posing with various models and Hollywood starlets at nightclubs and on beaches while we hear this skeptical voice-over:
"More than four million fans have already voted to again send Derek Jeter to the All-Star Game as the American League's starting shortstop. But why? Last year The Yankee Skipper turned his back on his nation's voters by going AWOL from the All-Star Game. His excuse? He said he was 'emotionally and mentally exhausted.' Emotionally and mentally exhausted? After hitting just .270 in the season's first half? Or was Jeter just plain exhausted from a $20 million-a-year lifestyle that includes a 30,000-square foot Florida mansion, a $20 million New York condo and countless dates with every available woman from New York to the Bahamas?"
The ad shows an interview with a pretty young woman. Through her tears, the woman says:
"And then he just said good-bye and handed me a gift basket with an autographed baseball and a replica jersey with No. 2 on it!"
The voice-over returns as we see video of Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus turning a spectacular double play.
"America deserves a shortstop we can rely on, a blue-collar shortstop who will punch the clock and take the field when duty calls. Give the aging and unreliable Jeter another vacation by putting Elvis in the building. Vote for Elvis Andrus."
(This ad was paid for by "Texas Rangers for Truth.")
And while imagining how the All-Star vote could more closely resemble the presidential election, we also should consider whether the presidential election would be better if it more closely resembled the All-Star vote. For instance, how might presidential campaigns differ if we could vote for our candidate 25 times online, plus as many times as we want as long as we go to our local precinct every day and get the ballots handed out by the ushers?
CSI: Box Score
Each week I provide a fragment from an old box score and challenge you to determine what game it is from and why it's significant. I give this one a difficulty rating of 4. Answer below:
Baseball Card of the Week
In recognition of the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, I give you this card of Herb Washington (1975 Topps No. 407), which is believed to be the only card that ever identified a player's position as pinch runner. Washington, who never made an Olympic team, played 105 major league games and didn't bat or field in any of them. He stole 31 bases and was caught stealing 17 times (not a good ratio) for Charlie Finley's Athletics. He scored 33 runs.
I don't expect Bengie Molina to come back in this role.
Box Score Line of the Week
Seattle's Jason Vargas allowed 10 runs and five home runs in less than five innings (4 1/3 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 2K) while Dodgers starter Aaron Harang walked eight batters in less than four (3 1/3 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 8 BB, 6 K). And Tampa Bay reliever Joel Peralta pulled off a rarity by making the box score without throwing a pitch because the umpire ejected him for having pine tar on his glove (0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K).
But this week's award goes to Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb, who somehow threw his first career complete game despite allowing 13 hits and eight runs. His line:
8 IP, 13 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
According to Bill Chuck of billy-ball.com, only two pitchers since 1980 have allowed more runs in a complete game. Cobb's opponent, Kansas City's Luke Hochevar, likewise threw a complete game, albeit a little more successfully. Hochevar shut out the Rays with eight strikeouts.
Yeah, Well, That's Just Like Your Opinion, Man
Loyalty Is A Two-Way Street And Seldom Traveled: It was good to see Boston fans, who turned so suddenly on Nomar and Manny, give Kevin Youkilis a good, positive sendoff after his final at-bat with the Red Sox. It's always a little sad to see a player leave a team but good to see him appreciated. Some fans feel as if one-team franchise players are in decline, but they have never been plentiful because teams have always traded and released players with little show of loyalty. Remember, not even Babe Ruth or Willie Mays played their entire careers with one team. The current potential crop of one-team players is actually reasonably high with Jeter, Chipper Jones, Todd Helton, Mariano Rivera and possibly Michael Young, Joe Mauer, Ryan Howard and Ichiro Suzuki (not counting his Japanese career) among others, plus recent retirees Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek.
Gaylord Perry Would Be Proud: After Peralta was ejected, there were complaints about Washington manager Davey Johnson "outing" his former pitcher, but I don't agree. Pitchers are not allowed to use pine tar. Doing so is cheating. If you're going to break the rules, don't be shocked when someone calls you on it. If this leads to frequent equipment checks and ejections, so be it. Then pitchers either will stop using pine tar, or baseball will change the rules to allow it.
Tour de Queens: With the Tour de France starting this week, it's a good time to point out that one of baseball's best pitchers often rides his bike to work: R.A. Dickey. "First, it is a great form of cardio and much more fun than running," Dickey explained to me last month for National Ride to Work Month. "So I am prone to bike to the park the day after a start. About a 10- to 15-miler is about right. Secondly, biking is a great way for me to clear my mind. I think very lucidly when I bike. Maybe the rhythm of the crank or the sound of the wind hurrying by. Either way I love it." You heard him, folks. Get out of the SUV and get on the bike. It's not just healthy, it's fun.
Ties Go To The Runner Wait, Never Mind: It's comforting to know that baseball isn't the only sport that wasn't prepared for a tie. Caught with their pants down like Bud Selig, USA Track and Field didn't know how to settle a tie for the third Olympic spot in the women's 100-meter dash last weekend before it hastily formulated a confusing policy the next day that will either use a runoff or a coin flip, depending on what the runners choose. Unfortunately, USATF did not mention whether, in addition to going on to London next month, the winner also gets to host the World Series this October.
CSI: Box Score Answer
The only clues you needed in this fragment was the linescore that showed 26 innings and the listing of only two pitchers to determine this was from the May 1, 1920, game when Joe Oeschger and Leon Cadore set the record for most innings pitched in a single game.
No, they didn't pay attention to pitch counts back then, though each pitcher received a week's rest before his next start.