Yesterday I received an e-mail from MLB.com reminding me to vote for this year’s All-Star Game, which, apparently, is being held in New York. The entire content of the message is as follows:
I’m pretty sure this e-mail was sent to anyone who foolishly gave their contact info to Major League Baseball. I don’t know whether this message is being used in any other media to advertise the game. But I feel this is an appropriate time to express some thoughts to Major League Baseball, and I am likely speaking for many people:
Please stop shoving the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry down our throats.
I have a pretty deep understanding and respect for the rivalry. It’s apparently the greatest in all of professional sports (unless you ask college football fans or NFL fans or hockey fans or Premiere League fans). And I know both teams have large, loyal fanbases spread throughout the world.
But I think there is something quite patronizing and offensive and cynical in the fact that this e-mail, purportedly promoting general interest in the All-Star Game, is not just asking me, but commanding me, with exclamation points, to vote for MY Yankees and Red Sox.
I haven’t even started thinking about who I would vote for in either league besides Barrold Lamar Pujols. I’m sure my AL ballot will include several Yankees and Red Sox, since both teams have really good position players. Jeter probably won’t get my vote unless he hits about .400 for the next seven weeks. And I’m sure as hell not voting for Varitek, the Steely Hitless Wonder.
The logical conclusion of this would be the NL All-Stars playing the Yankees-Red Sox All-Stars. Can you imagine how patronizing that would be to the National League players? Or to the really good players on the 12 other American League teams?
Here’s an idea: why doesn’t Bud Selig just make the Red Sox a National League team for a day, and then just have the Red Sox be the National League All-Star Team and have them play the Yankees as the American League team? Boston would fit well in the National League; they’re all gritty and teamy and stuff. That way, instead of having no-name players like Victor Martinez and Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez confusing people, FOX could just show a Red Sox-Yankees game with the All-Star logo stamped all over it!
Two weeks ago, FOX Saturday Baseball had two games: Yankees-Red Sox or Rockies-Diamondbacks. I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico. On a map, it literally bisects an imaginary arc between Phoenix and Denver. These are the two closest major cities. Both of these teams were in the playoffs last year and actually played against one another in the NLCS.
Our FOX affiliate broadcast the Yankees-Red Sox game. The only two markets that showed the other game were Phoenix and Denver.
In the short term, I’m sure this was probably the right move for the bottom line. God knows I watched most of the game, and I sat through about 140 minutes of bad NASCAR coverage just to see Jonathan Papelbon anticlimactically strike out A-Rod. But Major League Baseball also could have put some pressure on FOX and used that game to start cultivating a regional rivalry between two good young interesting teams who might be regular contenders for the next several years.
Writers and media journalists (those reporting on entertainment) have voiced increasingly loud complaints about the World Series’ lack of both drama and ratings recently. Admittedly, the World Series’ themselves have been bland compared to the iconic 2001 games and Bonds’ shock and awe in 2002. What about the the rest of the playoffs?
2004: Best LCS Year of All Time? Cards-Astros go seven and the MV3 (Pujols, Rolen, and mostly Edmonds) win pennant for arguably the best team in baseball. Overshadowed by that other thing that happened with the sock and the blood and the 3-0 series deficit and what have you.
2005: The sickest pitching staff in history wins Houston’s first pennant but are nearly derailed by the by the glorious implosion of the best reliever in the league. White Sox break the curse of those guys who did something bad in 1919. Doesn’t count. No Yankees or Red Sox. A few points for some sort of curse being involved.
2006: Cardinals and Mets, Game Seven. The Cow Town versus The Pond Scum. Endy Chavez’s catch. Yadi’s only hit in 2006 (not really). Wainwright and Beltran with the bases loaded. Almost counts (New York team).
2007: The Rockies win 21 of 22 games, come from behind to clinch the Wild Card in a ridiculously entertaining extra-inning tiebreaker game, and win their first pennant. The Red Sox predictably beat them. This one totally counts! Yay Red Sox!
Obviously, it is my opinion that the coverage has less to do with what happened on the field than with the teams that are involved. If Major League Baseball and the various television networks would spend less time pimping this particular season series and spent more time exposing other interesting teams to casual viewers, their wouldn’t be this hand-wringing and complaining when there isn’t a Yankees-Red Sox ALCS (which, chance tells us, is inherently unlikely any year).
So, MLB, I will start thinking about my All-Star Ballot, but if I get one more e-mail like this, I’m voting for all Cardinals and Rays.
PS: How does such voting keep the rivalry alive? Will the rivalry die if this plan doesn’t come to fruition? Do they want Cano and Youkilis to be playing together and suddenly get in a knife-fight in the infield during the game?