Bud: This isn't for us

The Baltimore Sun

All right, everybody, let's say it together. Bud Selig, we are so, so sorry.

Maybe ties in the All-Star Game aren't so bad, after all.

Now, six years after what we all were so obnoxiously certain was the "debacle" of 2002 in Milwaukee, we have something to compare it to. Both teams run out of pitchers and we call it a night? Give me that over what we were forced to endure at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.

A closer - the Orioles' closer, to be specific - pitching 2 1/3 innings. Starters coming out of the bullpen in the 14th and 15th innings two days after throwing more than 100 pitches for their own teams. Six warm-ups by a closer, totaling, by one estimate, more than 100 pitches. Intentional walks in extra innings. The threat of position players on each team taking the mound had the game gone any longer.

All because, you know, this one counts.

And this, we're being reminded in the days afterward, was a "classic." Unlike that disgrace in 2002, when it didn't count, when no pitcher's season (and thus his team's) was potentially ruined by overwork in an exhibition game, when we didn't have to endure late-inning managerial strategizing, and when we went to bed at a decent hour. How did we ever live through that nightmare?

Just file this one away under Things In Sports We Were Convinced Had To Change, But Really Didn't. Right next to the college football bowl system. That, too, seemed archaic, until we got a look at the alternative (the Bowl Championship Series).

The amazing thing is that from the post-game buzz, the aforementioned commissioner, Selig, was being measured for the goat horns again. Observers have wondered why there were no TV close-ups of Selig squirming in his seat as the American and National League pitching staffs neared depletion. He was supposed to take the blame for that?

That's the sort of sad, sort of funny part about it all. It wasn't so much that tie, the second in All-Star history, that forced baseball to overreact. It was the sight of Selig looking befuddled in the stands as he tried to figure out what to do.

If Selig could have mastered some of NBA commissioner David Stern's condescending scowls, we might not be in this mess today. Instead, haunted by that image, he was forced to do something drastic. The result? This Time, It Counts. Home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All-Star Game.

Stupidest decision in baseball since 10 Cent Beer Night.

But can you blame him? Instead of letting the 2002 tie be a historical footnote and a trivia question, Baseball Nation threw a tantrum and vowed: Never Again.

In retrospect, this was never Selig's mess to clean up. We, fans and media, are the ones who officially can no longer go more than 4.2 seconds without having every nerve in our bodies stimulated. The sight of the greatest players in the game on one field is what's supposed to get us excited, not the final score. One more time, for the folks in the back who didn't hear: It's an exhibition.

But since we don't understand limits anymore, we refuse to make the distinction. Worse, we ridicule those bums in the NFL, NBA and NHL for enjoying their showcase festivities instead of going for the jugular every second.

Baseball's marquee game was born of a sportswriter's innocent query - "Wouldn't it be fun if ...?" Now, it's Game 7 of the World Series, literally. Fake, pointless, contrived competition is acceptable, as long as it's still competition, right?

Then Tuesday night happens, and we blame Bud. Wrong. We asked for this. They had to walk from Milwaukee, and the trip took six years, but the chickens came home to roost.

What a legacy in the Bronx: a record for players who one day, when their grandkids ask, "What did you do in the All-Star Game?" will have to answer, "I was thrown four wide ones so they could set up a force at every base."

Let's hope, meanwhile, that Orioles closer George Sherrill's answer won't be, "I blew out my arm in the middle of the best season of my life." In which case, Dave Trembley might tell his grandkids, "That was the beginning of the end of my managerial career."

On second thought, All-Star ties just aren't that big a deal. So Bud, pal, chum, this thing you fixed a few years back, can you go ahead and unfix it?


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