Can we please get this All-Star game over with before anybody else gets hurt?
I've seen the best bats of my generation silenced, brought down by wild pitches, wild knees and overprotective managers. Is there anybody left worth seeing, or should we all just watch "Big Brother" (at least those crazy contestants are all healthy)? The answer, surprisingly, is yes to the game. This is the year we get to see some of the emerging stars of the 21st century, like Darrin Erstad, Brian Giles and Carlos Delgado.
You know all the casualties: Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Greg Maddux, Cal Ripken Jr., Pedro Martinez, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, Mike Piazza and Alex Rodriguez. Picking the reserves, never an easy job, has been a nightmare for the managers this time, especially for the American League's Joe Torre, who saw one of his own pitchers say very mean things about his manager after Torre didn't pick him for the team.
The freakish string of injuries (and they are freakish what are the odds that both Mike Piazza and Alex Rodriguez would suffer concussions in the last weekend before the game?) seem pretty legit; it doesn't look like anyone's faking it just to get out of playing. Except, now that you mention it, it does seem a little strange that Junior Griffey, who played for the Reds Sunday, can participate in the home run derby today but not play tomorrow... although the Kid has for years been famously reluctant to play in the Midsummer Classic something about wanting to spend time with the family instead. And should Manny Ramirez rethink his treatment regimen? Six weeks seems an awfully long time to be out with a hamstring injury, even for a guy with hammys as big as Manny's.
Anyway, that freakish string of injuries means that while you won't see today's stars (the top three home run hitters in the National League are sitting this one out, which means we'll have to once again turn our lonely eyes to Sammy Sosa for all our highlight-film needs), you will see some guys that will be All-Stars for years to come, like Toronto's Tony Bautista and Anaheim's Troy Glaus. You'll also see some veterans who are no doubt as surprised as you are that they're playing in the big game; in this group count Baltimore's Mike Bordick, Milwaukee's Bob Wickman and Tampa's Fred McGriff. The result is a game that's long on fresh faces: It will be the first or second time for 36 of the 66 players on the All-Star roster. That means that more than half the guys playing in the game will be able to say, without irony, "I'm just happy to be here, Bob. I'm going to take it one play at a time, do whatever it takes to help the team win, and, God willing, it will all work out."
And that's good, because, unlike the NBA or NFL All-Star games (quick, name anyone other than Alonzo Mourning who played defense in the NBA game), baseball's is actually played for pride and taken somewhat seriously remember Pedro's strikeouts last year? Dave Parker's throw in '79? Pete Rose's cheap shot on Ray Fosse? And that's especially true of the new guys, just happy to be there and working hard to win one for the league.