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July 18, 2013 12:54 pm

Column Like I See ‘Em: Baseball teams and fans deserve justice

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Anyone who watched the 2013 MLB All-Star Game and stayed awake should be commended.

We are all heroes.

For as many exciting players that were a part of that game, that was a snoozefest.

The one good thing about the lack of action was that I was able to focus more time on hating Fox announcer Tim McCarver. He’s so bad at his job it’s borderline impressive.

Do you know who’s not bad at his job? Mariano Rivera. If you had the strength to watch the game without muting the sound, you know that Rivera is the best closer there has ever been.

He’s so good he won Most Valuable Player awards based purely on his legacy and the respect he has from his peers. Rivera threw one inning, allowed no base runners and had no strikeouts.

Which is all fine and dandy. I mean, it’s just the All-Star Game, a once-meaningless exhibition game played to give players a break and fans a treat.

Only it’s not just the All-Star Game anymore. It’s now the deciding factor in which league’s World Series representative will possess one of the game’s biggest logistical advantages.

Ever since the 2002 All-Star Game tie (due to each team running out of players in the 11th inning) caused Bud Selig to panic and attach home-field advantage to what should be a fun exhibition, baseball’s Midsummer Classic has been a meaningless game with a very important-looking sheen.

That became crystal clear Tuesday night, when, after pitching one perfect inning, Rivera, the New York Yankees’ legendary closer, was deemed to be the player the American League could not have done without.

Add with that distinction, Rivera not only added to the word count on his Hall of Fame bust, but also exposed the All-Star Game for the popcorn and bubblegum drivel it’s always been.

Three other AL pitchers did what Rivera did, and some did it better. Starter Max Scherzer (Detroit Tigers) threw a perfect first, with a strikeout as an added bonus. Matt Moore (Tampa Bay) threw a fifth inning identical to Rivera’s eighth.

If any pitcher deserved to be MVP, it was Chicago White Sox starter Chris Sale. Sale pitched two innings (the only AL pitcher to do so), allowed no runs, no hits, no walks and had two strikeouts.

Again, Rivera had none.

But since Rivera pitched an inning that was fresher in the minds of our short-term memory sports-fan brains, and since Rivera received a prolonged standing ovation that thrilled everyone except an angry Lars Ulrich, he got to be the MVP.

Either the All-Star Game is to be taken seriously (yes, even by the players), or the MVP Award can be given to the players that’s most well-liked and closest to retirement. Not both.

But baseball is a game of tradition and feel-goodness that doesn’t often change, and foregoes improvements in competition to keep the old guard happy. Or at least not as cranky as they could be.

This is evident here in Wyoming, where a barely justifiable practice is defended with a confidence normally reserved for people with good arguments. Wyoming’s Babe Ruth baseball leagues have entered state tournament play, and Powell is lucky to be a part of the fun.

Emphasis on the lucky.

Even though Powell finished second in the Northwest District, and each district sends its top two teams to state, Powell got in only after a Southwest team dropped out.

Why?

Because Worland, a lowly Northwest team, was guaranteed a spot in state as a reward for hosting the state tournament this week. The 1-2 District Tournament record didn’t matter, not does the likeliness that Worland will pose no threat at state. Worland is letting the rest of state play baseball in its city, and Babe Ruth rules mandate that we don’t leave Worland sitting on the sidelines.

John Van Allen, Wyoming’s commissioner of Babe Ruth baseball, said in a phone interview with the Tribune that the automatic bid (which is Babe Ruth’s nationwide practice) gives cities an incentive to host the tournament.  

He later went on to cite the economical benefits of drawing people of seven cities to one central location.

“That brings a lot of people into town for a few days,” Van Allen said.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that the host city would benefit even more by the presence of travelers from an eighth city?

If a city were to refuse the business and notoriety gained from hosting a popular baseball tournament, then another city deserves to reap the rewards. Isn’t that part of the free market? Wyoming still likes the free market, right?

Then it should apply to baseball. A tournament should have the best competition possible. Not the best competition plus one team that excites the host city until it loses to one that actually deserved to be playing.

Who knows, maybe Worland will shock everyone with a Cinderella tournament run. But probably not. And if they do, all I’ll think about is the team whose Cinderella run they may have stolen.

A similar, yet more infuriating, competitive blunder involving Powell’s American Legion team may soon take place. If the Cody Cubs beat the Lovell Mustangs on Friday, Powell and Cody will be tied atop the Northwest Division standings. A tiebreaker that determines who wins the division, and therefore receives an automatic bid to state, would follow. So what will be done to determine which team is better, more competitive and more deserving?

The 100 percent random flip of a coin.

Not overall record. Not head-to-head record. Not run differential. And definitely not another played game. Instead, a “call it!” scenario will decide who can make hotel accommodations and who will play a do-or-die district tournament.

It’s been this way for all of Van Allen’s 45 years with Babe Ruth, he told me.

Powell may dodge both of these bullets. But in a state with a population like Wyoming’s, competitive injustices in youth sports affect more than your town, they hurt the entire state.

Baseball is a tremendous sport and for as much as fans cry out about its sanctity, it’s their death grip on the game’s old ways that prevents the game from being even better.

Baseball purists hold America’s most storied game in the highest regard. It’s unfortunate the organizations that run its leagues don’t give it the same respect by implementing rules that make competitive sense and promote a higher quality of fair play.

Have an argument with this? Save your breath and let’s settle it like men.

Call it in the air.

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