Several hours before the All-Star game, Commissioner Bud Selig said that linking the outcome of the game to home field advantage for the World Series created “something dramatic and exciting.”
As the game wore on, however, inning after inning, hour after hour, the only drama I saw was the growing possibility of a repeat of the most dismal event in All-Star history. The game was threatening to become the second tie in seven years.
Not to worry. The National and American League teams were not about to settle for a tie.
“Believe me, there was not going to be another tie,” Rich Levin, Selig’s chief spokesman, said Wednesday. But what if the game had remained tied beyond the 15th inning and the teams had run out of pitchers, as they did in 2002 in Milwaukee?
“I believe they had position players ready to pitch if it came to that,” Levin said. “They would have played to a conclusion.”
The managers could not have brought back pitchers who had already pitched and left the game. That would have been against the rules, and it would have jeopardized pitchers’ arms. Position players would have had to do the job. David Wright of the Mets was prepared to pitch for the National League, J.D. Drew for the American.
Maybe there would have been no other solution, but having position players pitch in an All-Star game makes no sense. They are chosen for the teams as hitters; they aren’t pitchers. Had a third baseman or an outfielder pitched, it would have made a farce of the game as much as the tie did.
But this is the game that determines home field advantage for the World Series. As bad an idea as that is, it would become worse if that advantage were determined by a David Wright or a J.D. Drew.
The hitters in the game were bad enough without putting any of them on the mound.
The National League all-stars failed to get a hit in six times at bat with runners in scoring position. That they had only six opportunities with runners at second or third base told enough of a story about the National Leaguers.
To be fair, the N.L. did produce two of its three runs with runners in scoring position. Sacrifice flies were the vehicles that brought in those runs.
The American League all-stars created far more scoring opportunities, but they certainly didn’t take advantage of them. They had three hits in 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Their fourth run, the blessed run the Americans scored at 1:37 a.m., came on a sacrifice fly.
How many fans were awake at the moment Justin Morneau slid across home plate an instant ahead of Brian McCann’s tag? Yankee Stadium was at least half empty; presumably the fans who remained were awake.
According to Fox’s figures, the television audience peaked at 10.1 for the half hour 10 to 10:30 and was 6.3 at the end of the game. The average audience for the first nine innings was 14.5 million, for the extra-innings portion of the game 11.6 million. Obviously a lot of people went to sleep.
But as television and baseball officials like to remind us Eastern-minded folk, there is a West Coast, where people live three hours earlier. For Tuesday’s game, Fox said, its ratings rose from 8.5 during the first nine innings to 10.3 for the extra innings.
Enough about ratings, though. I am not enamored of the ratings business, but I bring them up because the commissioner has made such a big point of citing the Fox television audience as a major reason why the World Series link is important.
“This helps our broadcast partner,” he told baseball writers at a luncheon Tuesday.
Indeed, baseball and Fox heralded Tuesday’s All-Star audience as a hugely positive development. The estimated 14.5 million who watched the Fox presentation represented the largest audience for the All-Star game in the six years it has been linked to the World Series.
A few thoughts about that claim:
If the World Series link is so significant, why wasn’t Fox getting larger audiences in the first five years so that 14.5 million wouldn’t be the largest?
The 14.5 million is only 100,000 more than the 2006 audience of 14.4 million.
This year’s audience was still smaller than the totals in each of the three years before Selig installed the link.
If they want to be candid about this year’s audience, however anyone views it, baseball and Fox should acknowledge that the added interest in this year’s game stemmed from its location and the way baseball aggressively promoted the location as the centerpiece of the game.
It was being played at Yankee Stadium, and it would be the last played there before the Yankees move to the new Yankee Stadium across the street.
Having a pre-game presentation with 49 Hall of Famers also contributed to the lure that attracted viewers.
When the game is played in St. Louis next year, baseball and Fox won’t have the Yankee Stadium story line or the Hall of Famers to bolster it. Check the ratings and the audience size then and see what kind of effect the link has on it.
What the partners baseball and Fox don’t want to do in promoting next year’s game is to show a 30-second tape of Dan Uggla’s performance in this year’s game.
Uggla, the Florida Marlins second baseman, would have frightened young viewers had the game not gone on so long that they had gone to bed. Uggla himself must have thought he was sleeping and having a nightmare.
Replacing Chase Utley in the sixth inning, Uggla struck out three times — in the 8th, the 12th (with the bases loaded) and the 15th. He didn’t strike out in his other time at bat, but he ended the 10th inning by grounding into a double play.
That was only his performance with a bat in his hands. With a glove on his left hand, Uggla made a record three errors, the first two on consecutive batters in the 10th inning. In fact, on three consecutive pitches Uggla grounded into a double play and committed two errors. It was not what you would call an all-star performance.
Uggla’s errors were not the reason the N.L. lost its 11th straight All-Star game. At least, though, someone lost the game and someone won it.