Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Baseball at the Break

Baseball finds itself at the halfway mark, and the biggest story of the year has already taken place. Derek Jeter shot through the 3,000 hit mark with a 5-for-5 performance. Hit number 3,000 coming on a homer. Fitting, of course, considering Jeter is a player that is, in my opinion, universally loved. Well, except by Red Sox fans.

Jeter has been the epitome of a baseball professional. He's been a true Yankee, following in the line of Dimaggio, Mantle, Maris, and so on. Thing is, his displays as a player haven't been confined to his time in the majors.

Once upon a time, Jeter was assigned to the Columbus Clippers (then the International League affiliate of the Yankees), on a rehab stint. Jeter appeared in just one game for the Clippers, before pronouncing himself ready to return to the majors. He played against the Durham Bulls in Durham. That night, Jeter went 2-for3 with a pair of doubles and a sacrifice fly. Not bad, right? It went beyond the box score.

After the game, Jeter stood at the short fence next to the visitors dugout, and signed autographs for nearly 45 minutes. The game ended, he just walked up the steps, Sharpie in hand, and began to write his name on anything placed in front of him. He engaged the kids, the parents, anyone that approached him. He knew his appearance in Durham meant a lot to a lot of people. He knew it was his duty to give something to those that would likely not be able to see him again. And he did it all with a smile.

I'm not a Yankees fan, but I am a Jeter fan, which leads me to this next point: get off of him, or anyone else for skipping the All Star game.

The All Star game isn't what it used to be, and until MLB does away with inter-league play, it won't regain it's status as the Mid-Summer Classic. This once was the showcase game for the league. The best players from each league, dueling it out for nothing more than bragging rights (and a game check). It used to be considered and honor to be picked as an All Star, but now, in my opinion, it's looked at as a nuisance. I understand the players side, too. 162 games is a grind, and then to fly to the All Star game, and keep playing through a time when the rest of your teammates have their feet in the air, it could be a little tough mentally.

Obviously, players picked for the game, but sidelined by injuries shouldn't be getting any grief over missing the game. Jeter isn't playing, due to what is described as exhaustion. I'm willing to give him a pass on this one given his 3,000 chase, and that he has been nursing a nagging injury as well.

For the players that want the time off, they should have that option. Again, until inter-league play goes away, the All Star game will be nothing more than an exhibition that:
1) once ended in a tie.
2) tried to invent importance by granting home field advantage in the World Series to the league that wins the All Star game, and
3) is played at too late of an hour for kids to be able to watch it, even though the game is played in the summer.

The NFL and NBA may be in lockout situations, but sadly, baseball has lost touch with the fans the most. As someone who grew up on the game, it's sad.

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