20,000 Free Mustaches

One of the highlights of my summer every year growing up was watching or listening to the Major League Baseball All-Star game – the National League versus the American League. Players like Reggie Jackson, Roberto Clemente, Pete Rose and many other stars of the late 60’s and early 70’s were on the TV only a few times each season. There was no ESPN, DirectTv or cable station for each team. We had our local teams and the Saturday afternoon Game of the Week on NBC. So a chance to see Catfish Hunter pitch to Hank Aaron and Willie Mays or Tom Seaver try to get Brooks and Frank Robinson out was a rare treat. This year, the 79th All-Star game will take place on July 15th at Yankee Stadium.

Another treat was to vote for the All-Star team starters. Back in the day (don’t you just hate that phrase?), you had to go to the ballpark to get a ballot. You would sit with your friends and punch out the little tabs (chads, thank you Al Gore) for each player you wanted to vote for. Basically we voted for all the players on our favorite teams even if they did not deserve to go to the game. You could stuff the ballot box with as many punch cards as you could fill out at the game.

Today, we can do the same thing at the ballpark. But we also get to vote over the Internet. You can sit home and just click away for your favorite players. It’s just not the same thing! The truth is, it’s terrible. What it really has become is a popularity contest just like American Idol (there, I had the stones to say it). Just point a web browser at mlb.com and your mother, brother, uncle and grandmother can put Tony Pena Jr and his .155 batting average in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Just like years ago, each team has to have at least one representative. I can live with that. What I can’t live with is how the rest of the teams are picked today. The starters are selected by the fans, and then the reserves are selected by their fellow players, and the pitchers are selected by the managers (last season’s league champion). Years ago, the players had no say on the roster and the managers picked the players. My gripe with the players having a vote is that they hardly get to see the players in the other league. But my biggest gripe is the FINAL VOTE.

In 2002, the All-Star game ended in a 7-7 tie. Don’t get me wrong, the game is supposed to be about fun. But the managers used all their players (like they should) and had no more pitchers to continue the game. No team is going to allow their star pitcher whom they need for the second half of the season to get used up in a game that does not count when they will need him later in the week. So the powers that be (Commissioner Bud Selig) decided that from now on, the winner of the All-Star game will get to host four out of the seven games in the world series. Until 2002 the leagues alternated each year who had the extra home game. No more fun. This game really counts. In order to ensure the teams don’t run out of players, the rosters were expanded to 32 players for each league. 31 of those players are announced a week before the game. The 32nd player (THE FINAL VOTE) is decided by the fans again (only) on the Internet.

THE FINAL VOTE is nothing more than a chance for the geeks of the world to sit at their computers and vote for one of the five players in each league that Major League Baseball has nominated for the FINAL ROSTER SPOT. Without getting very technical here, since Sunday July 6th, over 42 million votes have been cast for the FINAL VOTE – twice the number of votes cast in all the other years of the FINAL VOTE combined! MLB estimated that over one million votes an hour will come in today.

So whom to vote for? Each of the 10 players have the backing of their team. Each team sends out e-mails each day to talk up their player. I think the Mets and Yankees each send out multiple e-mails each day. Yesterday the NY Yankees handed out fake mustaches to the first 20,000 fans at their game against the Tampa Bay Rays to promote their mustachioed first baseman (he of the gold thong – see June 6th blog) Jason Giambi.

What was once a big time sporting event with greats like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and Stan Musial is now a big joke with fake mustaches and e-mail campaigns. So if you have a few free minutes before 5 pm EST today (July 10th) you too can join the circus by participating in the FINAL VOTE on mlb.com

Your Friend in Sports,

Dave the Sports Guru

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I Have Returned

The Sports Guru is back and better than ever!  A quick 1,350 mile drive across North America to see some baseball will do that to you.  So what did we miss?  Spain beating Germany for the Euro Cup 2008.  The NBA draft (remember the ping pong balls – see May 21, 2008).  Free Agent signing period for the NHL and NBA (is your brain starting to fry?).  The USA Olympic Trials for swimming and track and field.  Week One at Wimbledon.  You see, just because I took a few days off to see Buffalo, Toronto, ALL OF MICHIGAN, Indiana, Illinois, ALL OF WISCONSIN and Minnesota, sports continued at a feverish pace.

So why did the Sports Guru drive almost half-way across Canada and the US?  Remember a few blogs ago when I mentioned my posse?  I take a male bonding trip with a bunch of my buddies to see the country and baseball (we eat well also) each summer.  Over the past five years we have been to 13 major league ballparks, seen 19 (out of 30) major league teams, witnessed 5 minor league games and have traveled to Canada and 12 states in the US. 

Dog tracks, harness tracks, casinos, beer tours, a Jelly bean tour, movie sets, a club where we were twice the age of EVERYBODY else in the building and a boat trip have been some of the side trips along the way.  Throw in motel stays at just about every conceivable chain (the shower heads at Holiday Inn Express are the best), a visit to what might just be the worst hotel in America (Tradewinds Airport Hotel – Inglewood, CA) and now you can see why we do this every year.

Sounds like fun Guru, how do I get to do cool things like you?  First off, you need a spouse who does not mind your being gone for a few days (should not be a problem), then you need a buddy who can read maps VERY WELL (when the sign says “road closed” it really means road closed [we call our guy Magellan]), then a guy/gal who can buy tickets to all the different ball parks, a guy/gal to book the rooms, then a guy/gal to rent the car, a guy/gal to book the airline tickets and a guy/gal to come up with the side trips.  Does it still sound like fun?

The truth is there are tour companies that specialize in this type of trip.  Not that I taken any of these, but here are two that do it all by bus and are well known.  Jay Buckley Baseball Tours –http://www.jaybuckley.com/, and Bodine Unlimited Tours – http://www.bodineunlimitedtours.com/baseball.htm.  Better than the tour companies, the Sports Guru can plan a trip for you (and it will be cheaper than the other guys, I promise).  You see, I do EVERYTHING except read the maps (we share pumping the gas) when we plan our trip each summer.  So if this sounds like fun and you have a spare weekend and some buddies who like sports, drop me an email (david.nagelberg@gmail.com) and let’s see if I can help you enjoy sports close up this summer.  

 Your Friend in Sports,

 

Dave the Sports Guru.