For a crappy game, the 2012 All Star Game will certainly go down as one of the more memorable All Star weeks in recent memory.
Thanks to the mini-controversy of Yankee Robinson Cano not selecting Royal Billy Butler for the Home Run Derby, the event turned into an opportunity for Kansas City baseball fans to unload 25 years of frustration on the best player on the best team in the league. And then, since this is 2012, everyone with any perspective on Boo-gate got to completely overreact to it.
I’m firmly in the “This Was a Silly Little Thing That Too Many People Took Too Seriously” camp. Cano was silly to say that he would include a Royal on the AL HR Derby squad earlier this year if he didn’t mean it. Royals fans were silly for acting like it was a black mark on the game that Billy Butler was not included. The national media was silly for not talking about Cano’s promise or realizing the reaction to him got stronger the longer he struggled in his Derby at bats. Had he knocked one out early, I think it never becomes the big deal it ended up being.
In this whole silly mess there was some stupidity, though. It was stupid for anyone to take the ire of the Royals fans, at least on Monday night, too seriously. It was stupid for any Royals fans that were rude and abusive to Cano’s family Tuesday. Not that it excuses such behavior, but it was stupid for the national media to act like Monday and Tuesday were the first time a home crowd ever reacted strongly towards a player. As Derek Jeter said, the reaction he received in Boston in 1999 was much worse. And it was stupid for some writers, a couple who are even pretty good ones, to assert that the performance of the KC fans will somehow keep them from ever signing a free agent again.
I was in the strange position Tuesday night of actually agreeing with most of what the Fox team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver said about the ‘controversy’. They seemed to understand it was mostly light hearted and good natured and there was no menace behind it.
It’s a cliché to say that the All Star Game has lost its luster. Baseball hasn’t been America’s favorite sport in decades. When I was growing up, Little League baseball was done right around the time the All Star Game rolled around. Now leagues last all summer, and countless other kids who used to be sitting around are instead at camps or in summer leagues for other sports. We have a million crappy TV choices and the firehose that is the Internet. There are a lot of things to do other than sit down and catch up with what’s been going on in baseball for the first half of the season during the Mid-Summer Classic.
Even in its glory days, each year’s All Star Games blended into each other. Only the ones with big moments stood the test of time. There was Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse, Dave Parker’s throw, Bo Jackson’s home run, Randy Johnson zipping one behind Jon Kruk’s head, and, of course, The Tie. Those are the All Star Games everyone remembers. Thanks to Robinson Cano and angry Royals fans, though, the 2012 All Star Game is now on that list.
Aside from that, it seemed to be a pretty good time in Kansas City. Which makes the Midwest 2-for-2 in hosting big sports events this year after Indy’s fine performance with the Super Bowl earlier this year. People were properly enamored with the food and people in the city, and Kauffman Stadium got a rare moment in the national spotlight.
Which was bittersweet for me. I remember when the K (then Royals Stadium) was always in the middle of important events in baseball. Once upon a time NBC came to town a few times a year for the Game of the Week, Monday Night Baseball would make a couple visits, and October usually meant more network coverage. It’s been a long time since Kansas City baseball mattered and when the game ended, it didn’t feel like we were that much closer to it being a big deal again.
Joe Posnanski wrote a wonderful ode to Kansas City before the game which also touched on the rarity of this moment.
Kansas City gets the All-Star Game, and it’s likely that this will be the last time Kansas City will be in the national sports spotlight for a long time. Kansas City used to be in the spotlight with regularity. But times have changed. Unless something dramatic changes – and it almost certainly won’t – there won’t ever be a Super Bowl here, a U.S. Open here, another Final Four here. There’s a beautiful arena downtown that was built largely for an NBA or NHL team that almost certainly won’t ever come. Another World Series seems as distant as anything. The All-Star Game won’t come back for a long time.
Lots of George Brett appearances over the week. Which meant several people linked to one of the greatest things ever created on the Internet. Many of you are familiar with the infamous video of Brett describing a particularly nasty night in Las Vegas while on a spring training practice field. I did not know, however, that someone had remixed that video and turned it into a fine little song.
Shitty game, though. Shame it wasn’t Carlos Beltran who got the NL rolling instead of the other former Royal in the NL outfield, Melky Cabrera. When Tony LaRussa started treating it like a real game, despite being up eight, by swapping pitchers late in the game, I sat on my couch with my middle finger raised at the TV. Please keep your word and stay retired, Tony.
Now we can go back to complaining about how the Royals still suck, how Dayton Moore needs to go, and how the Glass family needs to sell. July baseball!