I can’t find evidence of his rant anywhere, but I recall Frank Sinatra, within the last decade of his life, delivering a spiel for the benefit of George Michael, the essence of which was, “You’re a star, baby — act like it!” It’s even better if you picture Phil Hartman doing Sinatra.
Ol’ Blue Eyes’ nebulous advice came to mind when considering Pedro Martinez’s decision to pull out of the All-Star Game next week. His stated reason, that he’s pitching Sunday and won’t be available Tuesday therefore it wouldn’t be fair to soak up a roster spot, sounds very noble. But it’s very wrong.
You’re a star, Pedro! And for one beautiful night, Detroit’s the town, baby! If you’re ever gonna twinkle, twinkle where the lights are brightest, right there in the heart of that Motor City! You stand on that foul line and when the man calls your name, you step forward and you tip your cap and you wave long enough and loud enough so the folks in the Big Apple know that you know that they’re out there lovin’ you! ‘Cause they do love you, you crazy mop of Jheri curls attached to a twig of a body and a right arm I’d rent out my larynx for to have just once in my life! You’re an All-Star, baby — act like it!
There are some among us who are relieved that Pedro will bubblewrap himself for our protection. “The second half’s important and Pedro needs his rest.” How about “the second half’s important and Pedro’s not a porcelain doll”? Martinez has done nothing but satisfy since the moment he slipped into our multitude of colors but I can’t say I approve of his opting out of the All-Star Game.
It’s the All-Star Game!
Granted, by the sixth inning if not before, I will be flipping constantly to VH-1 Classic and reluctantly back to Fox, but the point of the All-Star Game, despite its counting “this time,” is not the game itself. It’s seeing your players representing your team, representing you. And if we’re not impressed by it, somebody watching is.
Every wise guy who groans that roster space should not be saved for the lone Devil Ray or Brewer or member of whichever team is out of fashion should remember that it does matter to somebody. It matters to the kid growing up in Tarpon Springs, Fla. that Danys Baez is there. It matters to the youngster in Waukesha, Wisc. that Carlos Lee gets a nod. It mattered to plenty of apprentice Mets fans of a certain vintage that John Stearns wore blue and orange at these affairs when nobody else was invited to.
It matters. It’s the All-Star Game. It’s got all the stars in one game! Every fan, especially every kid who’s a fan, deserves to believe that his team has at least one star. And the least the stars can do is show up and acknowledge that they were chosen.
Thirty-five years ago this month was my first All-Star game, maybe the most famous All-Star Game of them all, certainly containing the most famous All-Star Game play there ever was, Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse to win it for the National League in extra innings. It didn’t occur to my unsophisticated mind that Pete Rose was overdoing it for an exhibition game. It didn’t occur to me that Ray Fosse’s career and perhaps life were in danger. All I knew was my team (the N.L. had the Mets, so the N.L. was my team) had beaten the other team. Yea!
I took these things very seriously. More seriously than I do now (marginally). Gil Hodges managed the N.L. All-Stars. Tom Seaver started the game. Bud Harrelson played. Such pride I felt! The idea that you could vote for who played, too, fascinated me. I hadn’t yet been to an actual Mets game or anywhere where they said you could fill out a ballot, so I assumed it was like a real election, that you had to go into a voting both and close a curtain. I also assumed that the choices you made were sacred, that you would never, ever just vote for a player because he was on your favorite team. Tom Seaver and Bud Harrelson? Deserved to go. Ray Sadecki and Dave Marshall? I knew better.
1970 was the first year of modern fan balloting. Only a handful of players were even listed on the ballot at each position. Rico Carty wasn’t, but won on a write-in vote because he was leading the league in batting. That’s how serious fans were back then. That’s how seriously I believe the whole process deserves to be taken (so much for marginally).
Somewhere along the way, MLB became one big pander bear where this thing was concerned. “Vote for your favorite players!” “Vote for your favorite Mets!” Huh? What’s favorite got to do with anything? This is about who’s the best, not who ya like! Hey, why isn’t anybody listening to me? And why aren’t there actual voting booths at the ballparks? Isn’t this a secret ballot?
OK, I took it more seriously than needed be, and I’ll admit that when I bother to fill out a ballot today it’s not with the most noble of intentions. Really, I just as soon take my lead from Dave Murray, the Mets Guy in Michigan, whose relative proximity to this year’s festivities apparently lent him some excellent insight.
As long as we’re handing out plaudits, thank you White Sox fans for pushing Scott Podsednik over the finish line for the Last Man Standing slot. You kept Captain Killjoy away from Comerica, thus sparing us the “Derek comes home and is universally adored as the Face of Baseball in his home state” storyline and left the Pinstripe Amen Corner, particularly its increasingly tiresome house organ, in a tizzy. We’re beloved! We’re Yankees! I want trading reopened right now. Get those brokers back in here! Turn those machines back on!
Anyway, I digress. It was appropriate that one of our electees drove in our other electee with the winning run in Washington on Thursday. Good for Mike. Good for Carlos. Neither of you are exactly tearing it up, but you’re doing the right thing. You’re going. Pedro should go. Cliff should’ve been asked. Our two best players won’t line up with the stars. That’s a shame.
And I’m still annoyed at Walter Alston for passing over Del Unser in 1975.