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The All-Star Game may 'count', but nobody has told the managers

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Five cuts from the National League's 3-1 win on Tuesday night.

1. There is no way to put this to you gently: you've been hoodwinked. Baseball has sold you the idea that the All-Star Game is meaningful because the winning league gets homefield advantange for the World Series, an idea I have liked. But as long as managers keep running the game as if it's a church picnic softball game, the idea that the game "counts" is a farce.

The game hit a new low Tuesday night with game management shenanigans -- worse than the tie in Milwaukee, because that game had nothing attached to it. Baseball keeps gerrymandering the rules of the game (somehow the first 72 All-Star Games came off just fine with normal rules), by adding roster spots, inserting a reentry rule, adding special rules for catchers and replacing any starting pitcher who pitched two days earlier. And yet the game becomes even more of a farce.

Here's what happened Tuesday night: down to his final three outs with the World Series schedule on the line, AL manager Joe Girardi of the Yankees left the battleship U.S.S. David Ortiz in the game to run the bases and John (.239 lifetime) Buck to hit while leaving Alex (all-time active home run leader) Rodriguez on the bench. Of course, such thinking blew up on him and the World Series will begin in an NL city.

You cannot take the game seriously when it is played this way. Ortiz, leading off, singled in the ninth with the AL trailing, 3-1. He should have been removed for a pinch-runner immediately. Girardi, however, had run through so many players just so his players could say, "Look, Mom, I got in the game!" that he had only one position player left on his bench: Rodriguez.

So what happened? After Adrian Beltre struck out, Buck dropped a bloop into rightfield. Ortiz, thinking the ball might be caught, got a late start toward second, where he was thrown out by rightfielder Marlon Byrd. Think about that: World Series homefield on the line and your penultimate out is a 9-6 putout with Ortiz running, Buck batting and Rodriguez on the bench. Ian Kinsler then flied out to end the game.

This idea of rushing players into the game in the middle innings has got to stop. Managers should leave multiple players available for late-game moves -- which is what they do when games are run properly.

Wait. It gets worse. Why wasn't Rodriguez in the game as a runner or a hitter? A team source said after the game that Rodriguez has a slightly sore right thumb and, as a precaution, he was not going to hit in the game unless it was an extreme situation, such as a DH role in extra innings with no other players left. "We weren't going to push it," the source said. "Four days off for our big guy."

That information does not exactly dovetail with the answer Girardi gave when he was asked after the game if Rodriguez was healthy: "Oh, yeah, he's fine."

The facts suggested something else. If he was fine, then why didn't Girardi put him in the game at third base rather than Beltre, who has a hamstring issue? Girardi admitted about Beltre, "We were concerned about his hamstring" and would have lifted him for a pinch-runner if Beltre had reached in the ninth. So why would Girardi play the guy with the balky hamstring (Beltre) at third base rather than the guy he said was healthy (Rodriguez)? Makes no sense. Putting a shaky Beltre into the game before Rodriguez was the tipoff that Girardi wanted to keep Rodriguez out of the game.

And how did Rodriguez even get on the team? The fans didn't pick him. The players didn't pick him. His manager, Girardi, picked him.

And if the Yankees staff did want to keep Rodriguez out of the game to protect his thumb, why would Girardi manage himself into a corner in which his last available position player was compromised even a little bit? Further, if the Yankees did not want Rodriguez to swing the bat unless it was an emergency, why was he even on the active roster?

As these questions came to light after the game, a few AL players were perplexed about how the game was run and the accommodation for Rodriguez.

"Michael Young should have been here then," said one player, suggesting the Texas third baseman as a replacement for Rodriguez on the active roster.

"It's a Yankee thing," said another, shaking his head and laughing.

Said Ortiz, "Yes, I thought they would put in a pinch runner, but this is an All-Star Game, so you never know what's going to happen."

About the embarrassing 9-6 putout, Ortiz said, "Wrong play at the wrong time. And the wrong guy, too."

Baseball has been going about it the wrong way. The way to ensure a better game is to have fewer players, not more. Baseball needs 25-man rosters at the All-Star Game, because the more players and more gimmick rules you give these managers the more the game becomes less like real baseball. Baseball gave Girardi a 34-man roster -- 34! -- and when he was down to his last three outs he had no one to run for Ortiz or hit for Buck.

2. Let's not give Phillies manager Charlie Manuel a pass here. Guess who was the first guy pulled from the game? That would be the guy on his team who got the most votes from fans: Albert Pujols.

And thanks to a three-run double by Brian McCann, Manuel got away with an awful move in the seventh. With runners at first and third with one out and lefthander Matt Thornton pitching for the AL, Manuel called back Andre Ethier and sent Chris Young to bat for him. In no universe does that make any sense, given Ethier is far and away the better run producer.

Create a platoon advantage, you say? Nope. Ethier hits lefthanders (.288) better than Young (.259).

It was just another example of how managers are so wedded to sending up righthanders against lefthanders that they do it by rote, without proper consideration for the actual people involved in the decision.

Young, also far worse at making contact than is Ethier, popped out.

3. The play of the game occurred when Scott Rolen dashed from first base to third base with one out in the seventh inning on a single by Matt Holliday, setting up the NL's winning rally. Rolen is one of the game's best baserunners, and he never hesitated to run on centerfielder Torii Hunter.

"It's what you're taught in Little League, right?" Rolen said. "One out, get to third base. It's no different here. There was never a doubt. And if it comes up Thursday against Colorado, I'll do the same thing."

Asked if he caught Hunter off guard with his aggressiveness, Rolen said, "I think so. I thought I was going to get thrown out by half the basepath." Hunter lost any chance at Rolen with a throw that was off line.

4. Roy Halladay is the one nemesis for Derek Jeter, his Kryptonite. Jeter has faced Halladay 104 times -- more than any other pitcher except Tim Wakefield -- and hit .234 against him with more strikeouts (24) than hits (22). Jeter once joked that Halladay never missed pitching in a series against the Yankees, even if he was due to throw a bullpen session instead of a start. Jeter thought he was done facing Halladay when the pitcher was traded out of the American League last year, moving from Toronto to Philadelphia. But Jeter wound up seeing Halladay in interleague play, anyway.

And what happened when Jeter traveled across the country and plays in the All-Star Game? Yep, he saw Halladay yet again. Jeter was the first batter Halladay faced when the righthander entered in the sixth inning. Jeter laughed at the absurdity of facing Halladay yet again. Then he dropped a bloop hit into rightfield.

5. Of course, this being the year of the pitcher, no home runs were hit. That makes two straight All-Star Games without a home run -- the first time that's happened since 1957-58. The last player to hit an All-Star Game home run was J.D. Drew -- and he hit it in a park that no longer exists (Yankee Stadium II, in 2008). We have watched 185 straight All-Star at-bats over 26 innings since then without anybody going yard.

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