By Tom Verducci
April 30, 2010

Last year 71 players were named All-Stars -- that's up from 58 only 10 years ago and 36 when the event began in 1933. Can it possibly get more bloated? You bet. Commissioner Bud Selig's on-field committee has paved the way for even more players to call themselves All-Stars. Beginning this summer, All-Star pitchers who start a game on the Sunday before the Midsummer Classic with be replaced on the team. Moreover, the official rosters have been expanded yet again -- from 33 to 34 players -- with the addition of another position player. Chalk up the usual bailouts based on injuries (real or imagined), and you're likely to see as many as 80 players named "All-Stars." Why not just give everyone a shiny participation medal and announce, "Everybody is a winner!"

Of course, the ghost of Milwaukee 2002 -- the dreaded 7-7 tie after 11 innings -- continues to scare the bejeebers out of major league managers, who somehow think that 33 players still isn't enough to run a game -- and they need the embarrassment of the youth baseball re-entry rule thrown in there, too (managers will now be able to choose a position player to re-enter the game if the last available position player at any position is injured.)

Please stop. The All-Star Game is in danger of imploding, collapsing upon itself from its own burgeoning, unnecessary weight.

Here's one way to gain some context on how much the rosters have been watered down. There were 249 players who qualified for the batting title or ERA title or saved at least 30 games last season -- that's essentially your pool of regular players. And there were 71 All-Stars. That number represents about 30 percent of regular players. Push it up around 80 players, which is where we are headed this year, and you'll have about one out of every three regular players calling themselves an All-Star.

In 12 previous seasons, all of them losing ones, the Baltimore Orioles have lost 1.7 million paying customers from their attendance, or 47 percent of the house. It may get worse. A 4-18 start, Baltimore's worst other than the 0-21 debacle of 1988, threatens to cut interest even further. The Orioles face a business model nightmare: irrelevant by the time school lets out and the peak drawing season begins.

Baltimore appeared to moving forward with young players such as Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters and Brian Matusz. But, according to one rival executive, their model was flawed. "They took good young players and surrounded them with non-tenders, veteran guys who can't play," the executive said. "It's a brutal combination."

The Orioles' investments, meager though they may be, in players such as Garett Atkins, Mike Gonzalez, Miguel Tejada, Julio Lugo and Cesar Izturis have not advanced the club. Look at their roster: they have few valuable commodities any other team would want. And Wieters, Jones and Markakis (five home runs combined) have exhibited little power.

The Orioles are last in the AL in offense, have scored three runs or less in 15 of their 22 games, and squeaked out three of their four wins by one run -- leaving them thisclose to another 1-21 start.

The Orioles need to gain some momentum rather quickly, but the schedule is working against them. They still have 13 games left in a 22-game stretch against the Mariners, Yankees, Red Sox and Twins -- and they are 2-7 nine games into it. They have lost all seven series to start the season.

History also is working against them. The 2010 Orioles are only the 12th team since 1900 to start 4-18 or worse. Here are the only five clubs to do so in the past 40 years -- and how badly they ended up.

Is it too early to talk about the National League Cy Young Award race? Nah. It looks that interesting -- in April. Ubaldo Jimenez of Colorado is the real deal, but just look at the competition. There are five former Cy Young Award winners in the NL. And all of them look like they're rather serious about hanging another Cy on the wall. Check out how the active Cy Young winners have done this season in the NL:

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