- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2002

MILWAUKEE As Joe Torre made his way toward the box seats at Miller Park during the 11th inning of Tuesday night's All-Star Game, Bud Selig suddenly realized he was going to have to make one of the toughest decisions in his 10-year tenure as baseball commissioner.
Torre, manager of the American League All-Star team, and Bob Brenly, manager of the National League squad, informed Selig that they were unwilling to extend the last pitchers on their respective squads beyond the 11th inning. Unless the NL scored in its final at-bat, the game would have to be declared a 7-7 tie.
In the few moments he was given to assess the situation, Selig wracked his brain to come up with some solution that wouldn't result in a tie, an outcome he knew would amount to baseball sacrilege. With no reasonable alternative at his disposal, though, he reluctantly agreed to call the game after the 11th, and in doing so set off the kind of controversy that seems to follow this sport.
"It was a very sad experience for me," Selig said yesterday. "I spent a very lonely and sad evening."
The 73rd All-Star Game won't be remembered for its pregame tribute to baseball's most memorable moments, Torii Hunter's spectacular robbery of Barry Bonds' bid for a home run or a host of late-inning rallies that made this one of the most competitive midsummer exhibitions in recent memory.
It will be remembered for its bizarre conclusion, or more appropriately, non-conclusion.
"I thought that was one of the best beginnings to an All-Star Game you'll ever see," Atlanta Braves right-hander John Smoltz said. "Some are going to say that was probably one of the worst endings to an All-Star Game they've ever seen."
An ending that in retrospect probably could have been avoided but was impossible to correct at the time.
The debate began as soon as the game was called at 12:35 a.m. Wednesday and likely will continue for years: Could Selig have done anything to ensure that the game was played in its entirety?
"There were no position players left; there were no pitchers left," Selig said. "The National League pitcher (Philadelphia's Vicente Padilla) was really struggling. To go into further extra innings without any pitching was really the only option. There was no other option."
A handful of gimmicky alternatives have been suggested, from using position players as pitchers to reinserting pitchers who had already left the game to settling the outcome with a home run derby (as though this were a World Cup shootout instead of a baseball game). None, however, was viable.
Asked about using position players as pitchers, Selig replied, "If you want to engage in another travesty, well, that would be it. That was a very, very unattractive option, and one that frankly there is no support in baseball for."
Reinserting a pitcher who was out of the game, thereby breaking one of baseball's cardinal rules?
"[Torre and Brenly] were very nervous about that," Selig said. "You really take the chance of somebody getting hurt."
Upon being informed over the Miller Park PA system with only two outs to go that the 11th inning would be the last, the 41,871 fans let their feelings be known. They booed unmercifully, began a chant of "let them play let them play!" and hurled insults at Selig, the Milwaukee native who used to own their Brewers.
It did not matter. When Freddy Garcia, the AL's ninth pitcher of the night, struck out Benito Santiago looking at a breaking ball with two outs in the bottom of the 11th, the second tie in All-Star Game history was official. The previous one, in 1961, came about only because torrential rains hit Boston's Fenway Park after the ninth inning. There was no act of God this time, only mounds of controversy circling around Torre and Brenly's game management and Selig's reluctant decision to end the game.
"I'll say this: If Benito Santiago had gotten a hit, I'd have leaped on the field, hugged him and carried him off on my old shoulders," Selig said.
For decades, the All-Star Game was a fiercely contested showdown between the American and National leagues, and the managers' use of their players reflected that. Starting pitchers went three innings. A significant number of position players played the entire game. Several backups never left the dugout.
That all changed in the last decade, though; the primary objective of the All-Star Game is now to make sure that every one of the 30 members of each team's roster gets to play.
So by the time nine innings had been completed Tuesday night, 58 of the 60 All-Stars had already participated. The only men left were the predetermined emergency pitchers: the Mariners' Garcia and the Phillies' Padilla.
"When you have players come to an All-Star Game, you want to get them in," Torre said. "The downside is, if you get them all in and it's the ninth inning, the 10th inning and the 11th inning well, you can't have it both ways."
No pitcher threw more than two innings Tuesday, and only five (including Garcia and Padilla) went even that long. Neither Torre nor Brenly was about to send his emergency pitcher back out for a third inning, particularly Padilla, who had been having trouble getting loose since he entered the game in the 10th.
"These organizations entrust us with their players," Brenly said. "And the last thing we want to do is send home a guy who is not going to be able to compete for the ballclub that's paying his salary and expecting him to go out there and perform for his home fans."
Padilla was experiencing arm trouble, but Garcia (who was working on four days' rest and isn't scheduled to pitch again until Monday) indicated he could have continued.
"I could have gone a couple of more innings," he said. "Six or seven? I don't know. But maybe."
Selig indicated yesterday that changes will be made for future All-Star Games, though he did not fully elaborate. Many critics have been calling for expanded rosters, from the current 30 to 35 or even 40.
But the more pressing issue appears to be the use of players, no matter how many are representing each league. It may be time for both starting pitchers and position players to remain in the game longer, at the expense of a handful of backups who would be left out.
"I don't think guys would be unhappy if they come to the All-Star Game and don't play," Arizona outfielder Luis Gonzalez said. "It's an honor just coming here."
Said Selig: "That needs to be re-evaluated more than adding players to the roster. The starters should play longer."
Changes in both rules and ideology are certain to show up in future All-Star Games. But Selig can do nothing to soften the blow of Tuesday's debacle, other than to offer a stern promise to the baseball world.
Said Selig: "This will never happen again."

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