- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The All-Star Game used to be about the game.

Now it’s about the Home Run Derby.

It used to be about winning.

Now it’s about trying to get every player into the game.

It used to be about Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse in 1970.

Now it’s about Bud Selig calling a tie in 2002 because both teams ran out of pitchers in the 11th inning.

It used to be about proving which league was better.

But now that the All-Star Game decides home-field advantage in the World Series, the players couldn’t care less.

The most egregious part of the watering down of the All-Star Game is the rule that says every team must have a representative. This rule is exacerbated by managers aiming to get every one of those players in the game.

The player representation rule was a fine one for the first All-Star Game in 1933. Each league had eight teams, and 17 players were selected for each team.

Twelve of the 18 starting position players completed that game because the roster wasn’t deep, and when players like Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons and Charlie Gehringer start, there isn’t much need for substitutes.

Thirty years later, there were 10 teams in each league, and the All-Star rosters had expanded to 26, about the same size as a major league roster.

Five players played the entire game, including Hank Aaron for the fifth time.

Again, if Aaron is playing and the National League is trying to win the game, there isn’t anyone on the bench better than him.

From 1960 to 1982, the National League won 23 of the 26 All-Star Games because it was the first league to integrate fully and had the better players. And it wanted to win. (There were two All-Star Games in three of those seasons, and one was called a tie because of rain.)

By the early 1990s, the game had become almost solely an exhibition.

When Carlos Beltran played the entire game last season, he became the first player to do so since 1997.

There now are 16 teams in the National League, 14 in the American and 32 players on each roster for tonight’s All-Star Game.

Major League Baseball should cut each roster to 25 and get rid of the phony player representation rule. It reeks of receiving a Little League participation trophy.

The Washington Nationals, Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Texas Rangers know they don’t really have any All-Stars.

For everyone else, including deserving All-Stars, to pretend otherwise is a sham.

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