Overhauling the Midsummer Classic

By: Ryan Smith

Most sports fans would agree that, when it comes to all-star games and the festivities associated with them, Major League Baseball puts the other professional sports leagues to shame.

But that’s not saying much.

When you break it down, the other leagues aren’t doing a whole lot to overtake MLB in this category.

The NFL’s Pro Bowl is a joke. If it’s before the Super Bowl, you are missing the best players from the league’s two best teams. If it’s after the Super Bowl, no one cares because, well, it’s after the Super Bowl. Hell, they almost cancelled the damn game in the last few months!

The NBA used to have an impressive All-Star Weekend. Used to. I remember when the Slam Dunk Contest had the league’s best players competing year-in and year-out. These guys wanted to win. Back before Vince Carter was a salary-cap albatross, he absolutely tore the place down. Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan also found the time to compete – and win – this once-wonderful competition. Now, the contest is filled with a bunch of bench players who can jump but can’t actually play a lick of basketball. And, believe it or not, the All-Star Game itself features less defense than a typical regular season NBA game.

The NHL’s All-Star Game is…well, to be honest, I can’t stand hockey. When they went on strike, I realized I didn’t miss the NHL. Maybe the NHL has an amazing All-Star Weekend. Who cares? It’s hockey.

That brings us to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. As I said before, this is the best All-Star Game in professional sports. But it could be better.

With that being said, here are a few suggestions that, in my opinion, would make MLB’s Midsummer Classic even better:

1) Make the Futures Game a bigger part of the festivities.

This little four-day break from the grind of the regular season is supposed to be an exhibition – a time to celebrate the season thus far and a chance to showcase the best of the best…and Pablo Sandoval. Well, if it’s an exhibition and a showcase, then why not shine a little more light on this game, which selects the best players from all minor league levels? First of all, this game draws the short straw by being broadcast on the Sunday before the ASG, when there are still major league games being played. If you were lucky enough to tune in to the dominating performance by Team USA on Sunday night, you were able to see some of the pitchers and hitters that will soon become household names. I know this will never replace the Homerun Derby as the biggest event before the game itself, but it is by far the best display of actual baseball talent before the game.

2) Fix the Homerun Derby.

Hamilton didn’t win the Homerun Derby in 2008, but he should have.

First of all, no captains. That’s just stupid. Especially when one of the captains has been on the DL for a good chunk of the season and cannot even participate in the ASG itself. Instead, why not just take the top four homerun hitters from each league’s roster? Taking the guys who have hit the most homeruns in that given year seems to make sense, right? Right. So let’s move on. Next, the winner should be the guy who hits the most homeruns over the course of the entire contest. A few years ago, Justin Morneau “won” the Derby, but no one remembers that. Everyone remembers Josh Hamilton hitting 28 homers in the first round. Maybe Hamilton tired himself out with that first round. Should he have stopped at 15 and saved something for the final round? No! The Homerun Derby is supposed to be entertaining, so let’s do whatever we can to keep it that way. Finally, why not add a little twist to the Derby? College baseball’s homerun derby features a bonus ball (similar to the last ball in each rack of the NBA’s Three-Point Shootout), so why not add that? Or maybe they could have special “zones” that are worth two homeruns? When Sammy Sosa was wowing the crowd at Miller Park in 2002 with his shots off of Bernie’s slide or when Prince was knocking them into the fountain in K.C., why not give them a bonus? I’m sure I could think of more changes for the Derby, but I’ll move on for now.

3) Change the roster selection process.

I think this year’s roster fiasco proved that fans just don’t know what they’re doing. Sometimes, the managers struggle with this, too. I know the fan vote will never be taken away, but it should be. Derek Jeter wouldn’t have been good enough to start in the Futures Game, let alone the ASG. And don’t even get me started on Kung Fu Sandoval. Anyway, since the fan vote has no chance of changing, let’s look at the other elements of the roster selection process. Personally, I think the players might do the best job in selecting the most-deserving participants for the ASG. So why do they need to vote by the end of May? When the players selected Lance Lynn as an all-star this year, he was still pitching really well. In that pesky month after the players voted, the wheels fell off for Lynn, yet he still made it ahead of Zack Greinke. So let’s push back the deadline for the players to vote so their selections accurately reflect as much of the season as possible. Also, instead of just having the manager of each All-Star Team select players, why not have all of the managers in each league vote? It just makes sense to include as many voices as possible in this process.

4) Bring in some fun announcers.

Uke would make the All-Star game infinitely more entertaining.

I’m stealing this one from Manny Parra (@MannyParra26), who tweeted that the ASG should have All-Star announcers. I completely agree. Now, I must admit that I may be a bit biased for two reasons. One: I hate Joe Buck. Always have. Always will. Two: If we’re talking about All-Star announcers, don’t you think our very own Bob Uecker would be in the running? As Parra tweeted, “Anyone else think that the All-Star game should be announced by Uecker, and Skully? Would make sense…All-Star Announcers.” Bob Uecker and Vin Scully announcing the ASG together? Sign me up, please.

5) The Managers should be from this season’s best team in each league.

If the game is supposed to matter, then why do we have the managers from last year’s World Series? This makes absolutely no sense to me. And this year, it has gone to new levels with the retired Tony LaRussa taking the reigns for the NL. (Ed. Note: I know the National League won 8-0, but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous that a retired guy is managing in a game that is supposed to matter.) Why in the world is a guy who is no longer managing having an impact on home-field advantage for the World Series? This doesn’t seem like a tough change, so make it happen, Bud.

6) Quit having the game determine home-field advantage for the World Series.

This is the biggest change that needs to be made. There is no way that a game being played in July should have a direct impact on the World Series. Remember, this rule was put into place because the 2002 ASG ended in a tie. Because we couldn’t live in a world where the ASG ended in a tie, Bud Selig decided that he would take this exhibition game and have it play a pivotal role in the freaking World Series! In that very game that ended in a tie, I remember Torii Hunter making a leaping catch at the wall to rob Barry Bonds of a homerun. For the most part, the players were always trying, so why change it? Seriously, this needs to stop. Let’s just let this exhibition game remain an exhibition.

These are only a few changes that I think would help the overall All-Star experience for Major League Baseball. As is, the MLB All-Star Game is the best of the best in professional sports. But that doesn’t mean that they should stand pat.

With a few simple changes, Major League Baseball could make the Midsummer Classic a true classic.

Someone Like “Ueck”: Mr. Baseball to be Imortalized August 31st in Milwaukee

by Kevin Kimmes

We here at Cream City Cables would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations (and an apology for the above Adele parody title) to Bob Uecker on becoming the latest member of the Brewers family to be immortalized outside of Miller Park.

On August 31st, “Ueck” will join Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, and Bud Selig as the most recent statue recipient at the ball park. Earlier this week, Uecker quipped that his statue would be the first one to be entirely made of paper mache, and that the team also planned on attaching some sort of feeder to it in order to attract pigeons to the statue.

When asked what the statue would look like, Uecker was quick to respond:

“Kind of a Schwarzenegger-type thing. Beefcake. Speedos. Pretty buffed. It’s really enhanced. I’ve seen pictures of the finished product, and, yes, I’m very pleased, as a matter of a fact. It’s drawing a lot of attention. More than that swimsuit issue.”

Swimsuit issue, you ask? Uecker was referring to the infamous picture of himself, poolside, that ran with an article on the Brewers in Sports Illustrated in 2008, and which can be found here.

Now you may be asking yourself, “Why has it taken this long for Uecker to take his place among the immortals, like Hank Aaron and Robin Yount, and…and…well, let’s just focus on those two statues for now…” Well the answer is simple. As current Brewers owner Mark Attanasio pointed out this week, 2012 is the 50th anniversary of Uecker’s first major league game (he debuted as a catcher with the Milwaukee Braves in 1962), and despite being a .200 hitter in his 7 years in the majors, the statue represents just the latest accomplishment for a man who can be counted as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame, and the Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame, among others.

Stay tuned to Cream City Cables all season long as we will continue to cover this story and all the Uecker related news that’s fit to print (and probably some that isn’t).

All You Need Is Love – What I Love About The Game of Baseball

by Kevin Kimmes

With today being Valentines Day, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the things I love most about baseball. And while I’m on the subject of love, I would like to dedicate this article to my fiance, Abigail Bellehumeur, who has shown unwavering patience despite having to share me with the “other woman” who she claims has the initials “M. L. B.”, and to my mom, Sandy Kimmes, whose birthday it is today. I love you both very much!

I Love The Brewers

I know, that should go without saying, but it’s important, I think, to start here. Through thick and through thin (and there has been a lot of the later and a lot less of the prior), the Brewers have been, and will always be, my home team. Throughout the years, I’ve tried to cheer for other teams, but much like wearing someone else’s clothes, I never felt comfortable sporting another teams colors.

I think we fall in love with the team that we have the greatest connection to as children. For me, I remember going to my grandparents and spending time sitting in the garage with my grandfather as he listened to Bob Uecker call the games on the radio, a warm summer breeze blowing in through the open garage door. For me, these were some of my first experiences with the game, and will always be cherished memories that I carry with me throughout my life.

I Love The History Of The Game

The fact that we as fans celebrate the teams, and players, of yesteryear just as much, if not more so, than the players of today says something about the game as a whole. Despite changes to the game throughout the years, baseball is fundamentally the same game it was over 100 years ago. This allows for easy comparison of today’s teams and players with those from the past, allowing us to have a better understanding of those who we never had a chance to see play.

Need proof? Every year we celebrate Jackie Robinson Day and award the best pitchers with the Cy Young Award. Our favorite teams wear throwback uniforms to remind us of where they came from, and to pay homage to those that paved the way (the Negro Leagues). And, millions take the pilgrimage to Cooperstown each year to not only view history with their own eyes, but to wish congratulations to that years Hall of Fame induction class.

I Love That The Game Is Allowed To Move At Its Own Pace

Baseball is that rare sport that we allow to take as much (or as little) time as needed. We express patience and hang on each moment with the wonder of what may come next. We do not hold the game to a time limit, like we do with football, basketball, hockey, etc. As long as a team can avoid the final out in the 9th, we give them as much time as they need to mount a comeback, no matter how improbable.

This to me is beautiful in the sense that it allows hope and optimism to bloom even when things look their darkest, something that we can take away from the game and use in our daily lives.

I Love Bud Selig

This has nothing to do with his work as commissioner, no, this has to do with the fact that he was the man who brought Major League Baseball back to Milwaukee after the Braves walked out after the 1965 season. Having been born in the late seventies, if Bud hadn’t purchased the ailing Seattle Pilots and relocated them to Milwaukee, there is a strong possibility that I would never have known the joy of cheering for my home team. I would have still found the game through the school yard or Cable TV, but would have probably wound up a Twins fan,  a White Sox Fan, a Tigers fan, or (gasp) a Cubs fan!

I Love The Emotion That A Game (Or Moment) Can Create

While I have been wowed by spectacular plays and angered by bonehead on field buffoonery over the years, the strongest emotional reaction I have ever felt during a game transpired on September 23, 2011. Seated 4 rows up off of the 1st baseline between Fielder and Hart, Abby and I saw the Brewer win the NL Central Division title for the first time in franchise history.

When we had first received the tickets in July, I had joked that it looked like we would probably be going to a AAA game that night, as this was the final series at home for the year and the Brewers were on pace to have the division locked up prior to the game transpiring. As the weeks went by, and the Brewers pace slowed, the likelihood began to become more and more real that we may be on hand to see history. However, it was a Cardinals loss the previous evening to the Mets that finally cemented the scenario.

As we sat in our seats that night, our eyes kept shifting from the play on the field to the wall in left field where the score from the Cardinals/Cubs game was occasionally displayed. In the top of the 9th, with 2 men out, and the batter in a 1-1 count, we saw what we were waiting for. Alfonso Soriano had just gone yard putting the Cubs ahead. In his post game interview that night John Axford was asked if he knew what was going on when the crowd erupted, saying that he assumed he knew, but hadn’t turned around to confirm his suspicions. One player who did though was Ryan Braun, who checked the score over his shoulder, then returned to his defensive position with a huge grin on his face.

With two innings to go in the Cardinals/Cubs contest, no one moved as 44,000 fans, plus the team, turned to the outfield video wall to await history. As the Cardinals game went final and the image on the screen changed to the NL Central Champions graphic, I turned to Abby as I fought back tears, only to find that she was crying. I pulled her close and hugged her tight, kissing her cheek in the process, as confetti rained down around us. That’s what I mean by emotion, and that is why I truly love this game.

Happy Valentines Day!