My annual anti-All-Star Game rant

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I’m sorry, but I’m having a hard time getting my All-Star rah-rah on. I hate to fall in line with all of those other cranks, but the fact is that the All-Star Game ain’t what it used
to be. Which would be fine — exhibitions can be fun — but the whole home field advantage in the World Series thing goes and messes it up even on that level.  Home field matters, and here we have Charlie Manuel putting Andre Ethier in center field and writing Ryan Howard in the cleanup spot against a lefty for some damn reason.  That’s galling enough all things being equal, but seeing as though my Braves have a non-trivial chance of winning the pennant this year I’m starting to take it personally. And I love me some Charlie Manuel, so getting irked at him is not a fun experience at all.

You know my other complaints before I give voice to them: there are too many players. Too many pitchers coming in to fire gas for an inning and thus
lowering offense so much that even a pitching guy like me finds the proceedings boring. How much better would the game be if they’d simply cut down the rosters a bit and get rid of the every-team-must-have-a-player rule? We’ll never know because it ain’t gonna happen, so I should probably just stop my grousing now.

I guess what really gets me here — and stop me if my nostalgia is interfering with, you know, the facts — but I really do feel like the All-Star Game mattered a lot more back in the day, even if it didn’t count for anything as important as home field advantage. Maybe not to the players. I don’t buy that “they cared more back then” line that people fall for. Everyone likes to trot out the Rose-plows-into-Fosse story, but (a) I think Rose would be knocking over guys if he played now too; and (b) I think guys tried hard then and now in equal measure. Some care, some don’t, They just played more innings back then so it looked like more cared.

No, it’s to the fans that it doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. It used to be that the only chance we had to see of a lot of guys was during the All-Star Game, but now we have multiple national games a week and if you have the Extra Innings package or MLB.tv you can see any player just about any night.  And that was the thrill for me, really, seeing guys like Dave Parker or Mike Schmidt in my American League TV market back in the early 80s. There’s really no novelty to it anymore.

I’m prepared to admit that I’m falling into baseless cliche here, and if I am, tell me so.  But for the past several years of blogging about baseball I’ve been unable to escape the feeling that the game I love devotes a night to unorthodox and aesthetically unsatisfying play with the added annoyance of something actually important being decided, and I just can’t abide it.

I’m a sucker, though, so as always, I’ll watch it. But as I do I’ll be asking myself: why?

Leonys Martin feared for his life from alleged human traffickers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30: Leonys Martin #12 of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 30, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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Leonys Martin, outfielder for the Seattle Mariners, testified yesterday that he feared for his life after he was smuggled from Cuba by a group of men prosecutors say worked for a sports agent and a baseball trainer currently on trial for human trafficking in Miami.

Martin took the stand at the trial of Bartolo Hernandez and Julio Estrada, who face felony charges. He said that, after getting to Mexico from Cuba, men threatened to take him away. There was a kidnapping attempt against one of the men who had taken him from Cuba as well. Martin said that, eventually, he crossed the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas without any valid papers because his life was in danger and his safety was at risk.

Players like Martin who fled Cuba often hole up in Mexico while waiting to be declared free agents by Major League Baseball. There is pitched competition to sign agreements with the players in question, seeking to obtain promises of a cut of future baseball earnings for their services. Those promises can come under the threat of violence. Eventually, Martin promised to pay Hernandez and Estrada, but ceased paying them later, fomenting a lawsuit from them. In the wake of the suit, the allegations of threats and smuggling arose, leading to this trial.

Martin has been late to Mariners camp as a result of having to testify. He’ll likely report in the next day or so. The trial continues.

Josh Hamilton leaves camp with a tweaked knee

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers poses during a spring training photo shoot on February 28, 2016 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Josh Hamilton was already a long shot to make the Texas Rangers roster, but his shot got even longer today, as he left camp to have his reconstructed left knee examined after experiencing pain.

As Jeff Wilson reports, Hamilton felt discomfort in the knee during the Rangers’ first full-squad spring training workout yesterday. Hamilton has had 10 knee operations in career. Which is a lot of knee operations in case you were unaware.

You have to wish good luck to Hamilton, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The guy has not played in the major leagues since 2015 and even then he didn’t play well, hitting .253 with eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 50 games. He appeared in one game last year for Double-A Frisco, on April 30. He’ll be paid $24 million this year, mostly by the Angels. One suspects that this will likewise be his last spring training.