Today is one of the two saddest day of the sports calendar. Today and Wednesday are the only two days of the summer that there are no Major League Baseball games available to us, and the only two days of the entire year on which there are no major sports leagues competing.
What's worse is that while the All-Star game used to captivate me, and the home-run hitting contest used to fascinate me, we have reached a point where neither is worth watching.
This spring, I went out to dinner with a bunch of writers. We were surrounded by big-screen TVs. We had our choice of the NBA, hockey and an old home-run hitting contest featuring our favorite steroid-ridden sluggers.
We couldn't take our eyes off the home-run derby.
Tonight, we will witness the worst of both worlds: A home-run hitting contest without stars, without steroids, and with Chris Berman.
Baseball needs to cancel this event. It's long, boring and filled with Bermanisms, the mindless utterings of an announcer who doesn't like or know baseball. Berman needs to take his shtick back-back-back-back-back to the NFL, the league that he admitted, in the new ESPN book, that he bends over backwards, forwards and sideways to please.
Without steroids, the home-run hitting contest is worthwhile only as a means of placating people who want to buy tickets to the All-Star game and can't find or afford them. It's become bad TV.
But it's better TV than the actual All-Star game. If Michael Cuddyer weren't participating tomorrow night, I probably wouldn't watch.
Last year, 82 players got to call themselves All-Stars because of all of the injuries and defections from the roster. This year, the number rose to 84, including Derek Jeter, who was healthy enough to get five hits the other day but didn't feel like flying to Phoenix.
I've heard the excuse that these players want to rest so they can help their teams down the stretch, or that they need to heal minor injuries, but the reality is that many of the players pulled out because they're so rich and pampered that a chartered flight to Phoenix, where they will be feted and celebrated, is too much of a hassle for them.
Post-steroid baseball is an interesting game on a daily basis, but it lacks the cartoon-character figures we found so compelling. The best slugger in the game is Jose Bautista, who is the least-interesting and most-suspicious guys to ever hit 50 homers. The starting pitchers are Roy Halladay and Jered Weaver. Both are fine hurlers. Both are more interesting in the context of the regular-season than as beacons of their leagues.
Baseball used to have the only All-Star game that emulated meaningful games. The NBA, NHL and NFL don't play defense in their All-Star games they way they do in real games. Baseball was different. Every pitcher, fielder and batter wanted to perform his best, and the games yielded matchups that couldn't be seen at any other time.
Now many of the best players in the game don't even bother to show up. So why should we?
-I'll be running Joe Anderson's show tonight from 6-7 on 1500espn, talking baseball, soccer and serial TV.