Wednesday, July 12, 2006


10 Years Is a Long Time

In last night's All-Star Game, the American League rallied for two runs in the ninth inning off of the Padres' Trevor Hoffman and defeated the National League, 3-2.

The humilating loss was nothing new for the Senior Circuit, who have not won a Midsummer Classic since 1996.

1996, huh? That was a long time ago, an era of unbridled Clintonian exuberance, when problems were scarce and the nation's number one activity was "chillin' out".

The times, they have changed -- both in baseball and the world at large. Since the world at large is scary and hard to figure out (it is, Dad!), let's just focus on baseball in this post.

The 1996 All-Star Game took place at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, which has since blown up. After Kelsey Grammar's stirring rendition of our National Anthem, the game commenced, and the National League starting kicking ass en route to an easy 6-0 victory. Mike Piazza, the king of rock 'n roll, homered and doubled to earn the game's MVP Award. Here are a few of the game's notable National Leaguers, all of whom will help us to remember just how long ago 1996 was.

Lance Johnson (Mets): went 3-for-4 with a run scored. Lance has been out of baseball since 2000, and a name so delightfully phallic has not been seen since.

Ken Caminiti (Padres): the only player outside of Piazza to homer in the game. Caminiti is dead now, folks. Dead! That hasn't stopped the Golden League's Long Beach Armada from digging up his corpse and using it as a designated hitter.

Dante Bichette (Rockies): doubled and scored. Bichette was in the midst of a season in which he accumulated 141 RBIs. He retired in 2001 with 1141 career RBIs. If he had taken 1996 off, he would have retired with 1000 career RBIs. If this had been the case, Bichette would be as fondly remembered as Roberto Clemente, who finished his career with 3000 hits. Baseball fans love round numbers, and that is the only reason people remember Clemente. There was certainly nothing remarkable about his playing career.

Henry Rodriguez (Expos): collected a pinch-hit RBI single. Henry Rodriguez, huh? Amazingly enough, this guy hit 36 homers and drove in 103 RBIs in 1996. Prior to this breakout season, Rodriguez had hit 21 dingers over 766 career at-bats. Now, I'm not accusing the guy of steroid abuse, but the fact that he and the corpse of Caminiti often hang out together certainly doesn't help his reputation.

Ricky Bottalico (Phillies): tossed a scoreless fifth inning. Now, this is how bad the 1996 Phillies were -- their city hosted the All-Star Game, and Bottalico was the only Phillies representative. Todd Zeile's .268 average led the team, Mike Williams started more games than any other pitcher, and Mark Whiten committed suicide midway through the season.

Sure, the 1996 N.L. team featured over a dozen players who are still active. But that is not the point of this exercise. The point is that Johnson, Caminiti, Bichette, Rodriguez and Bottalico need to come out of hiding and restore the National League to dominance. These 21st century N.L. All-Stars are simply not getting the job done.

You know, I have spent a little more than 45 seconds or so during this past week wondering why I cared so little about the All Star Game, when once there was a time when I couldn't wait to watch it, but now I understand. In the context of one year, the players are awesome. But who the eff wants to watch Lance Johnson, Dante Bichette, Henry Rodriguez or (god forbid) Ricky Bottalico? Compound that with the fact that these guys have modern-day counterparts, and the idea of a "baseball star" seriously loses some street cred.
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