The Good 'Ole Days
The days of athletes getting really competitive in an exhibition game are over. We know it, they know it, and even people with the same IQ as John Rocker know it. Alan Schwartz had an interesting article about the American League and it's perceived dominance over the National League that should definitely be given a look, but one passage stuck out that speaks volumes about today's game.
"He really wanted to win the World Series every year, win the All-Star Game, draw more people than the American League, and at every All-Star Game he would go in the clubhouse and give the players a real pep talk about beating the other league," said Giles' son, Bill, later the controlling partner of the Phillies. "Even during the World Series, when we were flying charter flights in those days with executives from each league, he wanted the National League plane to take off first and land first."
By the late 1980s, though, the All-Star Game had ceded some of its allure, perhaps because of the growth of other sporting spectacles like the flourishing NBA and various summertime diversions. The growing apathy spread to the players themselves. Contract bonuses began being the greatest reward for selection, and as union solidarity became commonplace, a certain chumminess painted over what had been fierce competition. The recent carrot of earning home-field advantage in the World Series helps, but only to a point.
"I think now," Gillick said, "people think, 'It's nice to win,' but there's a more cozy feeling than there used to be."
In the end, the most telling characteristic of the American League's recent dominance over the National is that nobody particularly cares. Quite a contrast from 1981, when first-time All-Star Dusty Baker walked into the NL clubhouse in Cleveland and was met immediately by one Pete Rose.
"We haven't lost to those guys in, like, nine years," Rose informed Baker, "and we aren't losing this year."
The NL did win, 5-4. Rose didn't score in that game. Perhaps he did afterward.
Of course every player says they want to win the game. Whether it be opening day, regular season, All-Star weekend, or the playoffs. I'm sure they do, who wants to lose? However, the fire that Pete Rose use to exhibit is something that is found few and far between. I would be surprised if any player genuinely cared about winning the mid-summer classic these days. In fact, it is debatable whether or not 90% of the players out there truly care about winning a championship over and above everything else.
Year after year fans get treated to players like Miguel Tejada who all of a sudden have amnesia about why they signed their contract in the first place and complain about their team's lack of success. I do not care what Angelos or any scout, gm, agent, or player told Tejada, you do not have to go to MIT to see that the Orioles being a competitive team any time soon in the uber competitive AL East was a long shot.
We live in a day that players have accumulated more money than they can spend in ten lifetimes and it is rare that players act in an altruistic manner. The fact is that Chipper Jones did not lose any money when he restructured his contract for the Braves. He just delayed when he receives the money. Despite the fact Chipper will be no worse for the wear, players do not put their money where their mouths are and do not put winning in front of their paychecks. That's how I feel. Anyone can feel free to disagree, but the game has come down to money first, winning second with the majority of the players out there.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Mike Jacobs is just what the Marlins were looking for this off-season. He's young and, of course, cheap, which is an unbeatable combination for the Marlins. The former Mets' prospect, who came over in the Carlos Delgado trade, is also loaded with talent. The first baseman homered in his first big-league at-bat last August and ended up with 11 homers in 100 at-bats, batting .310. He'll play every day with the Marlins, probably for a long time.
The Angels expect to receive an answer today from Weaver, who has been courted by several teams, including the Rangers and Cleveland Indians. The Angels originally offered Weaver a one-year deal plus an option for 2007, but they are believed to have bumped their offer to two years.
Angel owner Arte Moreno said he would like an answer by today so that if Weaver signs with the Angels, he can be in camp for the start of workouts Thursday. But it is unclear how firm Moreno's deadline is or whether the offer will be pulled if Weaver does not accept it by today.