Gene Collier: Feeling out of baseball’s usual groove

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The most reliably depressing week on the annual sports calendar drones on, dark as it has ever been.

Monday wasn’t necessarily intolerable because baseball teams often don’t play Mondays. It seemed normal.

Tuesday was plainly dreadful, as it revolved around the massive annoyance that is the Stupid Major League Baseball All-Star Game (not its official title, but who are we kidding?). 

Wednesday was worse, as the jonesing for real baseball began in earnest, because just about every Wednesday from April until October includes a full schedule.

And no baseball today.

No… baseball … today.

This is a relatively new form of torture, not restarting the season until Friday. It causes all kinds of hallucinations, including the one where you think you’re actually considering listening to the Pioneer League All-Star Game on the radio.

Needless to say, I’ll be one of the first people at PNC Park Friday for the start of the three-game series with the Colorado Rockies for all the reasons laid out here, and because I’m determined to see Justin Morneau hit a homer in Pittsburgh sometime before The Rapture.

Morneau represents one of the more unlikely pie-in-the-face moments for the Pirates in this season of longing.

Acquired Aug. 31, 2013, from Minnesota for Alex Presley and a player to be named Duke Welker, Morneau arrived in Pittsburgh as a $15 million first baseman with a 162-game average of 27 homers over his 11-year career.

In 25 games for the pennant-chasing Pirates, he hit zero homers. He hit four doubles. He drove in three runs.

But Monday night, he was part of the National League’s Home Run Derby roster, because he’s got 13 homers this year for the Rockies, and because Home Run Derby captain and teammate Troy Tulowitzki thought it would be a nice idea to have Morneau participate in the city where he hit 221 of his 234 career homers.

Isn’t that special, city where he hit none?

He’ll hit two this weekend, mark it down, adding emphasis to the home team’s dreary first-base situation, where none of its available staffers has homered in more than a month.

But until Friday night, all we’ve got to chew on are the inevitable remnants of controversy from the Stupid All-Star Game, in which NL starter Adam Wainwright apparently grooved some pitches for Derek Jeter, or at least Wainwright said so, then backed away from those comments in subsequent interviews.

So what?

This event has a long history of players helping other players put on a good show, particularly honored, older players such as Jeter; it’s all part of the show and don’t tell me it’s anything but a show.

There is a red carpet for God’s sake.

“Who are you wearing?”

“What?”

“Who are you wearing?”

“You mean, ‘What am I wearing?’”

“No, who.”

“Who’s on first.”

“What?”

“What’s on second.”

“I don’t know.”

“Third base.”

But not even Abbott and Costello would have dreamed up the kind of silliness that reigns in the annual All-Star Game eve Home Run Derby.

Some years ago, I guess some marketing exec must have wondered something like this, out loud:

“What would happen if you took some of the most accomplished power hitters in the world and just grooved pitches to them? They could have their own hand-picked pitchers throwing soft and straight right into their kitchens/wheelhouses/hot zones. What would happen?”

Let me see.

They would hit home runs. A bunch of ’em. Some of them, like, real long.

Would people watch it?

Hey, they watch ‘Jersey Shore.’

So don’t blame Wainwright for his correct assessment that the whole thing is carnival. When you see the pitcher put his glove down so he can applaud the batter (as I read Wainwright did), it’s possible that the Lords of the Game have failed to properly incentivize the Stupid All-Star Game.

That’s the conflict, right?

The game is supposed to matter, because the winning team secures home-field advantage for that league in the World Series.

I wish I were making that up.

And still, it doesn’t matter.

If it mattered, would the fans vote for the All-Stars? All-Star voting is almost as unproductive as real voting.

If it mattered, would every pitcher who walked into the game be limited to one inning? That’s how we got into this mess in the first place, by running out of pitchers.

If it mattered, wouldn’t the NL have put Clayton Kershaw out there and let the American League just suck its thumb for three hours?

Look, Bud, you want to incentivize the old Mid-Summer Classic?

Easy.

New rule: All-Star bonuses are payable only to members of the winning team.

Sorry, I just really need a real, authentic, legitimate pierogi race right now.


Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com.

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