When Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig introduced interleague play, many grumbled that it would take away from the World Series--something which has yet to happen. If anything, interleague games have tarnished the luster of the All-Star Game. Now every player goes head to head with stars from the other league, so that's one less incentive to take part.
Although Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, who opted for rest rather than All-Stardom, are a major minority, such sentiment would have been even more out of place last weekend at Japan's All-Star games.
Still how could Japan not have had a better show?
The majors' event was inundated with talk of labor strife and talk of which players are on steroids and what should be done about it. Then came The Tie, which Commissioner Bud now promises will never happen again--something the man who engineered the last work stoppage won't say about the looming strike.
The morning after fans at Miller Field shared their feelings about an All-Star tie by pelting the field with beer bottles, Bud said one team (unnamed) would not be able to meet its payroll--only for the latest cry of "wolf" to be denied by one of his top deputies.
Now Bud is being sued by the former minority owners of the Montreal Expos under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act--in the case of Major League Baseball, a very appropriately named piece of legislation.
Meanwhile, Japan had two memorable All-Star games, filled with players who more than happy to be invited.
"I haven't had the jitters like that in a long time," said Game 2 starter and winner Jeremy Powell of the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes.
Yakult Swallows right-hander Kevin Hodges, who leads the CL with 11 wins and who started and lost the finale, had said the day before that he was excited to be there, to face the best the other league had to offer and to challenge them.
"That's what we're here for, and that's what the fans want to see," said Hodges.
While play lacked the intensity of fire Pete Rose on speed, there was plenty of excitement.
In Game 1, Swallows left fielder Alex Ramirez played the outfield with careful consideration for his place in the pennant race--making a comfortable throw to the cutoff man while Seibu Lions slugger Alex Cabrera took third on a fly to left.
"It doesn't matter to me whether he has speed or not," said Ramirez the next day when asked if Cabrera's base running took him by surprise. "We've got three more months left to play. If he wants to take risks, that's his business. I hit the cutoff man. That's my job."
Still, Ramirez was genuinely honored to be there in recognition of the season he's having.
"It's great that the manager thinks you should be here."
Instead of talk of labor disputes, we got Koji Uehara sawing through the heart of the PL order like Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan pitching against the Bad News Bears.
The Yomiuri Giants right-hander struck out the Fighters' Michihiro Ogasawara, Tuffy Rhodes and Norihiro Nakamura of the Buffaloes and then added the Hawks' Hiroki Kokubo an inning later for good measure.
With the Hanshin Tigers leading the CL in Game 1 and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes setting the pace in Game 2, it should have surprised no one that Uehara's big moment was another Kansai triumph.
Uehara is from Osaka and catcher Atsuya Furuta of the Swallows, who was calling for the fastballs in Uehara's first inning of work, is from Hyogo.
"Because we're both from Kansai, it had a special feeling," Furuta. "I could sense what he wanted to."
What Uehara wanted to do was put on a show--something he, Furuta, all the players and Japanese baseball as a whole accomplished.
The Hot Corner appears each Thursday in The
Daily Yomiuri .