Tony LaRussa is too much of a competitor and respects the game too much to let the fact that he doesn’t have a major stake in the outcome influence him too negatively, but the act of letting an outsider—and LaRussa is an outsider—have such power over the “meaningful” All-Star Game sabotages that meaning.
If the All-Star Game supposedly “counts”, then why is a manager who’s no longer a manager managing it?
LaRussa worked with the Tigers and his friend Jim Leyland this past spring training. How’s that work? He helped the Tigers in the spring and is managing the NL in the mid-summer classic? He also has a book coming out this fall in which he supposedly pulls no punches in telling his side of the story in his long career. Knowing LaRussa there will be the familiar vendettas and complaints.
Baker and LaRussa have a long history of dislike for one another and LaRussa can be vindictive.
I’m not getting into “X should’ve been there over Y” at the All-Star game. It’s a waste of time and energy that can go on forever. But Baker’s complaints are reasonable and he has a basis for thinking that LaRussa is shunning his players out of spite. The Cardinals and Reds had a huge brawl in 2010 as the Reds were on their way to a division title. Phillips’s ill-advised comments that the rest of the league dislikes the Cardinals started the fight. Cueto kicked Cardinals backup catcher Jason LaRue in the head multiple times, giving him a concussion that eventually led to LaRue’s retirement.
LaRussa has a long memory and unless Phillips and Cueto were no-brainer choices (they weren’t), he wasn’t going to pick them.
This is all part of the farce inherent with an exhibition game being treated as if it’s not an exhibition game; with two teams and managers who are thinking about winning, but also thinking about getting as many players into the game as possible. The players are competitive, but they’re not going to go over the edge to win home field advantage in a World Series that a majority of them are not going to play in anyway. In the end the “advantage” comes down to one game and it’s not all that much of an advantage.
That’s the problem. There’s no definitive answer on the game’s meaning. Either it matters or it doesn’t. If it matters, then the AL and NL should field the best players and let them play a legit game. If it matters, then LaRussa shouldn’t be walking out of retirement and managing one of the teams.
And that’s the point.
The game doesn’t matter. It’s a show. Nothing more.