MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

It’s Tuesday night and I have the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on in the next room.

The All-Star Game used to be one of the major highlights of every baseball season for so many of us growing up, beginning with the annual All-Star Edition of The Sporting News, for over a century the Bible of baseball. It arrived in your mailbox every Friday.

My friends Chris Ruppenkamp and James Conley and I would take turns going to each other’s house to watch the games and score them in our baseball scorebooks, and feast upon whatever our mothers (depending on whose home we had invaded) had prepared for us to completely consume too much of.

My personal favorite was the specialty of Mrs. Pat Ruppenkamp (Chris’ mom), who made the very best root beer I have tasted to this day.

We loved baseball, we lived baseball as kids, the very same demographic the weasel MLB commissioner Rob Manfred claims to be trying to attract to the game now. In fact, we still love it and live it now, so, apparently, somebody was doing something right in the 1960s.

As for the All-Star Game, it was a yearly Event, right up there with the World Series. Now I look into the next room as you and I chat and they’ve got Denzel Washington addressing the crowd? Huh?

What they do now with what truly was The Midsummer Classic, is made for TV garbage, which is what most made-for-TV is. Yes, I have officially become my old man (but only in a figurative sense), but part of the charm of the All-Star Game for nearly a century was each player, coach, manager and batboy wearing the official uniform of their respective teams.

Now MLB designs these gawdawful matching softball uniforms for the players and the teams to wear and it’s just killing the traditions of the All-Star Game. Of course, millions of suckers and parents who are tired of hearing their spoiled kids cry about wanting one will go online and buy them, which, of course, is the entire point, but it’s all just enough to make an old guy who grew up on baseball cry (sniff!).

Of course, the original weasel, Bud Selig, who created the template of spineless for Manfred to follow, began the demise of the All-Star Game following the infamous tie and the “This One Counts” nonsense.

They always counted, long before the days when postseason homefield had its short-lived existence in the matter. They counted and they mattered because it mattered to the players. They played with pride. They played for the pride of their league (of course, Interleague play ruined that). Ask Pete Rose and Ray Fosse (Google it, kids).

That said, Rob Manfred must have been a dean’s list student at the foot of Selig, because he is an absolute joke. He makes Roger Goodell look like a stand-up guy. Manfred has no clue about baseball.

I’ve said it a million times and likely will say it a million more times: Rob Manfred doesn’t like baseball because he doesn’t get it. He’s got nothing to him. He’s empty. MLB owners were heisted, because Manfred has no soul to sell.

Guy makes around $18 million a year, right? And good for him. More power to him. But on Tuesday he’s talking about how players in the minor leagues (which he has been trying to kill for the past few years – ask the folks in Frederick) make “a living wage,” which, technically, if you can do anything for a next meal it can be viewed as a “managing to stay alive wage.”

This is what the $18-million weasel so callously had to say on the state of what he deems to be livable:

“I kind of reject the premise of the question that minor league players are not paid a living wage. We’ve made real strides in the last few years in terms of what minor league players are paid, even putting to one side the signing bonuses that many of them have already received. They receive housing, which obviously is another form of compensation. I just reject the premise of the question. I don’t know what else to say about that …

“I reject the premise that they’re not paid a living wage.”

As minor leagues and minor-league affiliations have been eliminated by Manfred and MLB, remaining minor league salaries have increased in recent seasons and teams this year for the first time are mandated to provide housing. But the majority of minor league players’ salaries are under the poverty line. Players not on the 40-man roster or with major league experience receive between $4,800 and $14,700 annually and are paid only in-season.

We’ll see what Congress thinks the more they continue to look into MLB’s untouchable antitrust exemption.

Okay, we’re done here. It’s out of my system. I’ll go back into the next room and finish watching the All-Star Game (talk about a sucker) because it’s just in my DNA to watch the All-Star Game.

UPDATE: American League wins for the ninth straight year, 3-2. I’m just happy they didn’t have to use a Home Run Derby to settle a tie.

Seriously … Beginning this year, an All-Star Game that is tied after nine innings will no longer require extra innings to settle the winner. Instead, the game will be settled by a Home Run Derby. Each team will select three batters, and each of them will get three swings.

This is what Rob Manfred is doing to the culture of baseball. On a much smaller scale, kind of reminds me of somebody and something else that came along and refuses to go away.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone for your kind words, encouragement and prayers. I am very grateful.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT