MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

Next week is the loneliest week of them all for the baseball fan, for after Tuesday night’s Major League All-Star Game, there is nothing until Friday. No game to follow or listen to; no game to watch. Just sit around for three days and watch the clock until the first pitch of the second half of the season is thrown.

I have never liked this week. I didn’t like it when the All-Star break was only three days, as that lone day without baseball after the All-Star Game felt like a long weekend, and I certainly don’t like it now that the All-Star break is four days.

Four days without meaningful baseball, and that includes the All-Star Game itself, even when “it mattered” and used to determine home field advantage in the World Series (which was clearly the most asinine idea MLB ever brought to fruition … until recently). MLB has self-inflicted so much damage to its own All-Star game. It’s become so screwed up and discombobulated that it hasn’t even resembled real baseball for far too long.

I remember years ago seeing one MLB.com fan poll of the five greatest moments in All-Star Game history. The results were much better than I had been anticipating — Stan Musial’s 12th-inning walk-off home run in the 1955 game, Ted Williams’ ninth-inning walk-off three-run homer in the 1941 game at Fenway, no less, Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse to end the 1970 game (at Riverfront, and would have been my vote), Carl Hubbell striking out five future Hall of Famers in a row in the 1934 game and Cal Ripken’s 2001 MVP in his final All-Star Game.

Okay, I’m an Orioles fan, but we won’t even get into the dynamics of the 2001 game. Yet given the way the All-Star Game has to be played now — every team represented, every player plays if possible — it’s highly probable that neither Musial, Williams nor Rose would even be in the game in the late innings nowadays. They would have to get their two at-bats in during the early innings before the maddening parade of substitutions takes over.

Thus, we are approaching the four-day black hole of summer that is no baseball. And again, as much as I adored the All-Star Game in my lifetime until Bud Selig ruined it, and as much as I still adore the notion of the MLB All-Star Game (Rob Manfred is worse than Selig), I no longer consider the actual All-Star Game to be real baseball.

And, please, let’s leave the Home Run Derby at the door, even though I was at Camden Yards the day Griffey Jr. hit the Warehouse. It used to be such a fun day, but thanks to Chris Berman’s past theatrics and to ESPN just being ESPN, you can only watch so much of that anymore. Plus, it now takes a team of mathematicians from MIT and Columbia to decipher the actual winner.

Yet the clincher in all of it is the American and National League teams now wearing “American” and “National” uniforms in the colors and designs of the game’s host city, rather than following the age-old tradition of wearing their team’s and city’s uniforms that brought so much pride to so many fans in the world, and was forever one of the unique thrills of what the All-Star Game used to be.

What is this, travel baseball? A slo-pitch softball game under the lights at Cavanaugh Field?

No, just something else for MLB to sell because they know there are suckers out there who will buy it.

Yes, Rob Manfred is worse than Bud Selig, and I never dreamed that could be possible; not unlike something else that we won’t get into here today.

Come to think of it, though, I suppose there are the ESPYs to watch. But I don’t watch ESPN so why would I watch its annual celebration of itself? Even I have standards.

So then what is a boy to do? Read a book? Throw a football? Do some crossword puzzles? Write a song?

Nah, just sit around and stew, I suppose, for not only is next week the loneliest week of the year for a baseball fan, it is the first real week of melancholy for a baseball fan that comes with the realization that the season is now more than half over. Kind of a sneak preview of the winter months to come.

Not quite, of course, but still … Ugh.

So where do the days and the nights of spring and summer go anyway? It seems as though we’ve allowed them both to get away from us each season by doing nothing but watching television and listening to the radio.

Oh, wait … Turner Classic Movies! Yes!

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