MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

First of all, the awful American and National uniforms ruin it from the beginning, and based on unscientific social media scanning, it seems everybody other than the greedy mopes who make the decisions are in agreement with this.

It’s not the Major League All-Star Game if the players aren’t wearing their own teams’ and cities’ uniforms. That has always been one of the unique charms of the game and a source of pride for fans everywhere that always made it different and levels above any of the other all-star games.

You know, if Manfred and his minions are so eager to sell anything they can get their hands on (and, in fairness, who isn’t?), at least have the contestants in the Home Run Derby wear the travel league/softball uniforms, but not the players in the All-Star Game. At least that way, any fans who absolutely must have them in their closets will have that opportunity to see them modeled. Of course, who watches the Home Run Derby anymore?

I watched what I could of the All-Star Game, but it was a struggle, and the primary reason (there were others) I was losing interest is because I didn’t immediately identify with who was pitching, who was batting, who was making the plays in the field, or whatever, because the players were wearing those stupid vanilla uniforms.

Even though I saw it happen, I just had to recheck to remember that Rockies catcher Elias Díaz hit the two-run home run off of the Orioles’ Felix Bautista to help the National League to a 3-2 win because there is no instinctive memory of the moment since Diaz was not wearing his Colorado Rockies uniform.

Under normal All-Star circumstances, it would have been, “Oh, the Rockies’ catcher hit that? Diaz? Been around for a while” But wearing the no-personality uniform it was more like, “Elias Diaz? Who in the hell is that?” He didn’t look familiar.

The uniforms were the biggest shortcoming of Tuesday night’s All-Star Game because they erase the personalities and identities of the players and all of the teams in the cities of MLB. Yet the entire production on Fox Sports and all of the maddening little gimmicks they shoved down our throat at MLB’s behest to attract the younger audience made what had long been appointment television nothing more than current reality TV.

Interviewing mic’d players while they’re playing the game, including pitchers? ESPN does that on its horrible Sunday Night Baseball coverage (and those games count), so Fox did it Tuesday in the All-Star Game, which no longer counts (which is not a bad thing).

Oh, and the entire Big Papi, A-Rod, Jeter popcorn-eating ordeal? Ugh! Jeter at least tried, but what was he thinking?

More than anything, talking to the players while they are playing a game is a distraction from the actual game, because the player isn’t going to tell us anything of value since, in theory, he is supposed to be paying attention to the game he is currently playing, which might just prevent him from getting doinked in the noggin by a hard-hit baseball.

Young viewers aren’t drawn to that because they’re not going to buy into the so-called authenticity of it. Don’t sell young viewers short; just give them a product. They’ll watch.

A camera on the home-plate umpire’s mask? What is this, the Little League World Series? (By the way, MLB’s Little League Classic in Williamsport is a brilliant idea because it’s legit baseball and a good product for youngsters to see in real time. Kudos to MLB for that.)

The MLB All-Star Game, celebrated since 1933 as the Midsummer Classic, has been dumbed down to the degree of its resembling the other all-star games, which very few care about or watch anymore, or in the instance of the NFL, has gone the way of the dinosaur.

All-star games of all major pro sports have essentially lost their hold. While a true baseball is always going to watch the MLB All-Star Game, fans might tune into the NBA and NHL all-star games, but they are not engaged as they once were because those events are not being taken seriously by the leagues or the people who produce them.

There is not as much media hype for all-star games as there used to be, but then there is so much over-production by the networks and the leagues once the actual event is being played that it is unrealistic and far less exciting.

Baseball fans don’t want to see Space Jam when they tune into a ballgame; they want to see a ballgame – a good ballgame, which is actually what was played on Tuesday night. But amidst the inane chatter, the in-game interviews with players while they were playing the game, the popcorn and the amusement park-ride camera angles, that good game was just too difficult to find.

As usual, MLB and their television network partners have buried the lede, which is, according to awfulannouncing.com, “Per Sports Media Watch, 7.006 million viewers watched the game.

“That’s a drop of more than half a million viewers compared to last year’s game, which averaged a then-record low of 7.634 million viewers.”

I repeat: Rob Manfred hates baseball because he doesn’t get baseball.

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