A number of years ago, a friend and I created a game where we would try to name off as many obscure Indians from our childhood as we could. Since the Indians of the 1980s and early 1990s were - to be charitable - mediocre, this was a relatively easy game.
But recently, as my friend and I played another round, I had to set a limit on the game. Middle infielders like Junior Naboa, Tmmy Hinzo and the infamous reliever Rich Yett are perfect names. But then he put forth the name Pat Tabler.
Tabler, a first-baseman/designated hitter for the Tribe in the '80s, will never be remembered as an all-time great.
But he could hit. And in 1987, he was about the only thing the Indians had going for them While the team lost 102 games, Tabler hit .307, homered 11 times and drove in 86 runs. And, since the Indians had almost no one else who qualified, Tabler was the Indians' lone representative in that year's All-Star Game. The fact that he struck out in his lone at bat is unimportant. Simply being named to the team made him ineligible for the "obscure Indians" game.
I was reminded of this when I watched the 2011 All-Star Game earlier this week. With homefield advantage on the line, the game itself seems as unimportant as ever. In what is supposed to be a showcase of baseball's best players, a number of them were absent.
CC Sabathia pitched the Sunday before the game, and was ineligible. Albert Pujols was hurt and, despite recovering, wasn't even selected. Derek Jeter, whose team is annoyingly always in World Series contention, said he was tired after his pursuit of 3,000 hits, ignored the desires of all the fans who voted for him to start and didn't even bother to make the trip.
Rather than being a game of who's who, this year's Mid-Summer Classic at times resembled a contest of who's that.
Forty-one years after the Reds' Pete Rose put a linebacker hit on Indians catcher Ray Fosse because there was a game - exhibition, yes, but still a game - to win, the National League's depth was so depleted that the Reds' Scott Rolen made the starting lineup, despite hitting just five homers and batting .246. Rolen's a future Hall of Famer and has been a terrific player, but the 36-year-old appears to have seen better days.
So is there a solution to make the All-Star Game matter again? I'd end interleague play, since that has helped destroy the mystique of not only the game, but the World Series as well.
But that won't happen. I just think Major League Baseball has to decide what the All-Star Game is. Is it a friendly exhibition? Then take away the homefield advantage in the World Series. Does it matter? Then don't let the fans vote for starters. That way you avoid (to a point, as Rolen was voted in by fellow players) an ineffective player playing a pivotal role in the game.
It may be tough to make the game matter again. However, MLB should do something, before it gets accused of false advertising.
Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.
Contact him at: