Sunday, July 02, 2006

National League Fails To Qualify For All-Star Game

The National League has not won an All-Star Game since scoring a 6-0 victory in 1996. Only an infamous tie in 2002 has interrupted the American League’s domination since then. However, this year the NL has suffered its greatest embarrassment of all. Today commissioner Bud Selig announced that the National League has failed to qualify for this year’s midsummer classic.

The commissioner invoked the “best interests of the game” clause in making this decision. During interleague play, concluded on Sunday, the AL wound up with a 154-98 edge over the NL. Selig determined that any league winning fewer than 40% of interleague matchups does not belong in the summer’s showcase event. “Our fans deserve a competitive game,” noted the commissioner. “If we stick the National League in there this year, the NL will get flattened worse than Ray Fosse.”

Instead, the All-Star Game will primarily be an American League intra-squad matchup. Noting how the voters favored the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, one side will be comprised entirely of players from those clubs. That team will be known as the Yank Sox. Fan selections Ichiro Suzuki, Vladimir Guerrero, and Ivan Rodriguez will be shifted to the opposing club, with Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, and Jorge Posada taking their places in the Yank Sox lineup. A typical clutch hit by David Ortiz could bring wildly mixed emotions for Red Sox fans. They would cheer his heroics, then curse him as a traitor for driving in Derek Jeter.

The NL will not be completely absent at the All-Star Game. As a nod to the home city of Pittsburgh, fan choice Jason Bay of the Pirates will be allowed to play. By joining up with American League stalwarts, Bay will have a rare opportunity for a victory in PNC Park. His fellow Keystone Staters from Philadelphia will also have a role - one year after Bobby Abreu dominated the Home Run Derby. Hoping to see just as many blasts this year, the commissioner’s office has announced that this year’s Derby will be pitched by the Phillies’ starting rotation.

The “Monster 2006 All-Star Final Vote” has also been adjusted to accommodate the senior circuit. Fans can elect one New York Met to join the Boston/New York club. Options include NL fan choices Paul Lo Duca, David Wright, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran, plus pitcher Tom Glavine. Voters will also choose the final representative on the other side, from among fan choices Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, and Alfonso Soriano, plus pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Brandon Webb. Additionally, Selig announced that Houston Astros manager Phil Garner will still get to perform his duties as scheduled, since Ozzie Guillen will likely say something to merit a suspension in the next week.

Because the National League will not field a team, the All-Star Game will no longer decide the host of the World Series. The American League will retain that right this October, although the commissioner noted that home field will be irrelevant in the Fall Classic. “The only way the National League will win the World Series, “ commented Selig, “is if you’re talking about the one in Williamsport.”

The issue will be revisited before next season’s All-Star Game. The NL will surely rise again, just as the AL rebounded from dropping 11 consecutive midsummer classics between 1972 and 1982. The California Angels’ Fred Lynn hit the first grand slam in All-Star history to help the AL snap the streak in 1983. The National League will look for something similar if it returns to the All-Star Game in 2007. Taking no chances, the NL will have the 55-year-old Lynn batting cleanup.