What would the homely old All-Star Game, baseball's schlockfest of champions, be without all this fuss?
Of all baseball's teapot tempests, the choice of stars in the pip, the cholic, the pits. And the most fun.
What other sport could conduct a 12-million-vote election and end up with nothing but feathers in the air?
For three months fans glance desultorily at the major league averages. Then come the All-Star announcements.
"Dear, has the dog eaten the Sunday sports section yet?" asks the fan. "These All-Star teams gotta be the worst ever."
TAnd, hallelujah, they are again this year.
In fact, the teams are so patently unjust this year that the party-pooping New York Times took a solemn poll of major league teams to set everyone straight.
Fortunately, the poll was almost as cockeyed as the fans vote. Nobody's going to do us out of our annual orgy of midseason evaluation.
"The whole thing hands me a laugh," said Cincinnati Manager Sparky Anderson.
"Two years after I'm dead," tossed in Johnny Bench, "I'll still be getting All-Star votes."
And if Gillette and the commissioner's office have anything to do with it, his name will still be on the ballot.
So let's see what we have here. What are this season's most ludicrous whoppers? Who wins the Steve Swisher Who-Is-He Award? Answer: Biff Pocoroba) How Many of these stars are frauds, or, at best, pretenders?
And what would a semisensible All-Star squad look like?
NO fewer than 10 of 16 starters voted by the fans are dead wrong. That edges out the players' poll where only nine of the 16 picks look fishy.
Which gents lead this bogus bandwagon, what choice boners lead the pack?
AL starting second baseman Don Money is a first baseman. Sorry about that. Money's backup. Frank White, is also inexcusable. Jorge Orta and Paul Molitor have practically doubled his run production. Only Jerry Reny, a late addition yesterday, is a true belonger. Neither Money nor White belongs in the AL's top five second basemen off this year's performance.
Someone named Terry Puhl (three homers, 17 RBI) made the NL outfield. However, the NL's leading career hitter (.328), Bill Madlock, a two-time batting champ batting .314, was ignored.
"I'd crawl to San Diego just to pinch hit," said Madlock yesterday.
While Puhl is an All-Star, his Houston teammates Bob Watson (working on his third straight t100 RBI year), and vastly underrated Enos Cabell are snubbed.
Chicago coutfielder Chet Lemon, Possessor of no All-Star credentials past or present, is aboard, while the No. 2 RBI man in baseball - Rusty Staub - is excluded. Look up Staub's career record and weep.
Rick Monday has parlayed a glib flag-saving patriotism and a Los Angeles voting bloc into a starting NL outfield spot, while Dave Parker, adrift in Uittsburgh, wasn't a voted pick. Parker, the 6-foot 5, 235-pound defending NL batting champ, is considered by many experts to be the outstanding total outhitting Monday by 33 points. And we'd only seen him as a sub if he hadn't broken his cheekbone.
Perverted sentiment has again reared its head in Willie Stargell's selection as NL backup first baseman. Stargell has produced 50 percent fewer runs than Keith Hernandez, Watson or Dan Driessen. Any of them would be better choices.
While Staargell is in San Diego, Willie McCovey, left off the ballot after being '77 Comeback Player of the Year and entering the season with 493 homers, is at home in San Francisco. Big Mac, for his cleanup clutch hitting for a first-place team and for his symbolic 500th homer, should have been this year's pa thos pick.
The NL, searching the rubble for a third-string catcher, picked Pocoroba. Overlooked was blossoming star Gary Carter (31 homers in '77) who is second only to Ted Simmons in runs produced among NL catchers.
This classic will offer the likes of Bob Boone, Craig Reynolds and Jim Kern while Ken Griffey (No. 3 in majors in hits, four straight .300 years) and Don Baylor (third in majors in homers) stay home.
On both pitching staffs, managerial bias is plain. L.A.'s Tommy Lasorda has bypassed San Francisco's deserving Bob Knepper (10-5, 2.57) in favor of lesser lights. In fact, Lasorda has picked only two of the rival Giants, despite their .605 winning percentage - the best in the NL.
Billy Martin, Mr. Grudge, would rather have hurling little-knowns like Kern, Matt Keough and Lary Sorensen than Yankee defector Mike Torrez, the 11-5 leading winner of the best team in baseball - rival Boston.
Torrez, a 20-game winner and World Series hero, is 32 and has never been on an All-Star team. Thanks, Billy.
These spectacular faux pas, and there are more, make the July Classic a fireworks display of folly.
However, what reasonable criteria would produce better choices? Not perfect, just better.
Despite the Martin and Lasorda performances, most All-star managers pick decent pitching staffs. The problem is the other 19 or 20 spots.
The single most reliable offensive statitsic is runs produced (runs, plus RBI, minus homers).
Any player who holds a significant runs-produced advantage over another player, and is also better defensively, is almost always the superior performer, no matter what eyecatching statistics like batting average seem to say.
A hard look at runs produced (see acocompanying chart) and defensive repute, plus a final smidgen of common sense would yield starting teams close to these:
AL - Rick Burleson, ROd Carew, Jim Rice, Reggie Jackson, Staub, Carlton Fisk, Butch Hobson and Orta. (We even provide a batting order).
NL - Davey Lopes, Jack Clark, Steve Garvey, George Foster, Ron Cey, Dave Winifield, Ted Simmons and Dave Concepcion.
Three "runs produced" leaders were not included. Here's why.
Common sense dictated Carew over Jason Thompson, though the latter may own that All-Star first base position for a decade once he is established in the public mind.
The much-dumped-upon All-Star alternate, Roy Howell of Toronto, is vindicated by his runs produced (same 84 as Carew), but Hobson is a vastly more acrobatic third baseman and an accredited slugger.
Ironically, the AL's two best third baseman - Graig Netteles and George Brett (in that order) - have been injured or are in productivity slumps.
The only deviation from a straight runs Produced All-Star team in the NL would be Concepcion at shortstop over over Bill Russell. Concepcion not only has the Gold Glove, but has batted third and fifth for the Reds. NL starter Larry Bowa - a great fielder and current .300-hitter - is the beneficiary of this season's Philadelphia ballot-stuffing extravaganza. Sorry, Larry. No Punch 'n' Judies allowed in these Classics.
These sensible All-Star lineups have only one huge flaw.
The National League still would win.