As easy as it is to blame Bud Selig for baseball's latest fiasco, this one wasn't his fault.
Face it, fans. Even if you paid $175 for a ticket Tuesday night, you got your money's worth from this All-Star game -- and a little more.
An impressive home run by Barry Bonds. An eye-popping catch by Torii Hunter. An appearance by all 60 players on the AL and NL rosters. Plus two extra innings.
Oh, and that 7-7 tie? Sure, it would've been nice to have a winner in this exhibition game. And to have an MVP, especially since the award was renamed this week in honor of Ted Williams.
But in this case, Selig really had no choice but to halt the game after 11 innings. Still, he said he felt so bad that he couldn't sleep, and he vowed Wednesday to make sure the game never ended in a tie again.
Managers Joe Torre and Bob Brenly told Selig they had no more pitchers left and wanted to stop it.
''We reviewed every option imaginable,'' Selig said. ''I had no alternatives, and there is absolutely no one to blame.''
Brenly had used all 10 NL pitchers, finishing up with Philadelphia's Vicente Padilla throwing two innings.
''He had trouble getting loose. He was on a short pitch count in his first inning of work, but one more was absolutely as far as we were willing to go,'' Brenly said.
Seattle's Freddy Garcia, the ninth and final AL pitcher, worked the last two innings. No position players volunteered to pitch, either.
Imagine the howls of protest from Seattle or Philadelphia if their pitchers were hurt or weren't ready for the second half as a result of staying in too long.
Now, it's true that Selig is baseball's favorite whipping boy. To many fans, he'll always be known as the commissioner who canceled the 1994 World Series.
To others, he's the reason baseball could be headed to yet another strike in a month or so. Want to hold him responsible for the sorry state of labor relations between owners and players? Go ahead.
Sure, he could've done a couple of things better Tuesday night.
It would've helped if the sellout crowd at Miller Park had been told why the game was going to be stopped. And the timing wasn't too good, with fans finding out only two outs before the bizarre ending.
Even so, to criticize Selig for what happened -- and all the booing and bottle-throwing that followed at Miller Park -- isn't fair.
Instead, blame the whole All-Star format.
In an era when it's hard to get all of the All-Stars to come, no one wants to spend the whole game on the bench or in the bullpen. Not when he could've been enjoying a three-day break.
As a result, managers go out of their way to get everybody in, whether it's Barry Zito for three pitches or Derek Jeter to pinch-hit.
Clearly, it might be wise to hold Mariano Rivera for a save situation. But if that opportunity never comes and the great Yankees closer never pitches, fans won't be happy.
''When you have players come to an All-Star game, you want to get them in,'' Torre said. ''The downside is if you get them all in and it's the ninth inning, the 10th inning and the 11th inning, well, you can't have it both ways.''
Yankees third baseman Robin Ventura understood the problem, and used Milwaukee's own slugger as an example.
''You get criticized no matter what. Richie Sexson is not going to play first and people are going to say, 'Our guy didn't play,''' he said.
''Not that many times is it going to end like this. It's odd, but in spring training you end up with the same situations.''
Besides, it's an exhibition game and it's mostly been played that way for years.
No more Pete Rose running over Ray Fosse, winning the game yet ruining the guy's career. No more Yogi Berra catching all nine innings -- as he did five times. No more league presidents suggesting managers hold back pitchers so they can be prepared for the All-Star game.
Heaven forbid a pitcher should even throw three innings. Greg Maddux was the last to do it, in 1994.
Nope, the summer showcase is just that, a show for all kinds of memorable moments.
Some of them funny: John Kruk playfully patting his heart after Randy Johnson threw a fastball over his head and Tommy Lasorda getting nailed by a flying bat while coaching third base.
Others more poignant: Ted Williams being embraced on the mound at Fenway Park and Cal Ripken making one final trip around the bases.
Recall who won those games? Does it really matter?
Oh, and this: As much as the fans booed Tuesday night, picture them the next day -- telling all their friends what they saw. It's a sure bet they'll remember this game forever.
Ben Walker is the baseball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at email@example.com
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