Once upon a time, the annual baseball All-Star game was a premier event.
The best players from the American and National Leagues gathered for what was the last legitimate meeting of stars from opposing leagues.
Now, the so-called mid-summer classic has been diminished.
It's not as bad as the flagrant hot-dogging exhibition put on by the National Basketball Association; or the target shooting travesty featured by the National Hockey League; and the cheap imitation of the game the National Football League puts on in Hawaii.
But the snooze-a-rama put on in Arizona earlier this week proved that baseball is heading in the same direction as the other leagues.
For one thing, many of the players picked for the game chose to come up with fake injuries.
I could understand Derek Jeter of the Yankees deciding not to come to the game. After all, he had recently come off the injury list and his much-publicized quest to reach 3,000 hits.
But because of all the bogus injuries, you ended up with Scott Rolen of the Cincinnati Reds starting by default at third base for the National League. Rolen brought a robust .241 average with just five homers into the game.
Or how about the record number (60) of players used in the game? The last time I checked, it requires nine players on both sides to play a game.
I can't even begin to imagine, say, Pete Rose coming out of an All-Star game after two or three innings. "Charlie Hustle," who does belong in the Hall of Fame by the way, played the game all-out and would have probably belted his managed if an early exit was suggested.
The National League winning pitcher - and I can't even remember his name - pitched one-third of an inning.
Whatever happened to the days when starting pitchers in All-Star games routinely worked five innings? The managers of the teams are more interested in protecting their own hurlers than they are in winning the game.
Baseball's hierachy talks pompously about protecting the integrity of the game. But the number of current contradictions puts that under serious question.
If you want the best facing the best, why didn't Justin Verlander of the Tigers and CC Sabathia of the Yankees pitch in the game?
Certainly, their managers could have been convinced to back up their final starts before the break ... so they could appear.
It also wasn't very smart to schedule a full slate of intra-league games right before the game.
The attractiveness of the game used to be pitting players who hadn't faced each other. Now, you have a situation where many of the players chosen opposed each other a couple of days before.
If the All-Star is to regain the luster it once had, a couple of things have to happen:
One, the last-minute "injuries" by the participants have to cease.
Secondly, it should be mandated that voted-in starters play a minimum of five innings, and that starting pitchers go at least three.
Maybe then, we'll have a game that really counts.