THESE ARE ALL-STARS?
The ridiculousness of voting procedures for the starting lineups in baseball's All-Star Game was never more evident than in a press release recently issued by the New York Yankees. "Yankees Have Eleven All-Star Candidates," the headline on the release read, and the copy boasted that this total was "the most ever by any team." But the punchcard ballots on which these candidates are listed do a far better job of promoting Gillette, sponsor of the balloting, than of helping fans pick a representative team. As usual, the names on the ballots, which were prepared before the season began, are based on past performances and end up bearing little relation to what's happening on the field this season. The only rookies appearing on the ballot are those who received a lot of preseason publicity, like Cal Ripken Jr. of the Orioles; surprises like Bob Dernier of the Phillies or Kent Hrbek of the Twins, who have played better than Ripken so far, are ignored.
Sure, you can vote for unlisted players by writing in the names; there's a little space on the bottom of the ballot for that purpose, if you can find it. But wait and see; for every write-in vote there will be hundreds cast for players who shouldn't be on the ballot, like most of the Yankees listed. Look at the names: Rick Cerone, hitting .233 when he was sidelined two weeks ago with a broken thumb; Dave Collins, a part-time player, batting .233 with five RBIs as of last weekend; Bucky Dent, who was batting .159; John Mayberry, hitting .244; Graig Nettles, who missed most of the first six weeks with a broken thumb and had only four RBIs; Roy Smalley, batting .226; Butch Wynegar, hitting .245. These are All-Stars? Two other Yankees, Ken Griffey and Jerry Mumphrey, have done better, but not well enough to make them legit All-Star candidates. Of the 11 Yankees on the ballot, only Willie Randolph (.323) and Dave Winfield (.302 and 25 RBIs) are solid All-Star prospects—if one discounts the fact that Winfield went on the 21-day disabled list last week.
All-Stars are supposed to be the best, but the ballot, as now constituted, is inevitably out of date and out of whack. In 1983 baseball should junk this selection system in favor of one that takes into account the events of the season in which the All-Star Game is played.
PASS AT YOUR OWN RISK
It's next to impossible to drive on Southern California freeways these days without seeing bumper stickers that say I'D RATHER BE SKIING or—the variations on the theme are endless—I'D RATHER BE SWIMMING or I'D RATHER BE RUNNING or I'D RATHER BE WINDSURFING. Michael Keaton, a comedian appearing at a Hollywood night spot, the Comedy Store, swears he recently saw a car speeding along the Ventura Freeway bearing a bumper sticker that said, disconcertingly, I'D RATHER BE DRIVING.
LET'S HEAR IT FOR 18-INCH SEATS
Last December the NCAA sought to defuse a mutiny by some of college football's biggest powers by establishing stricter criteria, including a minimum stadium seating capacity of 30,000, for membership in Division I-A. The realignment was expected to force as many as 50 of the 137 I-A schools to drop to Division I-AA, but there was one complication: Within the same conference, some schools figured to meet the criteria while others didn't. The NCAA ruled that if more than half the members of a conference qualified for I-A, all member schools could stay put. If half or fewer of the schools qualified, those that met the new criteria could either drop to I-AA with other conference members, quit the conference or, if they could contrive to play seven or more games a year against I-A opponents, remain in I-A even though their conference was in I-AA.
With that, the realignment scramble was on. Yale, the only Ivy League school that met the criteria for continued I-A status, elected to drop to I-AA with the other Ivy institutions. But another school that qualified for I-A, Southwestern Louisiana, quit the Southland Conference rather than accept demotion to I-AA with its conference brethren. Because only three of its eight schools qualified for I-A, the Missouri Valley Conference is classified as I-AA; however, those three, Tulsa, Wichita State and New Mexico State, hope to be able to play enough I-A opponents—one another, for starters—to remain in that division without having to quit the Valley.
Now consider the Pacific Coast Athletic Association and the Mid-American Conference, which last season arranged to send their respective champions to meet in the California Bowl in Fresno. The PCAA stayed in Division I-A because four of its seven schools met the criteria, including Nevada-Las Vegas, which joined the conference only last November. On the other hand, because only four of its 10 schools are expected to meet I-A standards, the Mid-American will compete in 1982 at the I-AA level.
Despite its demotion, the Mid-American will continue sending its best team to California for what will become, for at least one year, an interdivisional showdown with the PCAA. In the meantime, two Mid-American members—Northern Illinois and Bowling Green—plan stadium expansions to meet the 30,000-seat requirement. Northern now lists the capacity of its Huskie Stadium at 30,050, but several thousand of those seats are 16 inches wide; the NCAA's busy bureaucrats have ruled that to count toward the I-A minimum, seats must measure 18 inches. The purpose of Northern Illinois' planned expansion is to help put the Mid-American Conference back into I-A. Because it will involve, in part, replacing 16-inch seats with 18-inch ones, the expansion will also give some Huskie fans more breathing space, a hitherto unappreciated benefit of big-time football.