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NOT ALL STARRY-EYED

Baseball's All-Star Game is Tuesday, and we'll watch because that's what baseball fans are supposed to do. But doesn't it seem as if the game has lost its punch? It doesn't feel as special as it once did. Five things wrong with the All-Star Game:

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Managers select the nonstarters

If a manager takes his team to the World Series, he manages the All-Star Game the next season and fills out the roster spots not picked by the players or fans. Invariably, this leads to controversy because managers feel an obligation to take players from their own teams. It's why Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel is taking Ryan Howard instead of a more deserving player, such as the Reds' Joey Votto. Who can blame Manuel? Whatever he does, he's going to catch heck for it, so why not take your own guy? It puts managers in a tough spot and creates ill will, and you still end up with players being snubbed. MLB should form a committee of managers, coaches, executives, media and a couple of Bill James types to pick the teams. It will keep the skippers out of hot water, and more deserving players will get picked.

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Expanded rosters

Know how many players could call themselves All-Stars last year? Seventy-one! This year, we will have more. Because of injuries and pitching rules, players are named then replaced. For example, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, below, was named, but because he is scheduled to pitch for New York on Sunday, he will be replaced. What is this, Little League? Everyone gets a trophy? Injuries are one thing, but expanding the rosters because you're worried about extra innings and pitchers throwing to a batter or two on short rest is another. Geez, how did All-Star Games get played 25 years ago when a mere 60 were All-Stars?

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Having a player from every team

Why should a player who is not really having an All-Star season get an invitation just because he is the only decent player on a crummy team? MLB wants to include someone from every team to drum up interest in all markets, but usually the nondeserving All-Stars end up getting one measly at-bat. Meanwhile, players who deserve to be recognized are left at home. Just take the best players. Period. If that means five Yankees and no Orioles, so be it. If someone from, say, Kansas City is a real baseball fan, he will still watch the game even if there are no Royals involved.

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The other junk

Specifically, we're talking about the home run derby. Enough, already. We get it. Major-league players can hit home runs when facing lob jobs belt-high over the middle of the plate. Then Chris Berman yells "Back-back-back ... " as if we're looking at something really special when there's nothing special about it. Class A players could hit home runs in that format. Plus, many of the game's best sluggers end up sitting out the derby. That and the celebrity softball game are just a way for MLB to charge ridiculous prices and line its pockets. We're suckers to fall for it.

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The game is played at all

Even with homefield advantage for the World Series on the line, it feels as if the object of the game is to make sure everyone plays and goes home healthy. So maybe it's time to think about killing this game. Player introductions are pretty cool, and that buzz lasts into the first inning or two. After that, it becomes a revolving door of substitutions, and the game is decided when baseball's true superstars are on the bench. As far as homefield advantage for the World Series, just do it like other leagues and give it to the team with the better record.

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