This past July, there was much hullabaloo over certain players who chose to skip the All-Star Game. Some of these players, such as Mariano Rivera and David Price, were selected to play in the Midsummer Classic, but declined so they could recover from nagging injuries. However, neither player was on the disabled list at the time and did not miss any time from their respective teams once the season resumed after the All-Star Break.
There was another player (who was not injured, mind you) who also did not make the trip to Arizona. Instead, he chose to be with his then-girlfriend in Miami, rather than participate in the All-Star Game or the pregame festivities. To protect the name of the guilty, let's call him Dirk Jitters.
For someone with two balls, Dirk Jitters had none when it came to his 2011 All-Star Game no-show.
Mr. Jitters had just achieved one of the most impressive milestones in baseball - collecting his 3,000th hit. It was a feat that should have been celebrated on a national stage, the type of stage the All-Star Game could provide. But no, Mr. Jitters decided to soak in the Florida sun rather than soak in the adulation of baseball fans all over the world who tuned in to the game or were fortunate enough to have tickets.
Needless to say, Major League Baseball was put in an uncomfortable spot with Mr. Jitters' snub. Fortunately, that will never happen again.
If you peruse the summary of the new collective bargaining agreement, you'll notice things you already knew about, such as the move of the Houston Astros from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013, the addition of two wild card teams beginning as early as the 2012 season, and the necessity of interleague play throughout the entire season.
But scroll down to the very bottom of the summary, where it says "7 X.. Other". Under subsection 'a', there is a new rule in place that Mr. Jitters and his fellow summer vacationers should pay attention to. It says:
"Participation in the All-Star Game will be required unless the Player is unable to play due to injury or is otherwise excused by the Office of the Commissioner."
There was a time when players considered it an honor to be selected for the All-Star Game. They wouldn't dream of missing the game. Fans knew when they attended the game or tuned into it on the television or radio, they would see (or hear) the very best players in the game displaying their talents on the same field.
Since 1969, fans have punched holes through paper ballots and more recently, clicked their mouse to vote for their favorite players. Imagine all those people spending all that time to vote for a particular player, only to have that player blow the game off. That would tick off anyone, let alone a die-hard fan of that player.
Jose Reyes has been selected for the All-Star Game four times. However, he has had the misfortune of being injured for three of those games. Nevertheless, he has managed to make the trip to each game. When asked about this, Reyes said:
"Every time I've had the opportunity to come here I'm going to come, no matter what happens...three of the last four years in the All-Star Game I've been injured, but I still come here."
Even Phillies' centerfielder Shane Victorino, who has drawn the ire of Mets fans for years, and has had his issues with how Reyes conducts himself on the field, agreed with Jose on the topic of showing up to the All-Star Game regardless of whether a player can play or not.
This past July, Victorino himself was injured and on the disabled list, but had been voted in by fans in the All-Star Game Final Vote. Despite spraining a ligament in his right thumb, Victorino did not need to be held back from making the trek to Arizona to be with his fellow All-Stars, saying:
"My trainers and I talked about staying in Philly and getting my finger better and trying to get back healthy, but I'm like 'Well, I can do the same things here that I can do in Philly so I'd like to come and be with my teammates, being around players that are deserving.' One, I got voted in and I want to tip my hat to the fans and say thank you and represent the National League."
Reyes and Victorino "get it". Certain other players don't. Players like Mr. Jitters and the Cubs' Aramis Ramirez, who turned down his All-Star invitation, will now have to get it, according to the new rules.
Players have approximately four months to take their vacations from the final pitch of the World Series to the day pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. If they feel the need to take more vacation time, then they shouldn't be in the game to begin with.
Fans who help pay the players' salaries want to see these players for one night in July. Is that really so much to ask for? Fortunately, that question will never have to be asked again. If you vote them in, they will come. They no longer have any choice in the matter.