Sports Watcher for the Weekend of 7/19-20 (UPDATED)

All times PDT.

Saurday
11:30-1 PM: AVP Crocs Tour, AVP Crocs Slam Brooklyn, men’s final (NBC). Yes, despite the British Open we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel this week.

1-4 PM: MLB Baseball, regional action (FOX). Tune in immediately upon the end of volleyball. Because it didn’t end in a tie I originally wasn’t going to comment on the All-Star Game, until people on TV started commenting on it anyway. The “this time it counts” era was supposed to prevent this sort of thing, and it’s obvious that it didn’t. Now there’s a lot of hand-wringing about adding more pitchers to the roster, but how about tackling the problem at its source? Here are the problems with the ASG and their sources:

  • The players and managers treat it like an exhibition, instead of as a source of pride for their league. “This time it counts” was supposed to fix that problem, and strangely, it’s being credited for fixing that problem. We may be able to attribute to “this time it counts” the fact we could have gone into the 16th whereas 2002 ended after 12, and the managers were prepared to use position players to pitch instead of ending the game in a tie.
  • The managers feel obligated to use every player that’s willing, to mollify them but even more to mollify their fans. In the old days, it wasn’t uncommon for position players to play the whole game.
  • Teams’ concerns about overworking pitchers.
  • The rise of middle relievers and closers. Have a look at the 1968 All Star Game, the year before saves became an official stat. You see the same pitching carousel we see now, with a few more multi-inning pitchers – but every last pitcher was a starter, in an age where it was rare for pitchers to fail to go seven innings. The 1967 All-Star Game went 15 innings with no problem; Catfish Hunter pitched the final five innings for the AL (and ultimately lost), a feat that seems inconceivable today. Now teams protect pitchers more and gobble up large chunks of their rosters with relievers. Now pitching is not a position where players are interchangable at will – replacement pitchers have specific roles in theory – and thus is not a position well suited for all-star games. The NBA All-Star Game may well be the best all-star game, followed by the NHL, because their games actually feel like real games, unusually strong offense notwithstanding.

I’m not sure if anything can be done about any of that at this point, but if anything can, it’s worth thinking about.

6:30-9:30 PM: NASCAR Nationwide Series racing, Gateway (ESPN2). Because I rarely get a chance to put up a Nationwide Series race and there’s no Sprint Cup action this week.

UPDATED 7/19: ALTERNATE: 6-9 PM: Ultimate Fighting Championship, Fight Night (Spike TV). Not sure how highly to rate this since it’s not what would normally be considered a PPV, but I don’t want it to go unmentioned. Live on both coasts, so 9-12 on the East Coast.

Sunday
5-10:30 AM: PGA Golf, British Open, final round (ABC). If there’s a golf tournament, and Tiger isn’t playing in it, does it make a sound?

10:30-1 PM: IndyCar Racing, Honda Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio (ABC). Last year ratings were inflated by the British Open. Look for history to repeat itself.

12-2 PM: LPGA Golf, State Farm Classic, final round (ESPN2). Girl Power Sunday again!

2-4 PM: US Open Series, Bank of the West Classic, women’s singles final (ESPN2). Girl Power Sunday and Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel Weekend again!

6-8 PM: The ESPY Awards (ESPN). Because there can exist nothing for which there is not an awards show of some kind. And no network should have to go without an awards show.

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