Big-name MLB players decline All-Star game

PHOENIX — Major League Baseball, the league that plays the most games and has the longest lasting season, gave every sports fan in the world something they wanted — a game. The 82nd edition of the mid-summer classic is an exhibition game, but sports fans are thirsty and hungry for a real game.

Baseball, like the rest of the sports industry, has issues to deal with. However, some of their biggest name stars, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, have battled and continue to battle in court to stay out of jail. The NFL and NBA leagues, after record-smashing years in revenue, ratings and popularity, have locks on their doors.

The NFL and NBA are leagues dominated by Black players: 79 and 90 percent respectively. League owners in the NFL are risking upsetting their great success while NBA owners’ expenses have gotten out of whack, they say.

Those problems with those leagues have given MLB an opportunity to at least think about being number one again. For a long time, MLB was America’s pastime, the runaway leader. About 12 to 15 years ago, that all changed in this country. The NFL flew past MLB, and baseball became Avis.

Now MLB has a strong Latin flavor, and the game of baseball is as international and global as it’s ever been. MLB is hosting its prize jewel in hot Arizona, a state that recently passed a border immigration law that has sparked protest and anger among Mexicans and Hispanics, some of whom are targeted just because Arizona borders Mexico.

No protest and no threats from local organizations or community groups surfaced this week — it’s like people have decided to give up the fight. Baseball has a chance now to build some momentum, and what happens? A fan falls tragically to his death when Texas Ranger star Josh Hamilton tosses a fan a ball and he falls 20 feet over a guard rail to his death with his son watching.

Sixteen of the game’s best players and biggest names, players like Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez, many voted as starters by the fans, are not playing in this year’s All-Star game. That includes the biggest name, Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees captain, who just last Saturday became the 28th player in history and fourth fastest to reach 3,000 career hits. He is the biggest name of them all to say no to the All-Star game.

Is the MLB All-Star game becoming the NFL Pro Bowl, where for years, since the game followed the Super Bowl, players regularly pass on playing. It’s a new breed of players, and some don’t honor or respect the game like players used to.

Imagine how many players are going to pass on playing in next year’s All-Star game in Kansas City. Only four of the players who skipped the game — Jose Reyes, Shane Victorino, Chipper Jones and Jon Lester — are on the disabled list. The Twins were represented by Michael Cuddyer, selected to his first All-Star game.

New York Yankee star Robinson Cano won the State Farm Home Run Derby with a total of 32 home runs that averaged 433 feet. Yes, the Home Run Derby turned into the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees. Cano hit 12 home runs in the championship round to defeat Adrian Gonzalez, who hit 11.

The American League team defeated the National League team easily Monday night with 76 home runs to 19. The All-Star game on Tuesday at Chase Field will decide which league gets the home-field advantage in the World Series. Roy Halladay of Philadelphia will start for the National League, and Jered Weaver, the first pitcher to go 6-0 in April, starts for the American League.

Fitz Notes & Quotes
Way back from 1665 to 1968, slavery laws existed in this great country of ours. In fact, the Maryland doctrine of exclusion from 1638 had laws that stated Blacks must be excluded from benefits afforded Whites. Blacks must remain noncompetitive with Whites except in sports and entertainment. And here we are in 2011 with the NFL and NBA leagues dominated by Black players, and there are chain locks on the doors keeping union players out.

I was surprised how Twins star Joe Mauer’s reputation among his peers in the All-Star game has slipped.

Nike, with both the NFL and NBA in the middle of lockouts, is literally in a league of its own. Nike is now a $21 billion company, far and away the leader. Nike did, however, lose New England quarterback Tom Brady to Under Armor. Brady and Carolina quarterback rookie Cam Newton will be featured in TV adds after the NFL lockout ends.

Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl star Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. again this summer has organized and led workouts for locked-out and would-be NFL players Monday through Friday on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Fitzgerald returned to Arizona Sunday, Monday and Tuesday working out with Cardinals teammates.

Fitzgerald was also selected to play in the MLB All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball game on Sunday along with Jordin Sparks, who has headlined the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund Benefit the last three years. Sparks will sing the National Anthem before Tuesday’s 82nd All-Star game.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to, or visit