A's starter Sonny Gray expects to stay put in Oakland for now. (Tony Dejak/AP)

Absence of black players a shame for All-Star Game

Major League Baseball refers to the All-Star Game as the Mid-Summer Classic. But it’s more like a mid-summer shame that three convicted performance-enhancing-drugs losers will in uniform in Cincinnati tonight, only one fewer than the number of African-Americans on both teams.

On Monday, commissioner Rob Manfred announced the start of Play Ball, a $30-million program designed to introduce kids to the game, some in underserved areas. What he didn’t address was the question that needed to be asked more than any: Why aren’t African-Americans interested in baseball any more? It will take far more dramatic and creative initiatives to bring them back, and the higher-ups may want to start with the game itself, one that has become too out of touch, way too slooooow over the years.

This is America, land of the free. A person can’t be forced to do something against his will. If a certain group doesn’t want to take part in a particular activity, that’s their prerogative. There are more sports and entertainment options than ever now.

Yet the fact remains that baseball can’t afford to lose so many quality athletes and avid fans to other sports much longer. Only 8 percent of Opening Day rosters were comprised of black players this year, compared to 19 percent less than 30 years ago. Until its leaders find new and better ways to reverse the trend, the erosion will continue.

WELL, LOOK WHO’S BACK: Twenty-six years after Pete Rose was barred from baseball, the hit king will be on the field at Great American Ball Park as part of a fan promotion. Why? Because lifetime bans don’t apply when MLB can market the person in question for its purposes, apparently.

It won’t be the first time Rose has been on the field since he accepted his suspension, either. In the 1999 World Series, he received a standing ovation when he was introduced as a member of the MLB-endorsed All-Century Team in Boston.

In the meantime, the 74-year-old Rose is so desperate to be reinstated this summer that he’ll consider almost anything, he says. But Manfred can’t be that naive, can he? Not much about Charlie Hustle has changed since he bet more than $10,000 daily on Reds games as their manager, and no matter how much he promotes himself as a baseball ambassador, he’s still a threat to flush the sport down the toilet again.

THEY WOULDN’T, WOULD THEY? Sonny Gray is 25 years old, on the short list of the best pitchers in baseball, makes all of $515,000 and isn’t eligible to become a free agent until four years from now.

But Gray does play for the Athletics, and as absurd the question seems to be, this is the time to ask it.

“I don’t think I am going to get traded,” Gray said Monday in Cincinnati.
But aren’t the A’s in last place? And aren’t they known to unload some their best players in return for prospects at this time of year?

“I don’t think I am going to be traded,” Gray said again.

Gray’s right — he won’t be traded. Then again, almost nobody thought Josh Donaldson would be dealt, either.

STILL WAITING: Several All-Stars brought their kids to the question-and-answer session, but the postgame news conference won’t be official without Riley Curry, and there was no sign of her yet.

STAY SASSY, COACH: Warriors coach Steve Kerr was at his sarcastic best on NBA TV last weekend, when he tweaked mentor Gregg Popovich about the San Antonio Spurs’ offseason moves.

“You look at what San Antonio did getting [LaMarcus] Aldridge,” Kerr said.

“I mean, if they don’t win the whole thing next year, it’s clearly the coach’s fault. I mean, if Pop can’t win the whole thing with that
roster, then he has no business coaching in this league.”

Yeah, if the Spurs don’t win it all, Pop should even be made to take http://www.sfexaminer.com/?page_id=5522&preview=truelessons on postgame etiquette.

THE LIST: The 2015 PEDs All-Star team:
– First base: Mike Morse, Miami Marlins
– Second base: Freddy Galvis, Philadelphia Phillies
– Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta, St. Louis Cardinals
– Third base: Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
– Left field: Melky Cabrera, Chicago White Sox
– Center field: Cameron Maybin, Atlanta Braves
– Right field: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
– Catcher: Yasmani Grandel, Los Angeles Dodgers
– Designated hitter: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners
– Starting pitcher: Bartolo Colon, New York Mets
– Starting pitcher: Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins
– Starting pitcher: Edinson Volquez, Kansas City Royals
– Relief pitcher: Rafael Betancourt, Colorado Rockies
– Manager: Matt Williams, Washington Nationals

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? (A compliment?!?) Send them to pladewski@sfexaminer.com and you may get your name in the paper one day.All-Star GameCharlie HustleGreat American Ball ParkGregg PopovichJosh DonaldsonPete RoseRob ManfredSonny GraySteve KerrTAGS: MLB

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