I know it is a cliche, but the MLB all-star game is far and away the best of all the major sports. Mainly because it is the only one that resembles the game played the rest of the year. I might not have watched a combined 10 minutes of the Pro Bowl and NBA and NHL all-star games, but I’ll watch tonight from first pitch to last out.
Why, you may ask. There are many reasons, but they all point back to the quality of play. Pitchers use their full repertoire. If they can crank it up to 97, you’ll see 97 at the all-star game. Fast guys steal bases and try to score from first on a double. Guys play the game the same as they would any other night.
In hockey, there is very little real checking. In basketball, defense is just a myth except in a few one on one circumstances. In football, not only is the hitting light, but the offenses are vanilla and the defenses don’t blitz. All of these variances are understandable in light of injury concerns and excitement expectations, but it doesn’t change the fact that they just aren’t the same game. In baseball the only difference is how the pitchers are handled; and that might make the game even more intense. When every at bat you see a different superstar pitcher, it can’t be good for the hitters.
The other reason I like the the Baseball All-Star game best, is I really think you are seeing the best team that could be put on the field. Because baseball isn’t exactly a team sport like the others, the fact that the teams haven’t really practiced is irrelevant. Hitter versus batter, and fielder versus the ball are essentially the same, no matter who your teammates are. The double play combo is really the only part where extra practice might help, and that is minimal. You don’t need a training camp to get the pitcher to cover first and the left fielder to hit the cut-off man. All teams do that stuff pretty much the same. That is why I feel that the LA Lakers would beat an NBA all-star team, the Red Wings would beat an NHL All-Star team, and the Steelers would crush a thrown together Pro Bowl team; but I do think that the AL All-Stars would be able to beat the Phillies or Dodgers in a series.
All of these factors come together to make the MLB all-star game not just more enjoyable, but just plain a better game. The NBA all-star game has been decided by an average of 11 points in the last decade. The NHL has had some close games but the winning team usually scores in double figures, that’s not hockey. The Pro Bowl…well it just kinda stinks. On the other hand MLB has had these classics in recent years.
2008- It went 15 innings before Michael Young sacrificed Justin Morneau with a deep flyball.
2007- The NL scored two runs off JJ Putz to pull within one in the bottom of the ninth, and then loaded the bases before succumbing to Francisco Rodriguez.
2006- Trevor Hoffman came on in the ninth to close it out, but the pesky Michael Young hit a game winning triple in the ninth to give the AL another win.
2003- In the first winner gets home field game, the NL took the lead into the eighth, but Eric Gagne gave up three runs; including a two run go ahead blast from Hank Blalock that won the game. It was Gagne’s only blown save in 2003.
2002- Ending in a tie may have left an unsatisfied feeling, but it doesn’t change the fact that it was an exciting game up until then.
I may be in the minority , but I do like the idea that the game “counts”. I think it makes sure that the players are into the game a little bit more like they used to be. And I don’t think it cheapens anything. People ridicule it by comparing it to the NBA finals, but we all know that home field isn’t that important in baseball. Since this began there has been 6 World Series and three have been won by the NL without home field advantage. Most importantly, baseball has never awarded home field to the “better” team like the NHL or NBA does. It used to just alternate between leagues, which might be slightly more fair, but not so much so that livening up the All-Star game isn’t worth it. In the NBA or NHL you play a third of your schedule against the other league and play everyone at least once. Comparing the Orlando record to LA’s is fair, but in MLB it isn’t. You only play a tiny portion of your schedule against the other league and only play a few teams; comparing the Dodgers record to the Red Sox is just as meaningless as letting an exhibition determine the home team.
So I say leave it the way it is…………….and lets enjoy another Mid-Summer Classic this year. Ahhh the memories.
Fernando vs. George Brett
Carlton vs. Reggie Jackson
Ozzie Smith and Ryne Sandberg turning a double play.
Inter-league play has brought it down a tiny notch, but it still is one of the best events in sports.