Since the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement, baseball has made their All-Star Game not only exciting, but actually important, as it determines home field advantage for the World Series, and the game is now something baseball fans cannot miss.
Most All-Star Games are nothing more than a glorified time-waster in the middle of their sport’s seasons. The only notable event at most All-Star Games are the skills competitions. Contest like the one before the NHL All-Star Game, the NBA Skills Competition and Dunk Contest and the Home Run Derby for baseball. Now though, the Derby has become the boring thing for baseball as the last few All-Star games have been great games.
Since making the outcome of the game matter, only one game has been decided by more than two runs, last year when the National League won 5-1. Of the five games played under the “it counts” format, three of them have been one-run affairs. Before that, only four had been decided by one run, including a tie in 2002, since 1990. It may not be definitive proof that the new format guarantees closer games, as there is such a small sample size, but it does seem to change the way the managers play the game.
There is no better example of how the game has become more exciting than in 2008. It was the final All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium and oh, boy was it a good one. After 14-innings the game still was not decided and both leagues were down to their final pitchers with both managers concerned about what would happen if no one scored in the next few innings. If you turned the game off at some point, then you were a fool, as the AL had a shot at winning it after getting Carlos Guillen to third with one out in the 12-innings. Yet, as you should expect in an All-Star Game, outstanding pitching from Aaron Cook ended the threat. Of course, this all came just a half inning after Joakim Soria and George Sherrill worked out of a bases loaded jam the NL had manufactured in the 12th inning. So, to say the game was just bad offense was not the case at all.
The game ultimately ended 4-3 on a walk-off, but featured three total lead changes, including the final one to end the game, outstanding pitching and just overall good baseball. 4-3 is a perfect score for an All-Star game too, as it shows both teams actually played the game the right way and didn’t just give up runs carelessly. Obviously it is easier in a non-contact sport like baseball, but it is still sort of sickening to see the NHL All-Star Game end 12-9 or the NBA All-Star Game end 152-149.
Games rarely end with those scores in their respective sports, so really what is the point of playing if you aren’t going to do it the right way?
Looking towards next Tuesday, we have a whale of an MLB All-Star game coming up. The National League is currently on a two-game winning streak and look at that, the NL has won the last two World Series too. Maybe it is just a coincidence, as the NL has won three of them since the new format was introduced, despite only winning two All-Star Games, but the fact the NL is 2-for-2 in World Series in years they win the All-Star Game can’t be overlooked. After losing the last two games as well, you have to imagine the AL is chomping at the bit to get back to their dominance.
If you’ve never watched the baseball All-Star game, try to watch this one, if only for three innings. The way these players play in it, now that it is important, it will be hard not to get hooked.