The MLB All-Star Game is etched in baseball lore forever. Carl Hubbell striking out five future Hall of Famers (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, Cronin) in consecutive fashion in 1934. Ted Williams hitting an “Eephus Pitch” (nowadays known as a Jamie Moyer fastball) for a home-run off of Rip Sewell in 1946. Reggie Jackson’s titanic home run off of Dock Ellis in 1971, that would have left Tiger Stadium had it not hit a transformer. Pete Rose basically ending Ray Fosse’s career by bowling him over in the 1970 game. As an Orioles fan, I remember Steve Stone throwing three scoreless innings in the 1980 game. Unfortunately the All-Star game now has no resemblance to those classics.
With the addition of the Home Run Derby and the other activities other than the game itself, the All-Star game has become a side show. (This is not unique to MLB, as all major sports have fallen victim to this malady). The Home Run Derby, just like the Slam Dunk contest, has become passé and is another reason that baseball has become a sport that caters to the elementary school crowd in the wrong way. Instead of having the game itself (and at a time that children can watch) be the priority, it’s more about the Derby, that of which most sluggers do not partake.
Let’s start with the All-Star game voting. It was always tainted, but that’s what happens when you leave it to the fans. Just like American Idol, (Taylor Hicks? uh..no), the voting and the selections have become increasingly worse. MLB, as well as each teams individual websites, have asked fans to “vote 25 times for your favorite players”. What are we now, Chicago in the 1960’s? What’s next, dead people voting?
As with every season, there are glaring mistakes by the fans on their choices. Nelson Cruz (.254 average, 11 home runs, 48 rbi) is 4th in outfield voting. Adam Jones (.298, 19 homers, 40 rbi) is 5th. A.J. Pierzynski (.284 average, 12 home runs, 41 rbi) trails Mike Napoli (.242, 12, 30) at catcher. The National League has Buster Posey (.298, 10, 40) ahead of Carlos Ruiz (.343. 10, 41). I can see it now, “Buster is a cool name, I think I’ll vote for him”. The biggest anomaly? Robert Andino 5th in second base voting.
How can the train wreck that is the MLB All-Star Game be fixed? Leave it to Dorado (me).
1) Have the players vote for the team. Heck, little league teams do that, and it works out just fine. Of course, there’s no money or incentives involved……..
2) Put more emphasis on the game itself. Back in the day, it was a bigger deal because you didn’t have 24-hour baseball coverage and didn’t have the opportunities to see teams outside of your viewing area. Interleague baseball has made it easier to see players from the other league. The GAME should still be the priority.
3) Don’t forget your long-time fans. The ones who are insulted by what the game has become. Teach our younger fans about the history and when the game was prestigious and meant something to the players other than a bonus in their contract.
Unfortunately, I don’t see any major changes to the game as it is in the near future. I think the veteran fans of the game are bored with the “All-Star Game week” festivities and would just like to see the game, with their sons/daughters, at an earlier time than it is now, so they can watch the superstars of both leagues, in a competitive nature and passion not always seen during the regular season. It should be about league pride, not about a bonus, or about home team advantage in the playoffs. If not of these factors come into play, just eliminate the All-Star Game, and make it a 3-day break for MLB.