What the MLB All-Star game is missing

July 11, 2012 | James Finn

I’ve seen and heard far too much negative about the MLB All-Star game.  Why does this player get elected over that one?  Why does an exhibition game count?  Why should anybody on the Padres or A’s have any influence on October baseball?  Who the hell is Wade Miley?

There’s no “fixing” the All-Star game.  It is what it is.  Except the whole “Make it count” thing, that’s easy.  Maybe that doesn’t get fixed until Bud Selig retires, but it’s an easy fix.

Selecting players to these games is always a challenge.  It’s been this way for years.  Popular players = Ratings = Revenue, so a fan vote is needed.  In this emerging age of social media and interactivity, if you aren’t engaging your fans, you probably are losing your fans.  MLB did a stellar job this year of engaging the Fan vote, especially with the “Final Selection”.  The campaigning, though a bit overdone, absolutely had the public participating.  Additional kudos to Twitter for being able to handle the load when the voting began there.

The NFL I feel does the best job with their Pro-bowl selections, splitting the vote between Fans, Players, and coaches.  Perhaps if baseball could mirror what the NFL does, we’ll see deserving players like David Wright start, and under performers like Dan Uggla be omitted.  Regardless of how it’s handled, it will spark debate.  It’s a part of any sort of selection process (sports, The Oscars, American Idol).  This is a predictable debate in media at All-Star time every year, and makes for good filler.

I have a different argument.

The All-Star game needs a “Skills Challenge”.

And I’m not talking about watching roided-out freaks whack a batting practice home runs.  Not that it doesn’t take skill, it’s only that after 3 hours, it becomes excruciating to watch.  It becomes redundant, and I can only tolerate Chris Berman’s “Back-Back-Back-Back” call so much before I’m “Click-Click-Clicking” my remote.  Don’t eliminate the Derby.  There are many fans that enjoy it, just, supplement it with something else. I’m talking something similar to what the NBA and NHL currently do (and NFL used to do).  Here are my ideas.  I’m open to suggestions on the names.

1) The “Top Gun” Challenge:  Who’s got the quickest Fastball?  Put your arm to the test.  I’d love to see Justin Verlander, Steven Strasburg, and Tim Lincecum, match heat?  10 pitches for each pitcher.  Top speed wins.  Must be a strike to count.  Would need a high Ultimate bragging rights, and something really cool for your Wikipedia page.

Note: Not to be confused with the “Top Gun Karaoke” Challenge, where you attempt to get the entire bar to join you in “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling”

2) The “Around the Diamond” challenge:  This is a SPEED challenge. Who’s most likely to hit an inside the park home run?  This challenge would pit the fleetest of foot in a timed race around the bases.  Bourne, Bryce, Kemp, and a handfull of speedy rookies could help settle the debated argument of Fastest in the league.

3) The “To the plate” challenge: Who’s got the best gun in the outfield?  Ichiro? Markakis? Francoeur? From the warning track of the outfield, you must hurl the ball down to home.  It would provide different results each year, as the hosting ballpark is bound to have different dimensions.

I’m open to something new.  I’d even sit down and watch the pitchers play carnival games.  Throw the ball and knock down the 3 milk bottles stacked on top of each other.  Or how long does it take them to knock down all the furry cats?

Are players likely to do this?  Would club owners allow their players to participate?  Probably not.  They’ll press the argument it’s not worth risking injury.  Truth be told, you can be injured at any given time, regular season, skills competetion, leaping into home plate after a walk-off homer, pick-up basketball game, playing Guitar Hero, and as I learned on Monday, falling asleep while tanning.

@JamesTFinn on Twitter