With interest waning (and for good reason) in the All-Star game, it is time for the game to follow in the Derby footsteps and make some changes. Every sports writer and fan of baseball has been weighing in on their ideas to fix the game, so in order to not feel left out, I offer yet another opinion on how to fix the All-Star Game for the future and make it a more meaningful honor to be selected for a team. After checking out my thoughts, let me know what your solution is to fix the game by leaving a comment.
First off, the All-Star Game should not decide home-field advantage in the World Series the way it is designed now. Each manager is charged with using all of their players (if possible), throwing a pitcher every 2 innings or so. How is that a fair assessment of a league’s talent? A starter coming into the game in the 5th inning to pitch 1 or 2 innings takes them out of their comfort zone and doesn’t allow them to truly demonstrate what they are good at: starting a ballgame. In the same vein, hitters get 1 or 2 ABs and then take a seat, so in late-game situations during a close game, the highest level players are usually out of the game already. This brings up one of the game’s biggest issues, fan voting.
This year set record numbers for votes for the All-Star Game roster, which is nice to see, but plays into fan favorites and not the most deserving players. Now I understand why MLB has fans vote, because they want to fans to feel like they are a part of the process, but when half the players won’t show up for the game anyway, that good feeling is lost. If the players don’t want to be there, then the fans don’t want to watch, it’s that simple.
I firmly believe the manager of each roster should hand pick the players they feel will field the best team. Let the managers pick starters based on their credentials that season, not just because they have recognizable names or are on the big market teams. If the managers select players based on merit, then it will eliminate players on the DL from getting a token invite that they can add to their resume. This season, 84 players were selected All-Stars, which diminishes the significance of the honor. Also, rosters should be reduced to 28, not the super-inflated 34 they have now.
My next issue is with the timing of the All-Star Game. Bobby Valentine made the best point on the HR Derby coverage Monday when he said to move the festivities back a day. By putting the Derby on Tuesday and the Game on Wednesday, it would allow for pitchers who pitched on Sunday to still participate in the game. Several of the top-tier pitchers bowed out of the game because they pitched Sunday, including James Shields and C.C. Sabathia (part of the issue is that Sabathia replaced Shields, even though he pitched Sunday and would not have been able to play in the game anyway). Most teams don’t play Thursday anyway, so just have everyone begin play again on Friday. It would allow for every healthy pitcher to have a shot at the All-Star Game, regardless of where they fall in their team’s rotation.
My final issue is with the DH or no DH controversy. It drives me nuts to watch the NL have a DH spot at the All-Star Game. Players should be selected in at their normal every-day positions. The NL roster should always have the pitcher hitting like they do in every other NL game and the AL roster should always have a DH like they do in every other AL game, especially if this game is to continue choosing home field advantage. It’s as simple as representing your league. If the NL wants a DH in the All-Star game, then the league should adopt the DH for the entire season (which they should).
Overall, the All-Star game has lost all pizazz and this year was the most extreme example of that. The mid-summer classic has become the mid-summer bore-fest. A total of 16 players bowed out of the game after being selected and only 4 of those players are on the DL. It makes a statement about the player’s interest in the game and the value certain players place on being selected, but don’t care about the game or helping to clinch home-field advantage. It is time for Bud Selig to make several changes and spice up the game, just like he did with the HR Derby. Don’t waste any more time, the 2012 All-Star Game is just a year away.