When I was younger, so much younger than today…the Major League Baseball All-Star game was must-see TV. I always looked forward to watching the Midsummer Classic, and it was great that it happened in the middle of July, either before or just after my birthday, and since school was out, I could stay up and watch until it ended. When I was a child, the National League held sway in the All-Star Game; I always counted on them to win-even though I was an Oriole fan, I liked the NL style of baseball better in those days. Slowly, the American League gained ground to where now they win more often than not.
Regardless of which side won or lost, the All-Star Game was the fans’ game. Year after year, fans were constantly reminded to vote for your favorite All-Stars in each league in order to pick the starting lineups. And, often as not, the best in the game always made their way to the site of the game year after year. In my youth, the names were Rose, Morgan, Murray, Palmer, and so on. The same is true today; fan voting usually picks the same players year after year. I don’t find anything wrong with the fans picking the starters; after all it is a game for them. Fans also have a say in what player gets the final spot on the roster in a fan vote. However in recent years, with the advent of 24-hour sports media and blogs, snubs of deserving players-either by fan vote or manager’s choices for reserves-are given more analysis. Adding to the greater scrutiny snubs receive is the rule that every team in both leagues should have at least one representative. Because every team must have a player on the squad, this cuts down the amount of spots allowed for deserving players. This last point hits close to home as the Orioles, with baseball’s worst record, had Ty Wiggington chosen as a reserve, which cost a possibly more deserving player a spot on the roster. The fan vote for the final spot will certainly get one more player a spot on the roster of each team.
Other things to think about concern the game itself, such as the manager’s need or compulsion to get every player in the game. This backfired in 2002 when both managers in the game ran out of players and the game ended in a tie. Beginning with this season, managers are allowed to have one player who can re-enter the game at any position (with the exclusion of catchers, which is already allowed). Now managers have been encouraged to hold players back in case of a situation similar to what happened in 2002, but this often leads to fans becoming upset when players do not get to participate. Perhaps more accepted, but no less controversial is the decision to give the winning team’s league home field advantage in the World Series at the end of the season. Since the rule was made permanent, no National League club has won home field advantage in the Series as the American League has won every contest after the change.
Major League Baseball should be commended for attempting to give the game the spotlight it deserves by tinkering with the format, adding ancillary events (the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game come immediately to mind) and for trying to make the game more important by having home field advantage in the World Series riding on the contest. But do these changes make the game better? I would just as soon see the World Series home field advantage incentive removed from the game; I’m not sure it is necessary in what is basically an exhibition game. I also would rather see the best players rather than require every team have a representative. Yes, I realize that the Orioles wouldn’t have a representative under this plan, but should they really have one, given how the season has gone thus far?
Nevertheless, I will probably watch some of the game, but I doubt I will see the game to its completion-it has been years since I watched the game end, partially because the game usually is over well after midnight; partially because I haven’t watched as much baseball in general as I used to. So is the MLB All-Star Game worth watching? What changes, if any would you make?