Tonight is the 2013 MLB All-Star Game—the only one of the major pro sports all-star games that is at all worth watching. However, if Major League Baseball isn’t careful, they might just see this venerable and historic event turn into a pointless circus just like the NHL, NBA, and NFL.
Now, I’m not saying the All-Star Game shouldn’t be lighthearted fun. Of course it should. But you can still have fun while playing a real baseball game. And these days, with the oversized rosters and constant substitutions, the ASG is not a real baseball game.
Today, therefore, I present you with a list of ways to improve the Midsummer Classic. Do I have anything to say that hasn’t been expressed before in one way or another? Probably not. But I did come up with them based on my own observations on and frustrations with the MLB All-Star Game, then I took the time to write them down and make this list. So take a look. Maybe you’ll agree with me and come away with a newfound sense of baseball enlightenment. Or maybe you’ll disagree with me and attack my intelligence in the comments section. Either way, you’ll get something out of the experience.
Look, I know baseball has a long tradition of weekday games. Personally, I love sneaking out and taking in a businessman's special (almost as much as I love the sexist term "businessman's special"). But this is the 21st century and people are busy. Wouldn't you rather have the MLB All-Star Game on a weekend? If they played the game at 4PM EST on a Saturday, people could watch from coast to coast. As it is now, the game "starts" at 8PM EST on a Tuesday, but it doesn't really start until 75 player introductions and four performances of patriotic tunes by former American Idol runner-ups. So half the people on the west coast don't tune in until the third inning, and half the people on the east coast have to go to bed before the game is over.
Having the games on the weekend might not give MLB the primetime television audience they want, but more people would have the opportunity to watch, and it might make the whole thing more of an event.
Seriously, the idea is at least worth trying for one of two years.
9. Play the Game on a Weekend
It used to be that when they told you that you made the All-Star team, you were excited and honored and couldn't wait. These days you have too many players opting out of the game. (You know, like Jeter and A-Rod did in 2011.)
The solution to this problem is simple: fine players for opting out of All-Star festivities and reward players who accept the honor. Sucking up to fans is part of every player's job, and they get paid handsomely for it. Make them show up for the game and take it seriously.
8. Fine Players Who Are Healthy and Don't Play
What does this have to do with the All-Star Game, you ask? Well, it's quite simple, actually: back in the day, when the two league's didn't play each other, the All-Star Game and the World Series were real spectacles because they let people see how the two leagues stacked up. Now that we have interleague play, some of the magic of these two events is gone.
"All-Star Game? Big deal. I just saw the Dodgers play the Yankees last month!"
Solution: no more interleague play. This will make the All-Star Game pitting the National League against the American interesting again. And, as an added bonus, eliminating interleague play will help preserve some of the differences that still exist between the two leagues—differences that make baseball more interesting.
7. No More Interleague Play
Being an All-Star used to mean something—namely, that you truly were one of the greatest players in the game. Now it just means you are one of the game's pretty good players. Why? Because the rosters are enormous.
This year there are 77 All-Stars. Seventy-seven. That's 10% of all major leaguers. No joke. And beyond simply devaluing what it means to be an all-star, these inflated rosters cause a host of other problems. (See All-Star Fix #1.)
Obviously, the All-Star rosters should be bigger than regular 25-man rosters. But how about we cap it at, say, 30?
6. Reduce Rosters
MLB needs to get rid of the silly rule that says every single teams gets at least one representative. This isn't Congress. Having a member of your crappy team at the All-Star Game is not every fan's inalienable right. It's all a bunch of childish nonsense. The Houston Astros are terrible at baseball and do not deserve a representative at the All-Star game. Do you really think any of their fans over the age of eight are excited to see catcher Jason Castro in the midsummer classic? Please.
5. No More Universal Representation
Let me be clear: I love the idea that the fans vote for the players they want to see. The game is for the fans, after all.
That being said, the fans are stupid (I'm talking about you, St. Louis guy who voted for Pete Kozma), and they don't always know what is in their best interest. Moreover, this game now determines who has home field advantage in the World Series. Isn't that too big a deal to leave in the hands of fans who are too biased toward their home teams?
Oh, and by the way, no, I don't think they should get rid of the World Series home field advantage thing. I actually like this feature, because it really does make the game matter. And no, I don't think it's unfair at all. The World Series always brings together two teams from two different leagues playing with two sets of rules and two very different schedules. Simply giving one team home field advantage over the other because they had, say, three more wins in the regular season, is also arbitrary. What if the team with the best record in the 2013 WS is the Braves? They got to play the Miami Marlins 19 times this year. Meanwhile, if the Braves' opponents happened to be the Boston Red Sox, they'll be playing a team whose worst divisional opponent at the All-Star break is just four games below .500.
So giving home field advantage in the WS to the team with the best record isn't fair, either. You might as well give it to the league than wins the All-Star Game.
4. Fans Don't Vote Starting Lineups
If you're not going to reduce the role the fans' voting plays in the game, at least limit the ability of teams to skew results by getting their fans to vote for their players one billion times on the interwebz.
Yes, it's great that some teams have such rabid fanbases. I'm happy for them. But I don't want to see their players make the roster over more deserving players. It's just silly, and all MLB would have to do is limit the number of times you can vote from one email address to five instead of 25, and then make it so that you have to fill out the whole ballot every time instead of hitting the "vote again" button and resubmitting the entire ballot.
3. Limit Online Voting
You know what else is stupid? Given the All-Star Game managers a say in the rosters. They don't to fill out the rosters on their own teams because that's not their area of expertise. They're not busy analyzing players and prospects around the league all day; they're busy figuring out how to get the best out of the players they've got. Why, then, do managers get to make selections for the All-Star Game? All they end up doing is choosing too many of their own players. Instead, let the general managers of all the teams except the previous WS teams vote on the final roster spots.
2. Let All-Star GMs Fill Out Rosters
This is the absolute most important change MLB needs to make to the All-Star Game: eliminate non-strategic substitutions.
When did the character of grown men become so weak and frail that they have to be treated like little babies? "Oh, poor Jhonny Peralta is sad because he was selected for the All-Star Game but didn't get to play. That shouldn't happen! EVERYONE should get to play! And then, after the game, they all get participation medals and we take them all out for pizza!"
This is ridiculous. Jhonny Peralta, or Allen Craig, or Dustin Pedroia should be thrilled that they were chosen for the All-Star team in the first place. That should be enough. If they get to play in the game, then wonderful. But they're all grown men and we shouldn't coddle them. The idea that everybody has to play is ruining the All-Star Game. With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth and a runner on second with two outs, I don't want to see Pedro Alvarez come to the plate because David Wright has been lifted from the game. Alvarez is a great player and a worthy All-Star, but David Wright is better, and that's who I want to see facing Mariano Rivera with the game on the line.