As the first week of MLB’s unofficial second half winds down, I would like to take a look back at the All-Star game and festivities that went with it in my hometown of Cincinnati.
I will start with the good. Overall, the city of Cincinnati did a fantastic job with this event. From zip lines to celebrities, a little bit of everything was featured. I was also impressed with how well the city handled several major sports talk shows emanating from the city throughout the entire week. Also, to see the history of Reds honored so often was nice. Even Pete Rose did not make an idiot out of himself. Most important, the city and its fans seemed to be well received by the players. It was a great week for the city of Cincinnati.
While the game itself was a rather bland but convincing 6-3 win for the AL, the highlight of the festivities was without question the Home Run Derby. The new timed, bracket, and single elimination format completely rejuvenated an event that had become stale. Home crowd favorite Reds third baseman Todd Frazier won the event edging Dodgers phenom outfielder Joc Pederson 15 homers to 14 in the final round. This provided a nice bright spot in an otherwise lost season for the Reds.
The parts of this year’s All-Star game that bothered me are the same things that bother me every year. They have nothing to do with the city of Cincinnati. In fact, I have never been prouder of my hometown than I was during All-Star week. However, Major League Baseball continues to send mixed signals about what it actually wants the All-Star game to be. After the infamous 2002 tie in Milwaukee, then Commissioner Bud Selig announced that the winning league in the All-Star game would secure home field advantage for its representative in the World Series. For the first time in its history the All-Star game actually meant something and was no longer simply an exhibition.
Personally, I think the institution of the rule was an overreaction to an unfortunate one-time event. Both sides ran out of players in 2002. It made no sense for the players to continue for God knows how long in an exhibition game when there was still a second half of the regular season to play. I would like to see the game go back to being an exhibition. Unfortunately, this likely is not happening. The people who run the sport seem to really like the rule.
Assuming my last two sentences are true, there are a couple fundamental changes that must be made to the All-Star game for it all to make sense. First, the fans deciding who goes to the All-Star game means to become a thing of the past. This was all well and good back when the All-Star game really was “the fans’ game” and a true exhibition. However, if you are going to put something as potentially valuable as home field advantage in the World Series up for grabs, the best players should play… period. Fans do not vote for the best players. They vote for players on their hometown team. At one point in the voting this year, The AL starting lineup consisted of 8 Kansas City Royals and Mike Trout. This cannot happen. If something is going to be at stake, managers, scouts, and media members should decide who gets the nod. I am not bashing fans, but most do not follow all 30 teams closely, myself included.
The other thing that must stop is the rule that mandates every team must have an All-Star. Aside from the fact that I hate that we now make sure no one gets their feelings hurt whenever possible in any walk of life, having every team represented virtually assures that at least one deserving player gets left out to comply with the rule. Additionally, if the game “matters” managers should treat it as such and not concern themselves with trying to use all players available to them. If the starter is pitching well, let him go 7 innings, instead of maybe 2. Baseball continues to have the best All-Star Game in sports by a long ways, but does it “matter” or is it an exhibition? Major League Baseball cannot have it both ways and needs to make up its mind.