The All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York is quickly approaching, and once again there will be an abundance of baseball talent assembled to compete to determine which league will have home field advantage in the World Series. Besides the fact that this is an awful way to decide who gets home field, the All-Star Game itself needs to be tweaked a little bit to get the quirks out. Major League Baseball does have one of the better professional All-Star games, but it is not perfect.
The players that participate in the MLB All-Star Game are not all All-Stars. Every year there are guys that get snubbed and there are guys that make it that leave all the baseball experts clueless and scratching their heads. The first reason this happens – MLB requires that every team has at least one player on the All-Star team. This has to be one of the worst stipulations ever implemented. Every year, there is at least one or two teams, if not more, who have no players worthy of being named an All-Star. This year, those teams happen to include the Houston Astros and the Miami Marlins. Show me an Astro or Marlin who is a top player at his position this year and I’ll show you a fantasy baseball league where he has been a free agent for weeks.
The fans vote for the All-Star Game starters, while the managers of each team choose the reserves. The problem I have with this is that fans are allowed to vote up to 25 times per log-in on a computer. This encourages ballot stuffing and gives some players advantages over others, even if they are having a subpar season and are only garnering votes based on reputation. Rather than having a split voting committee of fans, baseball writers/experts, and possibly even managers or players, the all mighty fans are given sole power over who will be starting in the All-Star Game.
I am guilty of voting for mostly Braves and Rays players (my two favorite teams), but I don’t vote 100% for guys on those two teams. I vote for them because they are either 1) a leading vote getter and I want to keep them there, or 2) nowhere close and my 1 vote won’t even matter once fanboys vote 500 times a day for their favorite players. Granted, I would rather vote for someone I don’t know than vote for players on my teams’ rivals, but I do want to see the best players playing against each other. I like good baseball and the best baseball, and I want to see true All-Stars no matter what team they play for, and not players that are having good years that have large fan bases with voting power.
Since when does a roster have to have an equal number of players at every position? This actually isn’t too bad of a problem, and I am glad that managers do not enforce having to have a minimum or maximum number of players at each spot in the field. The best example I can think of was the 2000 All-Star Game which had American League shortstops Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra. The lone second baseman was Alfonso Soriano. The shortstops did not want to play 2nd base because of the “backwardness” and Soriano ended up playing the entire game because there was no other 2nd baseman. If the stats in a given year do not warrant more than one player at a given position to be an All-Star while other positions have a plethora of All-Star candidates, then so be it. There is no need to force an even distribution of All-Star roster spots to each position.
Pitching in the All-Star Game is hit or miss. Good pitching is supposed to beat good hitting more times than not, but it is an All-Star Game for a reason. Everybody is good. Being the starting pitcher is a big deal in the weeks leading up to the All-Star Game itself, but it is mainly to determine who the best pitcher for the first half of the season is. Starting pitchers never go more than 2 innings and only qualify for a loss should their team get behind early.
Since the extra inning affair in 2005 which saw both bullpens scouring for arms to put on the bump, managers have begun saving a player or two in case the game happens to go past regulation. This is beneficial for the sake of having actual pitchers rather than position players take the mound in dire situations, but it also gives one or two pitchers a very slim chance of seeing action in the All-Star Game. When most players are first time All-Stars, that can sit a little uneasy for some.
One thing I do not get about the MLB All-Star Game is how come the players receive custom All-Star Game jerseys to wear during the Home Run Derby, but then wear their regular team uniforms during the actual game itself. What’s the point of the All-Star jersey? I personally like the different jerseys each year based on the host city and would like to see the players wear those jerseys in the All-Star Game and not just the HR Derby.
All-Star Game factors into World Series
Perhaps the biggest complaint I have about the All-Star Game is the fact that the winning league claims home field advantage in the World Series that season. This makes no sense. While a good number of teams have playoff hopes halfway through the season, many teams already do not. The representatives from these teams have no incentive to win the game. I am sure they are trying as hard as they can no matter what and the idea of World Series home field advantage isn’t going to make a player play with less effort because he plays for a bad team; it is the All-Star Game. There is a sense of pride and respect that is garnered from playing against the best of the best and winning. The home field advantage is a nice marketing effort to get fans to watch the game, but the players are not thinking about that unless their team is in the LCS and they know they will have home-field if they reach the WS.
It seems like every year there is a gimmicky promotion that is being put on during the All-Star Game. Taco Bell had a free taco offer one year. Spider-Man the movie was painted on the sides of the bases once to promote the new movie that was coming out. The All-Star Game is probably one of the most watched baseball games of the year, but the Home Run Derby is just as fun to watch, if not more so. The promos are great, but I would still watch regardless if I didn’t have a chance to win a free taco or see a base covered in a spider web.
The MLB All-Star Game is great entertainment for fans, along with the other festivities that are put on during the few days off from the regular schedule. The celebrity softball game is always fun, as A-list, B-list, and C-list celebs mingle and play softball with some of baseball’s legends. The Futures All-Star Game pits American born prospects against foreign born prospects, all of whom are on a minor league roster. Many players in this game have risen up to the Majors soon after and done very well. Others take their place as a statistic and never make it to the 25 man roster, topping out at AA or AAA. The All-Star Game for the minors is nice, but it’s not The Show.
Then there is the HR Derby. They seem to be changing the format somewhat to get fans to think they have more of a voice in who gets picked, but every year there will still be disappointments. The defending champ is not always there, the leading HR man is not always there, and there is always a guy who barely has 20 HR at the All-Star Game break but managed to make the cut on the HR Derby roster. I’d rather see Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., and Mark McGwire vs Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton rather than the American League vs National League, which really has no rival value.
Citi Field gets the honor of hosting the 2013 All-Star Game, and hopefully it lives up to the hype that MLB builds for it each year. “It means something,” as far as the World Series goes, but I just want to see the best players compete against each other. I want to see Bryce Harper and Puig over Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter because they have actually played this year and deserve to be at the game should they be chosen. If MLB wanted to have the best players, they should list All-Star Game candidates by statistics only and not use names. That way, fans would vote for who is really having the best year. Regardless of which players make it, the atmosphere is much more intense than other sports’ All-Star games and gets the most effort out of the players for the entire game.