A recent commercial promoting the Major League Baseball All-Star Game showed well-known broadcaster team Joe Buck and Tim McCarver at a restaurant talking about a new tradition of theirs: pranking their production team based on the location of the All-Star game. All as a joke, they mentioned filling the broadcast booth with apples while in New York, and then thought of what a prank involving the Arizona Diamondbacks would entail for the 2011 All-Star Game. Upon realizing how a booth full of rattlesnakes would turn out, the two broadcasters mentioned how they “shouldn’t mess with tradition.” While the commercial is a complete joke, Major League Baseball, specifically commissioner Bud Selig, needs to understand that their recent changes to the All-Star game have defeated the purpose of both the game itself and the All-Star break in general.
When the 2002 All-Star game ended in a tie after 11 innings, Selig proposed new changes to the system, giving the league that wins the game the right to homefield advantage in the World Series (others included encouraging managers to hold back some players just in case, and later providing a rule that lets 1 non-pitcher come back into the game in the event of an injury to another player). This new rule serves as a huge advantage to the winning league; having the first two games of the World Series at home provides a tremendous momentum boost. Which begs the question: what makes this better than the previous system?
Quick answer: It doesn’t.
Two things come immediately to mind. 1) Because all 30 MLB teams are represented in the All-Star game (nothing wrong with that), players from last-place teams get thrown into a game whose result will not help their team. So, wouldn’t it make more sense to only include the very best players instead of “sacrificing” spots to not-as-deserving players simply to satisfy the representation requirement?
2) Why does the game count if half of the players that are voted in don’t play? 16 players selected for the 2011 game ruled themselves out either due to injury, fatigue, or because they had pitched on the final Sunday before the break (also a new rule). As a result, a group of replacements, albeit replacements with decent seasons going, decide which league gets homefield advantage in the World Series.
Luckily, there are ways to rectify this!
First, if the commissioner insists on making the All-Star game count, make it a day later. Instead of having the game on Tuesday, put it on Wednesday so pitchers like C.C. Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels, and Matt Cain can play in the game. Injuries will happen, and less-deserving players will still be voted into the game by fans, but having the best pitchers in the game makes the winner more legitimate.
Second, and most important, don’t make the game count! Before the All-Star rule, the leagues alternated homefield advantage for the World Series. If something should count towards determining homefield, make it the overall record of the two teams. If Team A has a better regular season record than Team B, give Team A the advantage. What’s more, the rest of the playoffs operate that way; the best team in each league gets homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Why shouldn’t the World Series?
According to ratings, the 2011 All-Star game received the lowest rating in the event’s history: 6.9. Clearly, something needs to change, and it has to start with Commissioner Selig.
Video below: In the first inning of the 2002 All-Star game, Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter robbed San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds of a home run. No one knew how important that run would be until Selig called the game a tie after 11 innings.