Wednesday, July 8, 2009

All-Star Issues

On Sunday afternoon the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star rosters were released, which brings up the yearly exercise of complaining about guys who made the roster but shouldn’t have, guys who didn’t make the roster but should have, one team having too many players, etc. It gave me an opportunity to bemoan the fact that pitching wins are incredibly useless, but still used as a barometer for success and play way too big of a factor in determining things like All-Star roster spots (which would explain why Nick Blackburn wasn’t even considered for the team). However, today I’m going with a different approach. I have a couple of issues with the MLB All-Star game format and festivities that I want to get off my chest.

I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to have a problem with the Mid-Summer Classic, but the problems need to be voiced as often as possible until they get it figured out at least a little bit. The main issue I have is that Major League Baseball is the only professional sports league that doesn’t view its all-star game as an exhibition. Every other league uses this game as a way to showcase their best players (or 5th best players in the NFL’s Pro Bowl) in an entertaining, fan-friendly format. Not baseball.

First, let’s start with the fact that the rosters aren’t even made up of the best players from each league. Oh sure, they want you to believe that they are, but that’s definitely not the case thanks to the rule that every team has to be represented. Why? If your team is so bad that not one player is deserving of a spot on a 30 man roster of the best players from your league, then so be it Maybe this will cause more outrage among fans to pressure their owner to spend more money or for MLB to impose a much needed salary cap. Sure, this could lead to a team of 15 Yankees and 15 Red Sox, (again, a salary cap issue) but if those are the best players in the league, then they should be the ones playing in the game.

The “every team gets a guy” rule is like the “every player has to play 3 innings” rule in Little League, only the latter one makes sense because you’re talking about small children, not (supposedly) the best players on the planet. This rule is why you can start a sentence “Former All-Star Ron Coomer…” and have it be factual, rather than sarcastic like it should be.

That's MR. Former All-Star to you, buddy

Is Major League Baseball really that na├»ve as to think that fans in Atlanta are only watching the All-Star Game because they’ll get a chance to see Brian McCaan get one at bat in the 6th inning, only to be replaced by a pinch runner? C’mon.

As I said before, this exhibition is, by definition, supposed to be an entertaining showcase of the best of the best from your sport. It should look more like the NHL and NBA all-star games, which usually feature tons of highlight reel plays and little or no defense. This game should always finish with a score like 17-14, not 3-2. Of course that kind of thing would never happen because Bud Selig’s brain trust decided that it would be a great idea to make the game “count” and give the winner home field advantage in the World Series. Yes, how your league fairs in this game could determine whether or not you win the ultimate title in the sport. Brilliant.

As it stands now, you hurt the game with this rule on so many levels. First, you’re giving fans the opportunity to alter the final outcome of your sport: if they vote in terrible players, that league loses home field, which is HUGE in baseball. Second, you make being the All-Star Game manager the least enviable position, when it should be considered an honor. With so much on the line, those guys are under a ton of scrutiny. Did they overuse some team’s star pitcher? Did they play someone out of position and cause an injury or shake their confidence? Manager of an all-star game should be an honorary title, and not an actual job.

Not it to be the AL All-Star Manager

So how do we fix all of this? Pretty easily, actually. First, get rid of the rule that every team needs to be represented. You can still have fan voting determine the starters, though. They may not get it right all of the time, but this game is supposed to be for them, so let them watch who they want. Then you still have the managers and players decide who should fill in the rest of the roster spots. The second thing you do is have home field advantage in the World Series go to the team with the best overall record at the end of the year. I know this may sound shocking, but it’s actually a good idea to reward a team for being the best over a 162 game season. Those two very simple changes would make the game twice as good instantly.

Ok, so admittedly this isn’t as big of a deal as the problems with the actual game, but why isn’t there some sort of skills competition during the all-star break? I know, I know: there’s the Home Run Derby, possibly the most hyped skill competition this side of the Slam Dunk Contest. But should there be more? Aren’t you trying to showcase all of the talented players in your sport? What about the guys who don’t hit for a ton of power (or those who don’t hit at all)? Where is their chance to show off?

It doesn't look like much, but at least he gets a chance to show off his skills

In the NHL and NBA, they have a day where all different types of players have a chance to show the world what they do best. Hockey has events like fastest skater, hardest slapshot, shoot accuracy, and so on. The NBA has contests for point guards skills, three-point shooting, and the aforementioned dunking ability. Why not have a skills competition on the Monday of the All-Star Break (yes, MLB, you can even televise it and make money)? You could have competitions for speed (fastest around the bases), pitching accuracy, outfield throwing accuracy, etc. and still cap it all of with the HR Derby. You can even make it open to all players, not just All-Stars. That way when Pittsburgh doesn’t get a player in the actual game, the organization can still take solace in the fact that Andrew McCutchen wins the title of fastest player in the league.

This all seems so simple to me. Can someone explain why any of these things are even issues still? Am I just that much more intelligent than the people running Major League Baseball? Figure it out.

1 comment:

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