MLB

MLB All Star Game: The Most Pointless Event in Sports

| by Sports Nickel

It’s that time of year again, friends.  We’re coming up on the tail-end of the popularity contest known, somewhat fraudulently, as the MLB All-Star Game. 

And you can’t surf more than a few pages in any direction without stumbling over some Internet article filled with wheedling complaints about East Coast Bias or snubs or why this or that hometown hero has been robbed of his rightful place in a temporary pantheon of stars.

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The All-Star Game is one of those events that exists as much for its self-generated hype as for the actual on-field play.  It’s fodder for every fan, writer, and analyst– myself included– to slap down a collection of thoughts or some knee-jerk reaction too often grounded in little more than blatant homerism.

The 2010 teams have some notable names left off, and a few selections that probably don’t belong.  While those details are sufficient to generate a storm of agitated musings, they aren’t the real story. 

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The question we should be asking isn’t why Omar Infante is heading to Anaheimwhile Brennan Boesch is not.  The question isn’t why Kevin Youkilis and Joey Votto are fighting tooth and nail for the final spots despite their gargantuan numbers.  The question is why any of us bothers to care one whit about any of this.

Major League Baseball has ruined the All-Star Game.  It is, in blunt terms, a joke.  I’m convinced, in watching and reading the out-pouring of opinions this week, that Bud Selig is sequestered somewhere quiet, grinning crazily to himself.  Enjoying the attention being lavished upon his sport.

Unless you’re a pitcher, picked by the league’s All-Star manager, selections don’t mean all that much.  The first and most obvious problem is the fact that fans vote, and when any power is put in the collective hands of folks who are necessarily subjective, the whole system is rendered ridiculous.

Year after year players with famous names are chosen, deserving or not.  Those lesser known are frequently ignored.  And yet, looking at the history of the game, we will ultimately assign a high value to the “honor” of being an All-Star, one that doesn’t befit how the players arrived there.

In recent season the situation has been made much worse byMLB’s decision to give World Series home field advantage to the ASG-winning team. 

Do you object to Infante’s inclusion this year?  Blame it solely on this rule, right here.  Charlie Manuel wants to win the All-Star Game to give the National League an edge.  To do so, he must meet certain needs.  Omar Infante is the consummate utility man– how could Manuel pass up his versatility?

Does Infante deserve to be an All-Star?  No.  Does it make good sense for the N.L. to have him on the roster?  Absolutely.  Bear in mind that Infante is just an example; the point is not to get hung up on how or why he’s there but rather recognize the position that Manuel is in thanks to MLB rules.

The ASG is not about recognizing the best players.  It’s not about a ceremonial celebration of talent.  More than ever, thanks to the asinine home field advantage rule, it is simply about winning another game.  

In the face of all this nonsense, the majority of fans that I know personally simply ignore the All-Star festivities to varying degrees, and that’s a shame.  But there are a few simple steps that, if properly taken, could fix things.

1. Stop playing the game in the middle of the season.
I understand that the All-Star Game gives the players a mini-vacation at roughly the midpoint of a long and grueling campaign.  But by holding the game in July, we are, in essence, selecting players who have good first halves.  Any one of the men who steps onto the field in Anaheim next week could be a complete and total second-half bust yet still retain the title of “All-Star”. 

It is a mystery to me, why we as fans have accepted this ludicrous set-up for so many years.  Being an All-Star should involve a year’s worth of work, not just 3 months.  Issues of season length aside, the selections should be made in September and October when we can all accurately determine who did what.

2. Eliminate or reduce fan voting.
The counter argument here is that voting engages the fans.  I concede that point, but it does so at what cost?  Fans are biased.  They have to be.  It’s the nature of the game to root for one’s own team and that team’s players.  There’s not even a pretense of the voting being fair or objective, it is simply accepted that rooting interest will be a major determinant of the rosters.

Who’s going to win out?  A New York darling playing amid a media market of 10 million, or a lowly Kansas City Royal with a tenth as many supporters?

Would it not be far better to allow the players, coaches, and team officials to make the selections?  To perhaps give the fans a role, but a marginal one?  Maybe fans could participate in a vote for the final few spots on each side after other selections have been announced, as a way to correct any perceived snubs.

Anyone who cares about the integrity and history of the game has to be appalled whenever July rolls around.

3. Make sure it doesn’t “count”.
What elevates the fan involvement from merely stupid to absolutely criminal is that it has a significant effect on home field advantage in the World Series.   The All-Star game should be an exhibition of skill, not the deciding factor of anything.  Much less the title.   Home field advantage in baseball is a substantial edge.

As one example, take last year’s A.L. numbers.  Home teams had a combined .568 winning percentage while road teams played at a .443 clip.  That’s the difference between 92 wins per year and 72 wins per year.  In the N.L. it was only slightly less imbalanced- .537 at home, .463 on the road.  87 wins versus 75.

Admittedly, the “advantage” determined by the ASG amounts to only a single game, but it is still an undue edge for one team over the other.  Home field in the World Series should be determined by the better in-season performance.

Three adjustments.  If Major League Baseball would make them, the All-Star Game might be something worth watching.  Until then, it’s a farce that is best left alone.  Unfortunately, as long as the event stays profitable, the motivation to change won’t be there.

 

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