Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tinkering with the All-Star Game

The MLB All-Star Game has taken a beating the past few years, beginning with the infamous Tie Game. Bud Selig's solution to that problem was to give 'meaning' to the game by putting home field advantage for the World Series up for grabs.

First of all, Bud made a bad call the night of the Tie Game—it should have been played until there was a winner. Not enough pitchers? Tough rocks, you shouldn't have burned them up an inning at a time during the first nine. Besides, if your last pitcher is a little gassed, he'll likely give up the game winner soon enough. I think the game would have ended legitimately soon enough anyway. In the aftermath, Bud could have implemented an All-Star rule allowing for pitchers to be reinserted in the case of extra innings.

Instead, he put home field for the World Series on the line, which was Mistake Number Two. This is absolute nonsense. One event has nothing to do with the other, and does anyone really think that this artificial 'relevance' make a bit of difference in how players play? I doubt Michael Young was thinking about giving HFA to Detroit, Boston or New York when he hit the game winning RBI last year, and I know he wasn't thinking about earning HFA for the Rangers.

If this doesn't work, then how do we bring meaning to the ASG? Allow me refer you to Australia's National Rugby League, and their version of the All-Star Game, State of Origin. This three game series, spread out over the NRL season, pits a team from New South Wales against a Queensland team. Trust me, the players care when they are representing their home state.

Can we take this idea to MLB? Unfortunately, I don't think so. State or Origin works because it is state v state, and that doesn't work with fifty states, plus all the international players. North v South? East v West? No one really identifies with those labels. How about US v World? I wasn't a big fan of this when the NHL did it—seemed a little xenophobic to me. So the matchup that leaves us with is NL v AL. This used to be a matchup that did bring out the competitive nature of the players, but free agency and interleague play have killed that.

Many have suggested paying the winning team, but I don't think this will work. The players, particularly these All-Stars, make enough money. I just don't think that does it here. I'm not opposed to cutting a check to the winner of the Home Run Derby, but I don't think that will improve the competitiveness of the ASG.

If home field advantage failed and if I'm right about money failing, how do we make it competitive? I suggest we go the other way with it and not worry about it being competitive. Just make it fun. More backward helmet switch hitting on the fly, a la Larry Walker 1997. More on the field antics. Mike the players and let them talk. Who wouldn't want to listen to a catcher call a game or the dialogue between a pitcher and hitter with two outs and runners on late in the game?

In addition I love Kevin of All on the Field's idea of making it a three game series. Baseball is a series game, so why not the ASG? This would also fix the way manager's handle pitching staffs. If rugby league can play three games in the midst of their regular season, surely MLB can pull off three games during the All-Star break. When I become baseball's next commissioner, Kevin, you can be my assistant.

And we won't let it end in a tie again.


PJ said...

So, this brings up the validity of All-Star Games in general. The NHL all-star game ratings are lower than the finals (and that's saying something), the NBA all-star game has fallen so far that even the slam dunk contest is considered boring now, the pro-bowl is poorly attended (by the players) and it's in Hawaii!!! As far as MLB goes, I completely agree with the faults you listed. Tie game = horrible. Making it worth home field? even worse.
I'm not sure a three game series would work, but it would be really interesting to try. Think about it, it would make the manager use much more strategy as he decided who the second game starter would be. Plus, then he might not bench his best hitter when he has the chance to win the game. Something about a series gives it more validity than a single exhibition game. Rivalry is built with repetition, so that's why series are more fun.

Knotwurth Mentioning said...

The biggest problem with the NHL All-Star game tends to be the relative dominance of one conference, as far as I can see it. If that's a problem in the MLB All-Star Game, is there a way to tweak that? A lot of fans have taken to thinking the NHL ASG is a waste of time, and I sometimes agree with them. Why take a week off to play a "fun" game when we already know which conference is going to win? Especially since the NHL season already lasts so long!

This season's ASG was an exception, surprisingly. I was hyped to see the youthful East vs. the Veteran West. But nonetheless, the idea failed to attract an American audience. Although, with hockey, it would seem there is no solution to the TV problem.

Brian Berg said...

Hey, I really agree with your view on the All-Star game. Making the winner have home field in the biggest series of the season is non-sense. I wrote a little about it on my blog. Check it out if you're so inclined

Kevin Hayward said...

Hey, thanks for the link. You and I are on the same page that the All-Star Game needs to change if it's going to be taken seriously. If they want to go the other direction, making it more clearly an exhibition, that's fine (how about giving one of the Milwaukee sausages an AB in the game?)

Just don't try to tell us how much it "matters" or "counts."