Turning Heel on the MLB All-Star Game

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game is already broken, so instead of fixing it, let’s just keep on breaking it until it works again, shall we?

Back in 2003, Major League Baseball and the Players’ Union came up with a brilliant plan to ruin the All-Star Game – they were going to make it count for home field advantage in the World Series.

Something had to be done after the 2002 Midsummer Classic – an exhibition game – ended in a tie. Fans, then-Commissioner Bud Selig, and the media were all upset, and so a deal was reached between the two sides to give the game a sense of purpose.

Fast forward 12 years later, and this misguided attempt to give the All-Star Game competitive meaning is still a prevalent issue in baseball, but it is not the only one. The concept of fans voting on the starting lineups is nothing new, but this year the process has been the focus of controversial critique like never before.

That is because, as of the most recent All-Star ballot update, eight Kansas City Royals (Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Omar Infante, Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain) are currently destined to start the game. Alex Rios must not be a fan of barbecue, because he is the only Royal on the ballot not slated to be on the field in Cincinnati for first pitch.

July 15, 2014 AL Angels outfielder Mike Trout (27) with a double at the MLB All Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis MN.  ALS 5 and NLS  3.

It’s nice of Royals fans to let Mike Trout start again this season.

Kudos to the Kansas City faithful, as their unified effort as a fan base has made a complete mockery of a game that counts. Seriously, nothing could be more comedic than Infante and his .204/.213/.283 slash line starting at second base.

But why stop there? Why not push it further and treat the world’s most important exhibition game as the joke it has become. Sure, home field advantage and fan voting are a good start, but it good get so much worse better.

Let Fans Vote On the Pitchers Too

Seems kind of unfair that the fans only get to vote for the position players. Why is that? Show those pitchers some love. Someone dumb enough to vote for Infante as the starting second baseman should also have the right to say that Jeremy Guthrie and his 5.79 ERA or Danny Duffy, currently on the disabled list, deserves to toe the rubber and help determine who gets an edge in the Fall Classic. Sure, that person would be wrong, but that has never stopped MLB before.

Prospects Should Determine the Future

Speaking of home field advantage in the World Series, ever wonder what Bud Selig and co. were on when they came up with that idea? It is pretty absurd that an exhibition game played by an ensemble of players from various teams in the middle of July determines a major competitive advantage in the most important series played in October. Since the All-Star Game determines what happens in the future, why not have the Futures Game determine home filed advantage? It would be pretty cool to see some 20-year old farmhand in the Philadelphia Phillies organization impact the World Series and then never even reach the big leagues. It could be the only shot some of these guys get to make an impression at the Major League level.

14 July 2013: All Star Sunday Futures Game participants Austin Hedges (24) and Addison Russell (27) from the US Team Pose during batting practice prior to the Futures Game.

Let’s just put homefield in the hands of the youngsters, because, why not?

Or, How About the Celebrity Softball Game?

Better yet, how about putting home field advantage in the hands of those participating in the annual MLB All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game? Right now, it is hard to imagine anyone actually watches that thing, but maybe that would change if the contest actually affected the MLB season. Picture it now: With World Series home field advantage on the line, the bases are loaded with Justin Bieber, Nelly and Kevin Hart as a 68-year-old Rollie Fingers tries to notch the save with Governor Chris Christie up at the plate and two men out. If that does not get people on the edge of their seats, what will?

Use Aluminum Bats

This should not only apply to the All-Star Game, but the Home Run Derby as well. Sure, it could be dangerous, especially for those kids who shag balls in the outfield for the derby, but just imagine a ball meeting Giancarlo Stanton’s metal bat and literally never landing. Fans would be seeing athletic feats never witnessed before, which would be perfect for exhibition events designed to showcase the best players in the game. Plus, statisticians and sabermetric-savvy columnists would have a field day trying to determine the difference in exit velocity between a wood and a metal bat.

Play It Old School

If MLB decides metal bats are too dangerous, why not turn the clocks back on all the other equipment and apparel being used? This year’s All-Star game will already feature caps that resemble the old school ones the Cincinnati Reds used to wear, but more could certainly be done. The best players in the game should be able to field a ball using a glove that looks like a fat, leather mitten after all. Of course, players might take issue when the league asks them to wear wool uniforms in 90 degree weather, but that is a bridge MLB should just wait to cross.

21 June 2014: Houston Astros first baseman Jon Singleton (28) during the MLB regular season game between the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg FL. The Astros and Rays wore throwback 1970 retro themed uniforms.

Throwback jerseys are cool. Let’s go one further though and use throwback equipment.

Introduce a Skills Competition

MLB is always talking about reaching out and relating to a younger audience. Well, no professional sports league does that better than the National Basketball Association and do you know what they have? They have a skills competition at their All-Star festivities. Coincidence? Not a chance – the NBA knows what is hip. If new commissioner Rob Manfred really wants to reach the youth, he needs to follow in the NBA’s footsteps. Fans ages 18-25 are just dying to know who can turn the fastest double play, lay down the best bunt and throw a bullet down to second base from behind the plate with the highest combination of velocity and accuracy – they have just never had a way of knowing.

Of Course, MLB Could Just Fix the ASG

Of course, MLB could just fix some of the issues that have turned the modern day All-Star Game into such a joke. Enough of this home field advantage crap. It has not made sense since Day 1, yet the plan was somehow renewed more than once. It is okay if the game does not mean anything; that is why it is an exhibition. Players used to care because the game was all about pride. It meant so much to Pete Rose that he barreled over Ray Fosse at the plate in 1970. Players then did not need the World Series incentive and they should not now. Of course, if Major League Baseball does continue to attach home field advantage to the All-Star Game (there is nothing to suggest this will change), then something needs to be done about fan voting. This is a game that counts, and therefore the best players should play. Make the fans’ only count for a third of the vote and get players and managers involved. Do not let them vote at all. Do something, anything at all.

Just do not let Omar Infante start the All-Star Game.

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