Let me preface this by saying that the 2010 National League All-Star roster could be the worst assembled group of All-Stars I have ever seen put together. It looks like a local Little League All-Star roster that was selected by the parent-coaches and is full of their kids and their kids’ friends. It makes no sense. We now have to refer to the former Erie Seawolf Omar Infante as ‘The former Erie Seawolf and All-Star, Omar Infante’. The best hitting catcher in all of baseball this season, Miguel Olivo, who boasts a .312/11/39 line, is sitting at home this July, while Yadier Molina and his .230/3/32 managed to sneak his way into starting the All-Star game.
From a baseball standpoint, the biggest problem with the Major League Baseball All-Star game is the commissioner. You can trace all problems back to leadership, and Allan Huber Selig is a terrible leader. I blame this entire All-Star disaster on Bud Selig and his lack of vision and his inability to lead.
Bud authorized the first work stoppage in years for Major League Baseball when he declared the 2002 All-Star Game end in a 7-7 tie after both teams ran out of pitchers. Fans were reasonably upset after paying upwards of $175 to watch a meaningless game. They demonstrated their animosity by starting a bottle throwing exhibition that would have put Albert Belle’s homecoming to Cleveland to shame.
Instead of doing something intelligent, like lowering ticket prices, or announcing to fans that the All-Star Game is an exhibition game just like Spring Training games, or choosing a fan from the stands to take the mound and finish the game, he one-upped himself and further ruined his chances to ever have a book titled The Wit and Wisdom of Bud Selig. Instead of any alternatives, Bud Selig decided to give home field advantage in the World Series to the league who wins the All-Star Game. An exhibition game. A game in which players from Kansas City, Baltimore, and yes, my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates have to be selected to the teams. Selig said that even before this 2002 debacle,however, that there were plans in place to make the 2003 All-Star game count for home field advantage, which makes him seem even more inept for actually planning something like this. I’d feel somewhat more comforted if this had been a panicked, knee-jerk reaction like running from the cops at an underage drinking party.
Bud loves to talk about how this asinine decision makes the All-Star game more intense and how better baseball is marketed now that the game counts. Fans were so riveted by the genius marketing strategy that as recently as 2005, the game had one of its lowest viewerships ever, with only 12.3 million fans tuning in. Clearly the fans aren’t buying what you’re selling, Bud. You haven’t been able to get the All-Star viewership back to what it was in 2001, even. If, what you meant to say is, “I don’t really care about what the fans think or the viewership, but we’re selling some of the most expensive advertising space on this side of the Super Bowl,” by all means, please let me know. I’m a capitalist. I can respect that.
All of this came from a guy who claims that he is a “traditionalist”. Yes, Bud. I’m sure Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays would be thrilled with the idea of home field advantage in the World Series coming from the winner of the Midsummer Classic.
I’m not one to complain just for the sake of complaining. I’ve been thinking for a while about how to make the All-Star game more fan friendly. None of it involves making the game count for home field advantage in the World Series. So, without delay, here’s my list of how to improve the All-Star Game. All of these suggestions, of course, are after eliminating the home field advantage option from the game.
1). Fan Participation – I was dead serious when I said that fans should have come out to pitch. Every three innings, one fan should be randomly selected to have the chance to come participate in the three facets of baseball: hitting, pitching, and fielding. Think about how exciting it would be to watch someone who doesn’t play baseball step out onto the hot corner while Albert Pujols is up to bat. If you could promise me that in the sixth inning, someone from the stands was going to willingly step into the batter’s box to face a 100 MPH Stephen Strasburg fastball, I’d be fighting people to get tickets to watch.
2). Guest Athletes – Have you ever been curious about how other athletes would fair at baseball? Let’s give ’em the chance! Let’s see what Charlie Manuel can do with Usain Bolt sitting on the bench. How about bringing Adrian Peterson in as a pinch runner in the 7th for a take-out slide at second base? Wanna see Derek Jeter wet his pants? Let Ray Lewis give him a forearm shiver rounding second base.
3). Dizzy Bat Competition – Couple this with circus music. Before you can run to first, players must shotgun a beer, place their forehead on a bat, and spin around 5 times. Guaranteed to bring in more fans!
4). Softball Game – Turn the Midsummer Classic into a beer league softball game. If you played the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium, you wouldn’t even have to bring the fences in. Every roster would get an extra player in the field to play the “rover” position, so the Player’s Union couldn’t possibly get upset over the conversion. Plus, you could have those roided out Long Haul Bombers invited to the game and play baseball the way it was meant to be played: under performance enhancing drugs.
5). Pitchers v. Hitters Showdown – Tell me that you wouldn’t tune in if an entire roster of the best hitters faced off against an entire roster of the best pitchers. I dare you only because I know you can’t. Every year each league would alternate between sending a roster full of its best pitchers and its best sluggers. Year One – AL’s best pitchers v. NL’s best hitters. Could the pitchers hit off of the position players? Could the position players pitch well enough to beat the pitchers?
So there you are, Bud. Improve the intensity and market the game. The ball’s in your mitt now.